Tony Yao has been an avid fan of Japanese pop culture since junior high school. He is currently the Production Coordinator/Writer for Samurai Beat Radioand blogs about the psychological aspects of anime/manga/video games at Manga Therapy. In his spare time, he enjoys exercising, watching sports, hanging out with friends, eating, a lot of sleeping, and obsessing over his favorite anime/manga series, Gintama.
JapanCulture•NYC is happy to have Tony on board for dispatches from last week’s New York Comic Con. Tony attended Japanese-related panels, interviewed guest speakers, and dissected the future of manga. Here’s the final installment of Tony’s three-part series about NYCC.
Sunday is usually a very slow day and not much is going on. However, that hasn’t stopped certain panels from bringing out the good stuff. First off, I attended the “Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – The Fight to Defend Manga” panel. The CBLDF is a non-profit organization that fights for the rights of people who read comic books in North America. There was a long line for the panel as it covered a topic that is concerning to manga fans. Charles Brownstein, the speaker and member of CBLDF, talked about the rise of manga culture over the world and how American readers have been persecuted for their love of manga since the start of the 21st century (as you can see from the picture above). Charles introduced Ryan Matheson, the victim from the 4th case listed in the picture, to the audience. Ryan talked about his experiences that led to his arrest in Canada, going to jail, how he wasn’t allowed to access Internet at all outside of work, and how he ignored a plea bargain to fight for his right to enjoy manga (with the help of the CBLDF). It was one of the most horrifying stories I have ever heard. Going to jail for reading manga. Can you believe that? Only in America, where cartoon characters need to be protected while real people are being hurt. The audience gave Ryan a big round of applause for fighting back and not being intimidated. CBLDF also announced that they will be setting up a program for parents to help educate them on what manga is all about. Very insightful panel that shows that manga still has a way to go before being accepted outside of Asia. You can visit CBLDF’s website for details of the manga prosecution cases at: http://cbldf.org/criminal-prosecutions-of-manga/.
Now let’s go from grim to cheerful as Hatsune Miku infiltrated NYCC once again! The “Crypton Future Media Presents: Hatsune Miku” panel brought smiles to the faces of many in the crowd. Kanae Muraki (director of global development for Crypton Future Media) and Tara Knight (director of the upcoming “Mikumentary”) educated fans on what Hatsune Miku is all about. Face it, she has way too many identities that it can be a bit difficult to track (idol/singer/character/software/database/cute girl/business model/etc). Though it makes Miku unique and gives her infinite possibilities. The two speakers talked about how Vocaloid has allowed users all over the world to create amazing content. Tara talked about Mikumentary and how she didn’t want it to be a PBS-style documentary. Fans got a treat as Kanae showed off a new live concert animation style for Miku. There is also a plan for an English version of Miku as well!
When asked about another U.S. Hatsune Miku concert, Kanae said that they aren’t certain, but they will try. One audience member asked why people like Miku since she’s “fake” and a fan answered that complaint saying that it’s “real” to them. There was an “Awwww” moment when Kanae was asked about the best part of her job. She went on to say that one day, she found an article that called Miku a “fake singer.” Kanae posted it on the Hatsune Miku Facebook fan page and people commented on it. Much to her shock and amazement, those same people contacted the folks who wrote the article, complained about the headline, and got them to change the “fake singer” part of the headline to “virtual singer.” After seeing the Vocaloid Dance Contest at JPOP SUMMIT 2012 in San Francisco a couple of months ago, I can see why Vocaloid has become a worldwide juggernaut.
With NYCC over, I want to say that Japanese pop culture is still strong (even in limited amounts), and that there needs to be a proper anime convention in New York (a la New York Anime Festival) once more. Here’s why Japanese pop culture is so appealing to people over the world. It’s all about imagination. Look at the crazy stuff Japanese writers/manga artists come up with. Raging buff warriors that power up, magical girls, cute little creatures that come in so many different types/species – who here outside of Japan would think of that? Regarding Hatsune Miku, she has unlocked the creativity of fans all over the world and is considered to be an icon of creativity. And the Japanese unleash their creativity with a sense of humbleness that you can’t help but admire. They also give their creations a sense of modernity that makes them appealing to a wide audience. The world needs more imagination and it’s an important element for success in this day and age. Imagination and creativity make the world go round.
With that said, let’s hope the spirit of Tokyo continues to grace the New York geek culture scene with its vivid and nurturing presence.