Anime Vice News

A Photologue of Nerdy Japan! - - OTAKU COMING HOME

Nick has plenty of awesome to share from within Akihabara and beyond, including visits to the EVANGELION Store in Harajuku and the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Let’s hit the streets, shall we? WARNING :: OODLES OF PHOTOS!

Your name in lights... if your name is Sega, Taito or Maid.
Your name in lights... if your name is Sega, Taito or Maid.

Previously on OTAKU COMING HOME...

It won’t come as any surprise to those who read last weeks article, but the otaku portion of my trip last month wasn’t terribly successful for me (it certainly did give me pause to consider the ever expanding reach our beloved niche has these days, though). But even the least exciting part of being in Japan was still amazing - - I mean, come on, we were in Japan - - and I have the pics to prove it.

Akihabara

These racks stretch for miles. They have traffic lights.
These racks stretch for miles. They have traffic lights.

Like I said last week, Akihabara would have thrilled me to no end fifteen years ago. And though it may not have packed as much punch as I hoped, it was still a sight to behold.

9th floor is where they keep the swimming pool full of fan service.
9th floor is where they keep the swimming pool full of fan service.

I wasn’t kidding when I said almost every shop in Electric Town had upwards of eight floors, each dedicated to a particular specialty. And most of them were bulging with merchandise, shelves and racks stuffed with manga, games, movies, and anything else you could imagine.

And, lucky for we non-Japanese speakers, they're almost always shelved like this. Get ready to dive into the beautiful insanity when you go shopping!
And, lucky for we non-Japanese speakers, they're almost always shelved like this. Get ready to dive into the beautiful insanity when you go shopping!

If you don’t speak and/or read Japanese, flipping through the spined-out games and books can be a bit overwhelming. At first though, it replicated that thrill of the hunt I so desperately craved. It was only once I realized that I wasn’t finding anything surprising or exciting that the fun gave way to a bit of the doldrums.

You know you're in a cool place when a happy potato is sharing sign space with Mario and Donkey Kong.
You know you're in a cool place when a happy potato is sharing sign space with Mario and Donkey Kong.

By far, the coolest find for us in Akihabara had to be Super Potato, a shop specializing in vintage video game merch. Everything from systems, games, guides, and soundtracks was somewhere in this store.

In Japan, Famicoms grow on shelves. Eventually, they evolve into Super Famicoms (as long as you train them properly).
In Japan, Famicoms grow on shelves. Eventually, they evolve into Super Famicoms (as long as you train them properly).

Want an original Famicom? No problem. Want to try out some vintage games that never made it to the states? They’ve got you covered. Sure it was all available online, but it was a rare treat to get to sift through it and see it piled to the ceiling.

Unless it's your job - - like it is for this lady - - don't dress up Akihabara and embarrass your country.
Unless it's your job - - like it is for this lady - - don't dress up Akihabara and embarrass your country.

And before we move on to other parts of Tokyo, here’s a quick pro tip: if you find yourself visiting a foreign country and you happen to feel the urge to cosplay as Mario and Peach, do us all a favor and jump off Tokyo Skytree.

Yes, we saw two native English speakers wandering around Akihabara like this. No, I didn’t take their picture because I didn’t want to encourage them. Unless you set up a cottage industry showing like-minded nerds around town, you should not be walking around a foreign country in costumes just for kicks. Guh.

The Evangelion Store

Welcome to Tokyo-1.
Welcome to Tokyo-1.
No watermelons yet, but I'm sure they're coming. We all know how Kaji likes his melons. ZING!
No watermelons yet, but I'm sure they're coming. We all know how Kaji likes his melons. ZING!

Being a bunch of big Evangelion nerds, the Evangelion Store in Harajuku was another must-hit destination. Full of all kinds of exclusive Eva products, and complete with a small version of Kaji’s garden outside, every stop was pulled in this would-be NERV outpost.

I love how they made the glass in the display class look like a big ol' AT-Field.
I love how they made the glass in the display class look like a big ol' AT-Field.

Like Akihabara, the Evangelion Store turned out to be more of a “bucket list” stop for us - - didn’t find much to buy - - but it was very cool to see and we were totally glad we went.

So much swag, but most of it was... I dunno.... kitschy? Fun to look at, but I just know I'd bury it somewhere at home.
So much swag, but most of it was... I dunno.... kitschy? Fun to look at, but I just know I'd bury it somewhere at home.

The Ghibli Museum

The Ghibli Museum, on the other hand, is always a treat. Jackie and I went there on our last trip and it was one of our favorite parts of our honeymoon. Though you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, I hope some of these outside shots will help give you an idea of how cool it is. Once you’re on the grounds of the museum, everything looks and feels like you’re inside a Ghibli film.

