Akihabara and Anime
Akihabara is ground zero for anime. There are umpteen places selling electronics too in this northeastern part of Tokyo, about five minutes from the Tokyo subway station, but 17-year-old Katie is here for the anime and she is not disappointed.
Anime is Japanese animation. It’s something more than simple cartoons.
There are numerous genres. Shojo, for example, is the trials and tribulations of pretty teenage girls. Shojo is so big its subsets have become new genres. One is Magical Girl. Sailor Moon would be in this category, for those familiar with the anime art form.
Vishoujo is a spicier, more mature version of Shojo.
There’s also Horror, Action, called Shonen, and Sci-Fi, to name a few. Sci-Fi’s subsets have also sparked genres like Mecha which features rock-‘em, sock-‘em robots. There’s titillating stuff for boys called ecchi and X-rated stuff for men. Ads for grown-up stuff adorning the walls of the stairs to the basement of one of the stores on Chou Dori reveal pretty much everything.
Anime is off-putting for persons weaned on Looney Tunes and Disney. Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion were the “cheap” cartoons with bad dubbing and lame plots.
Now anime is a multi-billion dollar industry. Although there still is some righteously bad dubbing.
At Animate on Chou Dori in Akibara there are seven floors of anime although several contain manga, which are graphic novels – glorified comic books — upon which a number of anime series are based.
Also included in Animate’s seven floors are DVDs, beach towels, alarm clocks, posters, pillows, key chains, coffee mugs and doll furniture. The furniture is available so the action figures can sit or lay down when they’re tuckered out from action figuring.
On one floor of Animate are three six-foot glass cases with three shelves each crammed with resin visions of various anime characters. The average price is about $25. Sparsely dressed girls playing guitar, sinister guys with shoulder length hair and knee-length coats getting ready to throw some karate moves are recurring themes.
Shelf after shelf in Animate’s basement display Styrofoam heads with long haired wigs of hues never found in nature: purple, lime green, chartreuse. These are the colors of the heroines’ hair from various anime series. There are costumes for sale as well to complete the ensemble.
On the floor with the DVDs, an exasperating seven flights up, at least 14 different TVs are airing 14 different anime series at easily hearable volume. Capping the cacophony, a boom box blares.
The anime DVDs run the gamut: Guin Saga, AngelBeat, Tales of the Abyss, Individual Eleven, Naruto Shippuden, Scene 5, Clannad, Soul Eater, Love 3, the Sword of Uruk.
Queen’s Blade features buxom warrior babes in skimpy armor and bikini bottoms with large swords.
Pandora Hearts will be in stock July 24, a poster informs. Ristorante Paradiso will arrive five days later.
It’s a youngish crowd in Animate perusing the manga and the anime. Around lunchtime, this particular day, it’s mainly teenage males. Jeans, t-shirts, electronics at the ready. Several look as though they wish they were in a basement like the one at the store further down the block. With respect, a majority seem in search of a life.
Katie, who doesn’t go for the guy anime, is conversant about the merits and demerits of much of Animate’s stock.
She’s fond of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” which centers on a woman who is god but doesn’t know it. The heroine wishes for things to happen and they do. There are aliens and psychics as well.
The “Ouran High School Host Club” follows the struggles of a girl paying off a debt to the aforementioned club whose members initially think she’s a man but subsequently figure out she’s woman but let her carry on as a host at the club. Downright Shakespearean.
Katie is also a fan of Hell Girl but, in some respects, prefers Soul Eater and Princess Tutu who is a duck but, under certain circumstances, turns into a princess.
The mystery of the attraction to this medium is not revealed at the Tokyo Anime Center on the 4th Floor of the nearby UBX building. The center appears is more marketer than illuminator.
Whatever is going on with this stuff it’s going on big time and its not confined to Tokyo. Katie is on a team that takes existing anime, cuts it up, adds special effects and music and creates something new, which they make available for all to enjoy on You Tube.
The members of the team hail from, among other places: Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Good that Chuck Jones has gone to the big sketchpad in the sky.
Filed under: Trip to Tokyo
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