Let's Visit Akihabara! Part 2by Zac Bertschy,
Alright, let's go to Akihabara. This is why we're here, right? Things really don't change much here, save what's on the shelves, so let's see what's new.
This greeted me the second I stepped into an elevator in Akihabara. Again, the place doesn't change. It's almost comforting.
This was the second elevator I stepped inside. You should come here sometime.
Shin Godzilla is absolutely everywhere – the bluray released just a few days prior to our arrival so the merchandise was just pouring out of storefronts. There's a big collaborative Evangelion x Godzilla push right now as well, with a small mountain of exclusive merchandise available at Animate stores and around Akihabara and Ikebukuro.
ACCA has a pretty big marketing campaign behind it – store window displays at the station and elsewhere.
Kemono Friends is the internet's favorite show from winter 2017 but nobody expected it to be a hit, which is why there's very little (almost no) merchandise for it ready. Good Smile scrambled to get a Nendoroid in production, but mostly right now all you'll find are in-store graphics, a few pieces of clothing and what look like bootleg tee-shirts sold at street vendors.
Super Potato, the best-known retro game shop in Akihabara, is still an incredible place to visit, although the prices are pretty much in line with what you'd expect at any other retro game shop now (you're gonna pay $30 for a boxed copy of Super Mario Bros for the Famicom, in other words). It's a lot of fun to browse, though.
Both Razer and Alienware have dedicated shops in Akihabara now, which makes sense but it's still a little jarring to see it.
There was a time when Asahina here would've commanded a serious premium. Here she is in the bargain bin out in front of some store I wandered in to. The mighty fall.
There's a Lawson here that's been totally slathered in Dragon Quest key art for this year's 30th anniversary. I thought it was nice of them to just call it “Dragon Quest Lawson” – surely that's what everyone calls it.
Very little Konosuba merchandise at all – just these basic PVCs and some other character goods. There was a little more on the way from the sequel series but it doesn't seem like merchandise is the big thing they're pushing here – the light novel sales are the most important thing.
I bought this little Galaxian machine, scaled to Figma size, because it struck me as the last action figure accessory I'll ever need. Here's Finn taking a break. You can see how perfect this is.
Anyone need one of these Re:Zero things? This plush was absolutely everywhere we went, in used shops, consignment, you name it.
Toy retailer AmiAmi has a shop in Akihabara and for my money, it was the best figure shop I went in to. Absolutely phenomenal selection of new and old stuff, gently used items and really great prices, and these fantastic toy displays. We found plenty of great stuff here – make it your first stop next time you visit.
One downside: AmiAmi wasn't the last place I saw Funko Pops, but it was the disappointing first. You can't escape these things.
Another store full of old American shit from the 80s and 90s – that Matthew Broderick Inspector Gadget will set you back $40. Honestly I'd love to meet some Japanese collectors who specialize in this stuff – I'd be fascinated by what interests them, what their collections look like, all that.
I'd like to tell you about BEEP.
I spend a lot of time in classic game shops when I go to Tokyo. The prices have changed – like I said, they're pricing these things according to eBay and what they think they can get from nostalgia-addled guys like me in their 30s, rather than the giant discount bins of old. You can still get a lot of cheap games – I saw a copy of Game Boy Alleyway for 50 yen, as an example – but mostly it's just fun to browse. I wouldn't pay ~$40 for a Famicom Disk System copy of Zelda II (or a Super Famicom copy of Virtual Bart) and probably neither should you.
BEEP, though – BEEP is the platonic ideal. It's downstairs in an alley off the main drag in Akihabara and is so perfect it may as well have been set-dressed; vintage CRT monitors flash Japanese DOS games like Thexder, while the most obscure games and memorabilia line the walls. I was in absolute heaven here. The prices were a touch more reasonable, too. The mental image you have of a classic game shop in Japan – that's BEEP. Seek it out.
Also, the stuff you've heard about the Xbox totally tanking in Japan is largely true – this is a used Xbox 360 with a controller and a Kinect that would run you about $25 US. The games are less than a dollar. It's pretty crazy to see it in person.
Okay, let's head over to Ikebukuro. It's a short trip away on the Yamanote line, and although you're probably not supposed to call it this, Akihabara for Girls pretty much sums it up.
This is Sunshine City, the megamall that dominates much of the main drag in Ikebukuro. Namjatown, a theme park that hosts special events based on popular otome properties like Cute High Earth Defense Force LOVE and Yuri!!! On ICE, is located in here, along with J-WORLD, which is another little theme park with Shonen Jump attractions. J-World and Namjatown each have two tiers of admission: there's a lower level, $5 (for Namjatown) and $8 for J-World that gets you inside the front door, and then a $30 level that gives you access to all the interactive games and attractions inside. The attractions are largely all carnival-style games where you can win prizes, so for my money the basic admission did the trick.
