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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.