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Anime Aunties Visit Japan
Day 2: Ikebukuro and the Birthplace of Anime

by Lynzee Loveridge & Jacki Jing,

Lynzee: The rain was off and on today, so Jacki and opted to save the your name. locations for better weather. Instead, we decided to head over to Oizumi Anime Gate in Nerima, followed by a trip to BL haven Otome Road in Ikebukuro and a full tour of the Tokiwaso Museum in Tokyo's Toshima Ward. It was a lot of trains, quaint neighborhoods, and a real glimpse of what it looked like to live as a manga creator in the late 50s to early 60s. We'll have an in-depth update about Tokiwaso soon.

Lum Statue at Oizumi Anime Gate

Oizumi Anime Gate is located right outside the Oizumi Gakuen Station and features bronze statues of Lum, Joe Yabuki from Ashita no Joe, Maetel and Tetsuro from Galaxy Express 999, and Astro Boy. Oizumi Anime Gate is so named because it represents the "gateway to anime," a point of pride for Nerima. Each character is an example of history specific to the area. Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Production was founded in Fujimidai, Nerima, and birthed Astro Boy in 1963, considered the first television anime series.

The late Leiji Matsumoto called Oizumi home for nearly 50 years, and the station continues to honor him. Once we stepped off the train, we heard the "Galaxy Express 999" theme song as the train pulled away from the station. Inside, a large statue of Conductor serves as Oizumi Gakuen's honorary station master. Behind it is a message Matsumoto wrote in 2008. He added his signature a year later.

Conductor from Galaxy Express 999 is Oizumi Gakuen's honorary station master.

Like Leiji Matsumoto, Ashita no Joe creators Tetsuya Chiba and Asao Takamori lived in Nerima for a long time. The pivotal sports series remains influential to this day, so much so that I couldn't help myself from trying to recreate one of the anime's iconic scenes.

The final statue is Lum from Rumiko Takahashi's iconic manga, Urusei Yatsura. The beloved romantic comedy brought acclaim to its creator, another long-time Nerima resident. You could argue the series helped propel recognition for Takahashi, allowing her to go on and create Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha, and more.

Jacki: The Oizumi Anime Gate really makes you feel small when you're an otaku. No, it's not immensely large, but seeing the bronze statues of anime legends and looking through the timeline starting in 1958 and running through 2014…you just realize how immense and incredible anime truly is.

It is a medium that has had a profound impact on millions. It has shaped and inspired so many lives. It's dramatic. It's comedic. It's exhilarating. It's life-changing – and to think about the evolution of these eye-catching majestic masterpieces that entrance us makes you feel infinitesimal when thinking of its greatness.

ANN Executive Editor Lynzee Loveridge and I literally took a walk down memory lane, passing by the anime images and effigies of anime's past. My heart filled with joy as my eyes spied Astro Boy, Galaxy Express 999's Maetel, Urusei Yatsura's Lum, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and One Piece.

Is the gate a must-see? No. It's statues and pictures. It was more the feeling that it gave me that made it worth it for me personally. I started watching anime when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and here I am 30 years later, and it's still one of my favorite pastimes, it's my livelihood, it's one of my greatest passions. I am just grateful for the people who made these immense creations and kept anime alive and thriving over the decades. The gate's a well-deserved homage to them. I felt, as an Otaku, I was paying my respects.

From Oizumi, we were off to BL fans' heaven: Otome Road in Ikebukuro. Just walking around, it's immediately evident how the area caters to female anime and manga fans. Wig shops, stores catering to voice actor fans, and lots and lots of pretty boy-specific merch.

Jacki: Otome Road – take me home to the place I belong! Otome Road translates to Maiden Road because it aims to please the girlies, and, GORL, did it deliver!

I am not well-versed when it comes to BL, but when ANN's Executive Editor, Lynzee Loveridge, asked me to accompany her for “research,” of course, I could not say no.

We weren't able to take photos inside the actual store, but as we descended down into the Boy's Love lair, I felt like I was traveling down a rabbit hole into Yaoi Wonderland as BL posters covered every inch of the walls and life-size cut-outs of beautiful men greeted us at the door.

Once we entered, it was row after row of shelves stocked with Boys-Love merch. Posters, pillows, pins, oh my! While there was more provocative material, there were also really cute and playful scenes that really made me smile. There was also some very naughty, yet delightful, imagery that I will gladly not unsee.

I was really impressed with the amount and variety – from glass cleaning towels to key chains, from sexual and sensual to kawaii, from swashbuckling pirates to cat boys – really, it provided whatever your BL heart desired.

Lynzee and I were only allowed to leave with one item (sadly). As soon as I spotted something with a mushroom on it – I knew that mycophile Lynzee would leave with that. Now it was my turn. I couldn't leave with just anything! This was my first time in a BL store, let alone one in Japan, and I really knew nothing about this genre, and now here I was at the BL mecca! Whatever I picked, it had to just be perfect. I turned around after finding Lynzee's mushroom boys and spotted two incredibly GORGEOUS men on a pin. Drop dead. I kind of knew right away that was it, but I didn't want to decide that quickly. I “forced” Lynzee to look at every item on every row! After vacillating between a Wolfman and a pink-haired eye-patched gentleman, I went back to my original pin. Lynzee and I made our purchases and sadly had to depart.

So, I really enjoyed my first dive into the BL world! I mean, it was a store packed with beautiful animated men paraphernalia. Tough assignment, I know.

Lynzee: After we wrapped our daring exploration of attractive anime men, we were off to something more educational at Tokiwaso Museum. We'll have a full write-up on the amazing look at the sharehouse that once was home to Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Fujio Akatsuka (Tensai Bakabon), Fujiko Fujio (Doraemon) and Shōtarō Ishinomori (Kamen Rider) soon!

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