Even the windows here are awesome.
Even the windows here are awesome.
Is it a bathroom, or something more fantastic? Trick question - - nothing's more fantastic than a bathroom.
Is it a bathroom, or something more fantastic? Trick question - - nothing's more fantastic than a bathroom.

One of the highlights, for me, at least, is the replica art studios they have set up on the second floor. It looks as though Hayao Miyazaki himself just stepped out for a pack of cigs, leaving drawings on his drafting board and reference books casually tossed open to the side. What appears to be original artwork lines the walls, casually hung up as though by an artist trying to keep his mind focused on a current project. Absolutely amazing.

And then there’s the giant robot on the roof, of course. You guys know I’m a sucker for him.

Still lookin' good there, Rusty.
Still lookin' good there, Rusty.

As far as nerdery goes, I think these were the highlights. Still, there are a few quick hits I’d be pretty irresponsible to leave out:

The One Piece Store

Welcome aboard, lil' pirates. All major credit cards accepted.
Welcome aboard, lil' pirates. All major credit cards accepted.

I don’t know why I was surprised to find this. Having never watched or read ONE PIECE, I didn’t have much call to go in, but I did take some quick pics for all youse dudes to enjoy.

The S.T.A.R.S. Cafe and Grill

My name is Tyrant and I'll be your server this afternoon.
My name is Tyrant and I'll be your server this afternoon.

Another great love all we intrepid travelers shared: RESIDENT EVIL. Took some pics of the outside here, but that’s about it. Turned out to be a bit goofy looking once we got inside, and since we weren’t allowed to just get dessert (we’d already had lunch), we booked it. Good for the nerdy checklist we brought, but that’s about it.

The Mystery of PERSONA 4

This stuff was everywhere.
This stuff was everywhere.

Alright, I’m new to PERSONA - - Jackie and I are just playing through PERSONA3: FES now - - but what is it about PERSONA 4 that’s such a big deal right now? I know there’s an animation, a new fighting game, and a PS Vita re-release but damn if I didn’t trip over P4 merch everywhere we went. Hell, there was one day where almost every shop in Akihabara had dedicated tables out front with P4 swag, manned by employees in P4 aprons. It was sort of crazy.

They had dudes selling it outside of shops!
They had dudes selling it outside of shops!

I’d go on record saying that PERSONA 4 had, hands down, the biggest presence while we were there, topping even REBUILD OF EVANGELION 3.0, easily the second place horse, by a wide margin.

Tokyo’s Tokyo

Am I in a comic shop, or did I fall into Comix Zone back in Akihabara?
Am I in a comic shop, or did I fall into Comix Zone back in Akihabara?

Now this was a clever geek shop. Look closely and you’ll see that all the shelves and tables are designed to look like comic book pages. Each shelf is a panel, many of which feature speed lines, screen tones, and other very clever touches that further the aesthetic and highlight the varied merchandise on every shelf. All the bookcases bend and bulge at the spine like a folded book. Deceptively simple in design, this is a small shop that you could easily spend hours browsing.

Even the hanging signs are dialog bubbles straight out of a comic. It's brilliant!
Even the hanging signs are dialog bubbles straight out of a comic. It's brilliant!

Alright, I think that just about wraps up the geek portion of my Japan coverage. For us, the real joy came from just being in Japan. The sounds, the history, the culture, the food...

Mmmm... The food. I think I know what next week’s column is gonna be.

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.

AURON570on Nov. 20, 2012 at 10:34 a.m.

I'm pretty jelly right now... ;P

Also are all these pics being put into a gallery somewhere?

NickTapalansky staff on Nov. 20, 2012 at 12:34 p.m.

@AURON570:

Not sure yet... I'd like to get them up somewhere, but there's seriously just over 4000 pics. We're still sorting through them and clearing out the duplicates, blurry shots, etc.

Hopefully we can wrap that up before the end of the year, but reality keeps stopping us from falling into the glorious illusion that we're still in Japan.

EamonBDocon Nov. 20, 2012 at 1:06 p.m.

Nice, that comic shop looks awesome. I would have gone crazy tryng to find Golgo 13 comics, and other older Manga titles that are out of print over here, I think. Maybe trying to finish my DBZ Kanzenban collection?

NickTapalansky staff on Nov. 20, 2012 at 4:44 p.m.

@EamonBDoc:

That comic shop WAS awesome. Definitely a great idea - if domestic comic shops took the same approach to engaging customers with dynamic displays, they might do a sight better. I'd certainly be more interested in having a look around.

And for your shopping list, Book-Off would have been heaven for you. A bunch of different locations, and they deal in used books (great condition, most of 'em). You would've left with heavy suitcases, my friend!

Kino88on Nov. 20, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.

PARADISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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