Iâ€™m actually typing up this entry on the plane ride home from Japan. I have mixed feelings about leavingâ€¦ Iâ€™ve never really been convinced I could actually live in Japan until now, but at the same time, Iâ€™m looking forward to getting home and sleeping in my own bed and trying to get back into some kind of routine. Iâ€™m also going to try and incorporate some of the things Iâ€™ve seen and learned from the retail establishments (particularly the comics ones) into what I do every day. I think thereâ€™s a lot to learn from stores that are as well-runâ€”and fucking busy!â€”as the ones Iâ€™ve been visiting. BUT ANYWAY, WOULDNâ€™T YOU LIKE TO SEE SOME MORE CRAZY PICTURES?
I donâ€™t know if I made it clear last post, but NAMJATOWN is actually inside a mall. Well, itâ€™s more of a huge city-block shopping complex called SUNSHINE CITY, which also houses another mall (World Import Mart, seen in the bg) and the 60-story skyscraped SUNSHINE 60.
Every mall I went to in Japan was bigger than the last, and had colder and more intense air conditioning than the last, but the Sunshine City complex still stands out in my mind as being particularly huge and labyrinthine (it has a whole theme-park in it, after all).
So at the top of the building here is an observation gallery, an aquarium, and a gallery space. Letâ€™s go to the top of the building, shall we?
a The elevator ride up was full of new-age music and black lights, with light up sea-creatures on the wall. It was staffed by an elevator attendant who would not look us in the eye. The elevator closed and opened by women in ridiculous outfits who did not want their pictures taken, but still wouldnâ€™t stop bowing.
â€¦and Tokyo! The view from the top of the building is pretty spectacular, with all of Tokyo spread out in front of us. Notice how itâ€™s sort of grey and overcast? Thatâ€™s the beginnings of a Typhoon.
I was kind of surprised by how â€˜Greenâ€™ Tokyo is. They really do try to incorporate plants and trees into their city aesthetic as much as is possible. Thatâ€™s a big parkâ€¦.
Stormâ€™s a cominâ€™
So there was a gallery space at the top of the Tower, and we figured weâ€™d walk through. All of the photographs were inspired by the Aquarium, and the majority had the theme of the aquarium being a sort of exotic buffet. Heh.
On the way down, the elevator had black-light and new-age music, but instead of light-up sea creatures, it was all light-up constellations.
ANIMATE. I think I mentioned in a previous post, ANIMATE is actually a nation-wide chain of anime and manga stores, and the store in Ikebukuro is the flagship, and probably the biggest. 8 Floors of pop-culture, including an event space (that was sadly closed when we visitedâ€¦). Letâ€™s go inside!
I guess what Iâ€™m trying to get across hereâ€¦ is that thereâ€™s a lot of fucking manga. There is so much fucking manga, and so little of it is licensed for release in North America, that I am now officially disputing the claim that there is a â€œlicensing dryspellâ€ coming (or any variation therof). Not every manga is Naruto, but thereâ€™s so much fucking midlist that something truly catastrophic would have to happen to actually run out of salable licenses.
This is one of the new-release tables. One of.
With the New Evangelion movie being a phenomenal hit the weekend before we arrived, every store worth their salt had huge Eva displays out. So much Evangelion merchandise. Soâ€¦ Much.
Evangelion Doritos? Tastes like Shinji.
On the top, we see Evangelion flavour curry. No, Iâ€™m fucking serious. On the bottom? Boxes of Evangelion cookies. Maybe you donâ€™t understand; Evangelion is big here. V. Big.
Hereâ€™s something really cool. These are for pre-ordering hot new material. You just take one of the little tags in the holder up to the desk, and theyâ€™ll order (and hold) the item for you on its release day.
Random manga that looks cool that I didnâ€™t buy. Any idea what it is?
Speaking of yaoi, these are all Yaoi/BL/Changepurse novels. Thereâ€™s so much yaoi and related stuff. Iâ€™m not surprised that the category is growing so quickly in North America, thereâ€™s just a ton of material out there waiting to be licensed (and the titles, so far as I can tell, arenâ€™t generally from the larger manga publishers who can beâ€¦ pricklyâ€¦ when it comes to licensing negotiations. I am looking right at you, Square-Enix.