Namjatown is a cat-themed park opened by Namco way back in 1996. The park itself is honestly pretty cool – the haunted village they have in the back is shockingly elaborate and pretty well-themed, and the kitties sure are cute. Folks were having a real blast back here.
We made the pilgrimage here to check out their special Yuri!!! On Ice event, which you'll see in a separate feature article from Jacob here in a little bit.
Secret Japan Tip: the best bathrooms in Ikebukuro are inside Namjatown. This is “The Cursed Toilet of Hanako”, and let me tell you the stalls in here are glorious.
DO NOT SMOKE IN HERE THOUGH
This being Ikebukuro, it's no surprise Naked Usopp fills the crane machines.
The Pokemon center in Sunshine City is suitably elaborate, though they all pretty much look like this one.
It's J-World! We didn't go inside – we spent most of our time in Namjatown – but they have Dragon Ball themed bumper cars outside, so I think it's pretty easy to imagine what the inside is like.
Ikebukuro's main thoroughfare is largely ruled by K-BOOKS, which has specialty shops lining the streets. They each specialize in different areas – sports, idols, visual novels, etcetera – and there's very little you can't find here. Here's an example of a display for Joker Game – neatly organized by character and series. Frankly, the otome road stuff is way better organized than the Akiba displays – it's easier to find what you want here.
Yeah, you're reading that price tag right. The secondhand shops are full of this stuff and anything with Yuri or Victor on it goes for a premium, especially limited goods like this keychain. There isn't much variety in the Yuri!!! On Ice merchandise yet – it's all keychains and can badges and towels and paper goods, the kinds of things they can churn out quickly while the iron is hot.
Nearly every store we entered had a preorder poster up for the Nendoroids, though. Better get your preorder in now.
These themed vending machines are pretty common – there's a Yuri on Ice one, too.
Pillow pals. This is the real shit people want – but it isn't out yet.
Here's what's left of the once-mighty Evangelion store, which was previously located in Harajuku, as though it had any business being there in the first place. It's little more than a department store display now, but they still have some totally killer merchandise on display.
This is easily the greatest Evangelion tee-shirt ever made and I don't think they ever need to make another one, period.
Just a few more stops before we're done. First up, the Square-Enix café Artnia, located next to their corporate offices in Shinjuku. They built a Master Materia fountain here – with little materia at the bottom. The rest of it is just a store and a café, but this was really cool. I wanted to reach in and pull out a Knights of the Round.
This is the Godzilla Toho Cinema in Shinjuku – and King Kong just opened. It looks like they're screaming at eachother.
The Japanese poster for King Kong: The Titan of Skull Island (which is a dramatically better name) blows my mind. I haven't seen this movie yet, but now I'm going to go thanks to this poster.
The theater was absolutely packed on Saturday – people were filling the place up to see this, apparently.
I grew up in Arizona and I absolutely refuse to eat Mexican food in Japan. Based on the photos, I'm convinced I'm making the right call here. You tell me if I'm being closed-minded.
This host club features Char Aznable, whose career has taken a turn, apparently.
There isn't much Breath of the Wild merchandise available yet but these excellent gatcha were a nice consolation prize. Careful with those ancient arrows, Link – they cost a goddamn fortune.
Commercials on television during My Hero Academia remind you who the show is aimed at first and foremost.
At one point I hopped on a train that had been completely overtaken with ads for Ghost in the Shell – a 4-minute loop of trailers and premiere coverage with ads all the way down the spine of the beast. They do this for new films pretty frequently here, but the last time I experienced it was for another live-action anime adaptation you might remember called Dragon Ball Evolution. Yep.
Let's stop by Harajuku, where street fashion meets your wallet. I've never been to Harajuku when it isn't totally slammed and raining, so I got the hell out pretty quick, but not before finding some pretty rad stuff (and a bunch of standard-issue hoodies and snapback caps you'd find in any Southern California boutique, jacked up about 30%).
I dearly wish that Game Gear phone case worked on an iPhone 7 Plus but they only made ‘em for the 7.
The Overlord compilation films were playing at a theater around the corner from my apartment in Shinjuku – I didn't see them listed at any other theater I walked into.
Last stop: Shibuya! There's plenty to see here still, but the area is undergoing a major facelift for the Olympics.
I wanted to call special attention to the Shibuya Animate+, which is far and away the nicest Animate in the city, I think. The staff put together these elaborate displays for the popular shows of the day, and the whole store is organized and laid out very efficiently – character and show-themed aisles make it a snap to find what you're looking for. Let's take a walk around.
And that about does it! I leave you with this – earlier in this piece I said they don't ever need to make another Evangelion shirt, but right before we left for home I saw this in a shop right next to Shinjuku station, and it turns out I was wrong.
They can make one more. This one.
Thanks for reading!
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