Previously on OTAKU COMING HOME...
- How FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Saved Anime (For Me) *** SAILOR MOON is for Boys (Too)!
- KINGDOM HEARTS Rescued an Anime Fan *** The Art of the Remake Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3
- The Do's & Dont's of Conventions *** For Under-Rated "Japanimation" *** Capcom vs. Alex!
- America in Anime * Why the EVA Rebuilds are Trivial * It's Not So Fun to be an American Otaku in Japan?
- A Photologue of Nerdy Japan * Real Japanese Cuisine for the Traveling Otaku * Stop Hating on DBZ!
- Live ZELDA Music: an Epic Win?
Some of you might remember that, way back in the first OTAKU COMING HOME, I mentioned spending a lot of time shopping for nerdy things down in NYC. From bootleg fansubs to import games, models and soundtracks, I made my way from midtown to Chinatown on a regular basis with some of my best pals.
Those were the golden days...
While most of those shops have closed, and the internet has lessened the need to hunt for hard to find stuff, there’s still something to be said for supporting local businesses, not to mention stumbling across things you might not think to look for online. With that in mind, I teamed up with my spiritual brother in geekery, comic writer, editor, and professional nerd Zach Rosenberg, to go on a tour of today’s best Japan-fan shops in NYC.
A number of these stores also offer some or all of their wares online, so whether or not you live in the area, if you still have some holiday shopping to do be sure to check these guys out.
49 W. 45th Street
New York, NY 10036
Ah Book-Off, one of the more well-known franchises in the Tokyo area. We stopped in our fair share of these guys when we were in Japan recently, most of them having between four and eight floors packed with stuff. The one in Akihabara, in fact, was the only place where we ran into body odor in Japan.
Take from that what you like.
Here in the states, however, there are relatively few of these guys and they’re less TOWERS OF DOOM and more AFFORDABLY-PRICED & WELL-ORGANIZED STUFF. They specialize in used products so some of the prices are absolutely killer.
The NYC location has three floors, each meticulously arranged to help you find what you need. Import and domestic books, magazines, DVDs, VHS (if you can believe that), video games, CDs, and more await you. There are some pretty cool finds in the $1.00 import manga section, if you’re feeling industrious. You’ll find a good selection here, and it’s especially worth the stop if you’re looking for a bargain in the book section or for anything out of print.
1073 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10018
Now if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese shopping experience, this is the place to be. Of all our stops, only one other reminded me as much of Japan as Books Kinokuniya (we’ll get to the other in a bit). Like Book-Off, Kinokuniya has a bit of everything. However, they only deal in new products, so be prepared to pay for it!
Don’t let the website fool you - this is more than just a bookstore. The first floor is a mixed bag, with books, magazines, clothing, toys, new releases, that sort of thing. Some great finds here if you’re looking to grab a special gift that you might otherwise not think to look for online.
The second floor is where you’ll probably have to take out a second mortgage. All the latest import and domestic art books, manga volumes, DVDs, and more line the aisles. A handful of toys and collectibles hide behind glass cases.
Buyer beware, here - - the selection is fantastic, but the prices on the imports are astronomical! Some of the art books I saw were tagged at twice what I paid in Japan. Some CD's were almost triple.
A great stop, particularly if you can’t wait or find yourself on a holiday time crunch, but you’ll be paying for the convenience and selection. They also have a nice little cafe on the second floor, where you can re-energize to power through all the awesome books.
The Elizabeth Center - Basement Floor
15 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10013
No phone numbers. No shop names. No website. A secret hole-in-the-wall basement “mall,” complete with models, toys, and fansubs?
Smells like my childhood.
Over the years the number of stores has shrunk, sadly, but depending on what you’re in the market for this is still a good stop to make. Most of the stores specialize in things you might think of as stocking stuffers - - cell phone charms, plushes, novelty items, and so on.
There are, however, two small shops, one quite literally smaller than some closets, that specialize in DVD's (the closet) and models/toys.
The DVDs are quite bootleg, but it’s a great place to stop if you’re looking for something out-of-print or the odd, unlicensed show/movie. The model shop was closed on this trip but I remember their prices being pretty competitive, so if you’re shopping for the best price I’d recommend checking this place out.
Just be sure to get here early, as the shops close by 6 PM.
202 East 6th Street
New York, NY 10003
Remember I told you there was one other shop that reminded me of being in Tokyo? This was it. Walking inside felt like I’d been transported to a very condensed version of Akihabara’s Super Potato, one of the best stops we made while we were in Japan.
It’s amazing what they are able to cram into this tiny shop...
Classic Atari games? Sealed Famicom Disk System? New Wii U accessories? Import Sega Saturn games?
They have it all and more, with a fantastic new, used, and import selection that’s hard to beat, covering pretty much every system you can imagine from each generation. I thought I took more pics, but apparently I let my own loves get in the way and just photographed the old school stuff. Trust me though, it’s all there.
Prices are more or less fair based on my experience shopping online and in Japan, so you can spend your money knowing that there probably aren’t too many better deals out there. If you’re looking for a rare game for that special someone, or just looking to selfishly plug a hole in your own collection, this is a stop totally worth making.
242 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10001
If Kinokuniya and the “Anime Underground” didn’t satisfy your need for import toys, models, statues, and accessories, than look no further than Image Anime. It isn’t the biggest store, but they pack a ton of variety into a small space, like Videogamesnewyork. They even have a small domestic DVD/blu-ray section in case you want to partner your gift up with a supporting flick.
From e-tank sweatbands to exclusive figures from San Diego Comic-Con, a Fox Hound messenger bag to a rack of cosplay jackets, you’re all but guaranteed to find a cool gift for the geek in your life here. Like some of that stuff on the first floor at Kinokuniya, these are the sort of things you might not think to shop for online, so having a place where you can stumble across it is pretty awesome.
And there you have it, folks. If you’re looking to do some last minute shopping for the dorks you love, you should definitely hit these shops, be it in person or online.
But what about where YOU guys shop? Have a local haunt you like? What about some preferred websites for imported nerdery? Leave ‘em in the comments below! Maybe we can run a few more of these shopping guides before the holidays (or after, since, let’s face it, we’ll all probably have some holiday cash and giftcards to burn...).
Nick Tapalansky is an author of comics and other things, some of them nominated for awards and stuff. Read some comics for free at http://www.NickTapalansky.com/blog and find him on Twitter as @NickTapalansky.