By the way, this is a different floor full of manga than the previous floor full of manga we were on.
Okay, this floorâ€¦ Heh. This floor had books on display that if I even took a picture of, at a distance, I could be arrested for that picture in Canada. Go to Wiki and look up â€œShota-Conâ€, which might be NSFW? Anyway, Shota-Con is the male version of Loli-Con (Lolita Complex) manga. On this floor they decided to put together a feature-display bay of books, all explicit-covers out, of Shota-Con. So youâ€™re walking by looking at manga, and all of the sudden youâ€™re like OH SHIT WHAT AM I LOOKING AT WALK AWAY. Just going to show there really is a manga for everyone!
Now letâ€™s flush out our brains withâ€¦ The Studio Ghibli Nook! Look, itâ€™s a ton of totally fucking awesome Ghibli merch, in a nature-themed display area.
Oh, I want that.
Oh, I want those. But since I was heading off to the Ghibli Museum on this trip, I decided to skip over buying additional Ghibli stuff.
This was the â€˜merchâ€™ floor. T-Shirts, dolls, cosplay accessories (but no actual costumes). That sort of thing. Basically the best booth at the best anime convention, but without a few hundred sweaty congoers pawing through everything before you can get to it. Just two cute girls.
Look, itâ€™s adorable cat-boy statues! I saw this series around a lot (canâ€™t remember what it is) but it looks like it might be very LOVELESS (the manga, not the Azzarello comic) â€“esque.
Itâ€™s the Moomins! Remember, your childhoods are alive and well and waiting for you to re-buy themâ€¦ in Japan. Here we have all kinds of fantastic Moomin goods.
OMG! Theyâ€™re having a little tea-party, and the tea-party is also a desk calendar! Aieee!
They even come in adorable boxes adorned with the art from the comic strips! Who could resist this? Who? NO ONE. I gotta get on Drawn & Quarterly about importing some of this merch to go with the delightful books theyâ€™re publishing.
Do you know what mystery-box toys are? Basically, itâ€™s where you buy a line of toys, but you donâ€™t know which toy you got until after youâ€™ve bought the toy. Itâ€™s kind of like crack or Pokemon cards. Anyway, in addition to all of the mystery box toys for video game and anime characters, thereâ€™s alsoâ€¦ Miniature food. Seriously, all of the food items in this picture are smaller than a quarter. Random miniature food.
You think itâ€™s stupid, but then you see it, and you canâ€™t help wantingâ€¦ Miniature food. And a little box to display it in. Oh, Japan.
Interesting thing about these toys. You might have seen some of them (the final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts figures in particular) in your local store. In this case, Diamond doesnâ€™t actually import these toys, they do a whole new production run for North America (sometimes with slightly-less than ideal manufacturing) that lets them sell the figures for less than you would pay in Japan. So buck-up, fanboy! At least some of your current situation is better than youâ€™d find overseasâ€¦
Itâ€™s YOTSUBA! Yes, the adorable little green-haired girl that has stolen our hearts is coming to 3-d toy form, courtesy of the fine folks at REVOLTECH. You might know the Revoltech chaps from their super-posable lines of robots, including MAZINGER, EVANGELION, and even a few Transformersâ€¦ Well on September 27th, Revoltech is releasing a Yotsuba figure with alternated head, hand, and super-posable. Whatâ€™s that? I will have left Japan by then? Why, thatâ€™s right, I will have. So no YOTSUBA for me, no YOTSUBA for anyone. (Seriously, I hope Diamond picks these up.) In other Revoltech news, they started doing Veritechs from Robotechâ€¦ The VF-1J was released and I totally bought it and itâ€™s awesome. Although I guess itâ€™s technically MACROSS in Japan, all I know is that I was able to successfully buy more of my childhoodâ€¦ Yay!
Discount plush toys.
