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Who's NEXT? An Awesome Anime Convention

Going to northern New Jersey….northern New Jersey here I come.

What comes to mind when you think of The Meadowlands? Football, garbage dumps, turnpikes, Jimmy Hoffa….anime? Yes, anime. Anime NEXT to be more precise. Having been in the Meadowlands in one form or another, with the exception of a brief side trip to Rye, New York back in 2003, Anime NEXT has been the anime convention of Northern New Jersey since 2002. It might seem like an odd place for an anime convention, especially with New York City and their big New York Anime Festival just across the river, but it’s a surprisingly fertile ground for anime conventions over the years, including Castle Point, the former Big Apple Anime Fest, the former Anime East Fest, and Anime NEXT.

The grounds are so fertile, for anime conventions at least, that Anime NEXT has officially outgrown the space available inside its home base at the Meadowlands Exposition Center. While every anime convention has crowd and space issues, I’ve never been to any other convention that used the parking lot underneath the building as part of the convention space. From the set up they had down there, it was obvious that this wasn’t the first time the MEC had done this, they had a full ventilation system rigged up and real overhead lights in part of it, but it was still really weird to walk down the back stairs and end up standing on a partially carpeted patch of asphalt.

Due to the timing of Anime NEXT, just before the huge Anime Expo out in Los Angeles, there was very little industry related going on. Thanks to a very late bus into New York, your intrepid reporter missed the Del Rey manga panel on Friday. Not that there seems to have been much to miss. No one announced any new licenses over the weekend, and there was only one other industry panel for Media Blasters. ADV was there with a sales table in the dealer’s area, but there was no panel for them. Understandable, since right after the convention they had to auction off some of their excess office supplies due to contraction at the company.

A good number of the New York-based voice actors and directors from Headline Studios did show up and ran a very interesting set of panels about their work and one of the feature shows for the crew, Genshiken. Specifically, we got Joe DiGorgi, Rich McNanna, Michele Knotz and Bill Rogers. Sounds boring, right? Heheh, nope. For starters, they’re based in a building originally built for Cosmopolitan magazine by a developer who was later shot dead in a duel. The building was subsequently used as a movie studio for 20 years before being converted into mixed office space. It’s also “way out there” according to the Voice actors, a whole 10 miles up the Hudson from New York and about 500 feet from a train station.

Besides the anime dubbing work they also do a lot of music recordings, having been involved with several Grammy winning albums. On average a dubbed show contains about 350 “cues”, or lines. They also occasionally contain some interesting dubbing challenges, like how to substitute something for a word that needs to be bleeped out. The choice they ended up going with was “fudding”. Use you imagination fill in the blank. Apparently matching syllables can be rather difficult. The only item of note to come out of the Media Blasters panel was that they plan to begin airing Seirei no Moribito soon on Adult Swim, though they did have an interesting thought concerning Geneon. Apparently “the carcass may not be dead”, as was somewhat proved at Anime Expo.

The rest of the convention was spent hanging around with a big group of friends, for the most part older fans who have been doing all of this convention and anime stuff since the early 80′s. Yes, there was anime in the US in the early 80′s. A lot of it may have been bad, spawning the extremely crowded “Bad Anime! Bad!” panel, but it was here. There was also a screening of the AMV competition squeezed in, which I just happened to have a video in. Didn’t win, but it was awesome to see something I made up there like that for people to enjoy. Saturday night capped off the convention craziness in the basement with the east coast special “Dick Tripwire’s Hentai Dubbing Extravaganza”. Amateur porn dubbing. Sounds dumb…well, it is dumb, but it’s also really funny to see what lengths some people will go to for a part, and then fail miserably at it. Sadly that was also the end of my Anime Next experience due to a wedding the next day in New York City.

Hopefully Anime NEXT can solve its space dilemma soon. It is certainly not an easy task to find a hotel and/or convention center that is willing to take on the unique problems that a virtually 24 hour convention full of kids and hard partyers entails. I just hope Anime Next doesn’t become a victim of its own success. Its rare enough to find an anime convention as laid back as Anime NEXT and even more so to be surrounded by good company. This reviewer is very much looking forward to the next NEXT.

Onward anime fans and Anime NEXT to….the future!

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