The first-ever anime convention organized by the Brooklyn Public Library, AniTomo, will take place at the Brooklyn Heights branch this Saturday, and veteran fans of anime and manga are excited.
Organizers have promised a series of games, trivia, prizes, panels, exhibitions of classic and upcoming manga, screenings of anime movies and shows, drawing, voice acting and Japanese classes, reading groups and of course, cosplay. Anime enthusiasts, fan clubs and cosplay celebrities have taken on social media to tease about what they have planned for the event.
“Anime events in New York are always all blown out,” said Regina Salvador, president of the Anime NYC club. “There are so many anime fans in the city. We can never get the feeling that we’ve started to know each other all. In every event, there are new people with amazing talents for costume making or storytelling or drawing and an insane amount of anime knowledge who are eager to share. We always walk out almost overwhelmed. We are very passionate fans.”
Manga, a Japanese graphic novel genre that ranges from comedy to tragedy, is growing across entertainment categories. New manga readers are entering the U.S. book market, led by anime shows streaming on major platforms. According to NPD BookScan, a tracker for the publishing market, manga made up 76% of overall comics and graphic novel sales in the US in 2021. In 2020, the North American manga market was valued at almost $250 million.
Salvador’s interest in manga sparked when she first arrived in Japan when she was 7. She lived in Yokohama, the second largest city in the country, for over a decade, where she would attend multiple anime events per week.
“Anime events are an outburst of creativity,” said Salvador. “Sometimes I really feel like I’m in Japan. Fans even pick up the language to be able to watch shows with their original audio.”
The BPL called on a few experts to organize the event: the BIPOC Project, an association of Black, Indigenous and People of Color, that aims to advance racial justice and GKIDS, an American award-winning film distributor based in New York with, according to the Los Angeles Times, a focus on “sophisticated, indie” animation. AniTomo is a result of BPL’s BKLYN Incubator program, which funds special projects proposed by young people in the borough.
GKIDS is also behind the Studio Ghibli Fest, screenings of the animated movies by the acclaimed Japanese director, Hayao Miyazaki. Representatives from the studio will lead one of the discussion panels at the convention on what it takes to get a story to the big screen.
The event will be held at BPL’s recently-inaugurated branch at 286 Cadman Plaza West. The library opened to the public last year on the border of Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn. The 26,000-square-foot library is the second-largest branch of the Brooklyn Public Library System, after the Central Library Headquarters. With high ceilings, lots of natural light, and a multipurpose room that can hold up to 225 people, the new building was just the spot for BPL’s first anime and manga convention.
“It’s a perfect space for this,” said Salvador. “Convention centers, where these usually happen, are usually soul-less, but libraries are the opposite. The background will make everyone’s costumes look even better.”