July 6, 2006

Brigid has done a terrific job tracking Anime Expo wrap-ups at MangaBlog. One of my favorites has to be Steven Grant’s latest Permanent Damage column at Comic Book Resources. Grant measures the mood of the crowd:

“I noted this when I last attended, a couple of years ago. It has only amplified. If one element overwhelms you at Anime Expo, it’s the sense of community, and union. Fan and professional alike go there with the same attitude, and often the same obsessions: while companies hawk their specific wares with gusto, there’s also an underlying promotion of anime and manga across the board. The convention isn’t simply about selling, but about bonding.”

Given how closely they fall to each other on the calendar, comparisons with the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con are probably inevitable. Grant notes that Anime Expo’s current vibe is not unlike SDCC’s was before it became what Tom Spurgeon delightfully calls “Nerd Vegas.” But what about San Diego now?

“It’s still the place to go each summer if you love comics, but there’s no longer a broad sense of community permeating the place. It’s factionalized, fragmented, serving many masters. But beyond the question of whether Hollywood or gaming or whatever is now too dominant a presence, what the big companies at Anime Expo seemed to share was a view that their fans … were valued allies, not marks, and that attitude hasn’t been widely seen among American comics publishers since the early ’90s.”

The tendency to compare and contrast the two events made me want to take a look at SDCC’s schedule of events. Broccoli, CMX, and Del Rey have panels planned, and Tokyopop is participating in a session on mobile comics. The daunting list of exhibitors is filled with manga publishers, artists, and anime outlets as well. Interestingly enough, Viz seems to be concentrating on screenings of live-action and animated films at the con, including the much-discussed Train Man: Denasha Otoko.

(Speaking of Train Man, Kai-Ming Cha provides a very lucid overview of the phenomenon over at Publishers Weekly Comics Week. I tend to share the optimism of the various publishers who are angling for a piece of the Train Man pie. Manga fans seem more than happy to embrace different portrayals of their favorite stories and characters, from comics to anime to live-action movies to novels. If the three versions on the schedule are distinct enough, they should make for interesting side-by-side reading.)

I can’t find it on the con’s official schedule, but Bill Flanagan mentions a “Lost in Translation” panel over at The Engine that will feature Flanagan (who works on XxxHOLic for Del Rey), Jonathan Tarbox, and Jake Forbes, among others. (No women though, which strikes me as odd. Based on a quick scan of the titles on my shelves, at least half of the translators working in manga are women. Maybe they all devoted their travel budget to Anime Expo? Tarbox and Forbes should guarantee a lively hour, though.)

I doubt that much new in the way of manga announcements will come out of SDCC, though some publishers probably saved a few nuggets. As Grant notes, the con is huge and serves many masters, one of which is undoubtedly manga.