After taking a year break, MangaNEXT returned to New Jersey in February rather than October as previous incarnations. In it’s 5th year, there were much more than usual planned. It is always wonderful to see guests from various publication companies like Ed Chavez from Vertical and Erica Friedman of ALC Publishing, but we also had Robert Newman from JManga as well as Robert McGuire from Gen Manga. In collaboration with Japanese publishing company, Shinshokan, two highly popular mangaka, Tateno Makoto-sensei and Maeda Tomo-sensei were in attendence as well as Western artists, Yamila Abraham and Felipe Smith. Musical guests include The Asterplace with a saturday concert and DJ Chipocrite in the late night dance lineups. All of this in a single hotel….
Friday, February 24
The convention is held at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel. It is interesting to note that the information booklet is printed Japanese manga-style: from left to right with tomare
on the back page. Also, instead of stating the 5th year of the con, the booklet is lableled Volume 5. (I’m easily amused. This is my first year at MangaNEXT so if previous cons had the same style of printing, than I didn’t realize that.) The badge pickup was on the second floor of the hotel. Truly the con space is centered on the second and third floors.
They had a few badge designs which included A Bloody Kiss Tonight
by Tateno-sensei and Black Sun Silver Moon
by Maeda Tomo-sensei, the two main Japanese guests of the weekend. Those who pre-reg for the weekend received a choice of t-shirts which include Gundam Seed
. Attendees were also given two extra badges to keep for themselves along with the shirt.
Next to the badge pickup was a table where they displayed some figure/model submissions. There was also the prize for the Gunpla building competition held at the con: a Unicorn Gundam.
Ezra Cudjoe, the con chair began the Opening Ceremonies with his awesome speech. Unfortunately, no guests were introduced but the intimate nature of the speech and laid back feeling of the connection with fans in this fandom really expressed the feeling of the whole con. MangaNext is small and intimate. Easy to recognize, meet and get to know people. There were no crowds to speak of anywhere and no clastrophic tendencies…unless you count the elevators. The opening ceremonies ended with a short description of the rules and schedules.
The Artist Alley opened first. It was just a bit smaller than the Dealer’s Room next door. The room boasted items that were original, beautiful and creative.
The Dearler’s Room was opened two hours early. The first booth on the right was Vertical Publishing with Yaoi Press next to it with it’s plethora of BL titles along with OEL publications.
The first panel I hit was for Vertical. They had a plethora of titles that they are planning to release throughout the year, some a few surprises in comparison to the usual material that Vertical licenses.
Tateno Makoto and Maeda Tomo Friday Q&A
a light evening..of stripping
The panels for the two mangaka were listed back to back with a joint autograph session at the end. Robert Newman from JManga was heading the panel with Midori as the main interpreter. The first panel was for Tateno Makoto-sensei followed by Maeda Tomo-sensei.
Cosplay Burlesque appeared at several different cons already. The line for the Burlesque is usually insanely long and the rooms are so far back that we usually can’t see much. At least with a smaller con, there would be no lines and the view is far better.
I entered in time to see Madam Red from Black Butler take the stage. Though the cosplayer didn’t take off any clothes, the two half naked ladies on the stage supplied the skin the audience sought after. A favorite from the second half has to be ‘Angry Birds’ which had a piggy who stripped when getting hit with those giant Angry Birds pillow. The last act was of Shampoo from Ranma 1/2 which was beautifully done around a chair with some classy movements.
The show created a wonderful end to the evening.
Saturday, February 25
The morning began in the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Room giving me another opportunity to look around. Truly, even though there were obviously more people there on saturday, the rooms weren’t too crowded…though the Artist Alley needed a bit of maneuvering at times.
Maeda Tomo and Tateno Makoto Saturday Q&A
My only panels for the day was with Shinshokan’s wonderful mangaka. The panel began with Maeda Tomo-sensei
followed by followed by Tateno Makoto-sensei
Tateno Makoto Press Interview
I had the honor to personally interview Tateno Makoto-sensei
. It was held in the afternoon on saturday. Robert Newman interpreted for me with Sunenaga Hironari-san, the Director of Production Section in Shinshokan in attendence. I believe her editor was probably there as well.
After the interview, I headed to the Dealer’s Room to find Felipe Smith signing for fans at the Vertical Booth. His action, comedy manga, Peepo Choo
is also licensed in Japan.
Sunday, February 26
Besides the Manga Library which is one of the unique features that MangaNEXT has (and brings to other cons,) the other event would be the MangaNEXT Swap Meet that happens at various times throughout the con. 18+ material is of course shared in the evening. There was a regular swap meet in the morning. It was interesting where people show their manga that they want to get rid of in hopes to get something else.
State of the Manga Industry
The first panel for me was the State of the Manga Industry
with representatives from various publishing companies. The topics ranged from scanlations, digital manga and an indepth discussion of the current infrastructure of manga releases. Everything that affects fans today.
Uke or Seme? Yaoi Game
Yaoi Press’ Yamila Abraham led the final panel of the con. It was a simple game of identifying whether the bishi on the screen was seme or uke. The ‘intro’ to the game with plugs and sockets was hilarious. ‘Well endowed seme’ was a 3 prong plug while ‘scared uke’ was a 3 prong socket. lol I will never look at them the same again. XD Some had ‘evidence’ to support her case, but there really isn’t a right answer. Although we started with people going up to the front to answer, by the end of the game, we were just shouting out the answer with her throwing little buttons and postcards at us. We went through the game twice for the newcomers and just had fun amongst ourselves.
Abraham also gave a bit of the ‘Yaoi You Need to Read’ panel that was held on Friday. She presented pics that was for that panel, introducing various manga. Of course, Finder was the first one introduced. There were other common ones including all the other Yamane Ayano-sensei’s manga, Maiden Rose, Under Grand Hotel and several Yaoi Press titles. It was interesting since we got to know a bit more about yaoi OEL. ‘Maelstrom’ had wonderful artwork and an interesting storyline.
MangaNEXT always had over 1000 attendees which is surprising since the con only took over two floors of the hotel. It’s considerably smaller than AnimeNEXT which limits the variety of panels and space, but there are many positives to a con of this size. Cons have always been a chance for fans to speak directly with creators, but with less crowds, the opportunity arises to really ask questions and share opinions. It is easy to take in everything within a few hours and truly enjoy what is there. The downside may be that the Dealer’s Room was extraordinarily small, but the Artist Alley became the spotlight of the con and much of my money went there which is a good thing (to support creators.) I had an awesome time at MangaNEXT and look forward to seeing what they have in store for next year.