And that concludes our shopping day at ANIMATE. I spent like $200 dollars, which is pretty good (considering) and picked up a few things for Haliday as well, so hopefully heâ€™ll be ecstatic with happiness. â€¦I seriously loved this store. I wish I had gone back for hours and hours and hours. I totally, totally want a store like this one day. I need $20 million dollars.
So letâ€™s round out the day with a little sight-seeing. This is a bicycle parking lot (also: mopeds).
Japan looks a lot like Futurama, in spots.
Ahhhâ€¦ Convenience stores. Youâ€™re so awesome. Youâ€™ve got all kinds of stuff thatâ€™s delicious and scary. Here, for example, we have some sort of un-refrigerated egg salad in a hot dog bun. ITâ€™S ONLY ONE DOLLAR.
Canada Dry is the Ginger Ale of choice in Japan, which makes me unreasonably proud. Note, the bottle says CHILL TIME, which makes this the most pimped-out drink I saw during my entire stay. I can almost here the anthemâ€¦
Itâ€™s GOURMET Pringles. And what Gourmet flavour do they have? Why, itâ€™s Grilled Shrimp and Garlic Pringles. So of course we had to buy a can, and taste it. Now, I know what a Pringle tastes like, and I know what Grilled Shrimp tastes like, and believe me, I likes the garlic, so of course this should taste like none of those things. It was actually sweet, for a potato chip, and the strongest flavour? Lemon. Apparently the lemon you squirt on the grilled shimp. No garlic, not even any shrimp flavour, just a sort of oddly sweet and vaguely lemony pringle. It was very disappointing, and strange.
We went to go meet a friend for dinner, and walking through Ikebukuro, we cam across this movie theatre with huge advertisements for the Eva movie. It was kinda neatâ€¦ Otaku pride.
Apparently Dennyâ€™s is some high-end fancy restaurant in Japan. I wouldnâ€™t know because I didnâ€™t eat there, because itâ€™s Dennyâ€™s.
Funny Japanese signage about killing your dog with an elevator.
Department stores are all FUCKING HUGE in Japan. This is Bic Camera, an electronics superstore. It probably also carried Toys and Manga. I say this, because we ended up going to a department store across the street from here for dinner, because all department stores generally have floors that are full of restaurants. We actually went to a Tonkatsu Restaurant on the 8th floor ofâ€¦ I think PARCO or one of those, right outside of Ikebukuro station. The 8th floor is also where the book section was, as well as a toy/hobby section. What do I see in the toy section?
Thatâ€™s right, itâ€™s a display case full of figures and statues from the TEKKON KINKREET movie and manga.
I settled for only buying two little dolls because I was already completely loaded down with stuff from they dayâ€™s shopping, but man, I coulda dropped a fortune on this stuffâ€¦ Hell, even bringing a bunch back to sell at the storeâ€¦! Butâ€¦ yeah. This was pretty much the last time I saw the figures too, so I didnâ€™t even have a second change at them. :-/
The bookstore had a run of Tezukaâ€™s Buddha, in the animal-paintings covers. :)
So after dinner we hoof it back to the train station, and the wind and rain has picked up a lot. I was totally impressed with the BOOK VENDING MACHINE. We managed to make it about half-way up the line back to Saitama, but due to high-winds and rain (HURRICANE!) the service wasâ€¦ cancelled! Shocking! The trains always run on time in Japan! WTF!? So we went and tried to grab a cab (elapsed time, 2 hours, in the rain and 30 degree heatâ€¦).
Hereâ€™s us in the cab. The cab ride took about 45 minutes because the trains had stopped running, and the weather was brutal, and the streets were just fullâ€¦ The ride should have cost about $40â€¦ but the cab driver took a wrong turn, felt terrible, and only let us pay him $20. We forced a tip on him of $20 more, which is totally unheard of in Japan, but it seems like a night for breaking with conventionâ€¦
Finally, we arrive home. Wet, exhausted, and carrying bags and bags full of our dayâ€™s purchases. We sleptâ€¦ soundly. End of Day 02 (Finally!) – Christopher