Big Apple Anime Festival 2003
Amy Harlib | Among the myriad advantages and conveniences of living in the middle of New York City is that it only takes a short subway ride to get me to the Big Apple Anime Festival (BAAF), an annual three-day event held every Labor Day weekend at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in midtown and at the Leow's Theater directly across the street.
The BAAF offers convention-type events dealing with every aspect of the anime and manga business, creation and fandom, scheduled in many hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms: panel discussions with prominent artists/directors/producers in the field; autograph sessions with the celebrity guests; fannish "cosplay" (masquerades) and talent contest activities; do-it-yourself workshops; gaming; a dealers room filled with merchandise; an art show; parties/social gatherings; and tons of video/DVD screenings of features, shorts, and TV series episodes.
As if that were not enough, across the street in the Leow's Theater, the BAAF schedules the most prestigious anime features with two simultaneous tracks of screenings with enough repeats to make it possible to see most of what's offered—at the cost of missing the action in the hotel. A really rabid otaku would be insanely frustrated at not being able to be in two places at once!
Since I am primarily a film fan I chose to spend my limited time attending the shows at the Leow's Theater. Part of the joy of seeing films at one of these special festivals is the presence of directors and producers and artists who participate in Q&A sessions (with translators when necessary) after the movies—a treat that vastly enhances one's viewing pleasure.
At this 2003 BAAF in particular, guests of honor included: founder of Mad House animation studio Masao Maruyama; Mad House artist Takeshi Koike; industry promoter Tatsumi Yoda; animation director Yasuhiro Irie; anime director Satoshi Kon; manga artist Tsukasa Hojo; animation director Takashi Nakamura; manga artists Tomoko Taniguchi and Hyun se Lee and voice actors Liam O'Brien, Lisa Ortiz, Eric Stuart and many more. There was a particularly interesting segment of programming focusing on the growth of Korean anime and manga (or rather, manwha) as distinct styles of their own, emerging from overwhelming Japanese influence.
Prominent anime features shown that I missed included: Initial D: The Movie; Parasite Dolls; The Sensualist; and Nasu: Summer in Andalusia. Live-action pictures on offer were The Returner and Ichi the Killer, which I also did not get a chance to see. I did get to enjoy Spriggan; X: The Movie; Vampire Hunter D; The Animatrix; Millennium Actress; Mangchi, the Hammerboy; A Tree of Palme; and the world premiere of Tokyo Godfathers—several of which are reviewed in fps.
At the BAAF, anyone with the slightest interest in anime and manga will have a marvelous time being entertained while learning about the immense diversity of these Asian art forms that are rapidly, deservedly gaining vast Western audiences. The die-hard otaku will be in orgiastic ecstasy, which pretty much describes this reviewer's reaction—and I only got to see a few of the feature films! The array of related events occurring this past Labor Day Weekend boggles the mind, but you can an excellent idea of the complete experience at the BAAF website.