Tokyo - the anime fan guide
Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 8:08 pm
the Anime City - an Otaku Guide to Neo-Tokyo  will be published at the end of the next month. This may be of interest to anyone thinking of visiting Japan who has bought into the whole anime scene.I've pre-ordered a copy; I know from personal experience how hard it can be to find good information on anime shopping in Japan and I'll be interested to see how this book matches up to my experiences! Surely the current Tokyo is still there? Or has Godzilla been calling again?
Tokyo - the anime fan guide
Posted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 4:53 pm
My copy arrived yesterday; this review was also posted to the newsgroup uk.media.animation.anime. I will warn you, this book can rather shatter some comfortable illusions for you if you interested in modern Japanese culture...! (additonal comments added for those less immersed in anime/manga/Japanese gaming): A couple of years ago, I was standing in the cos-play area of a Winter Wonderfest , along with a Japanese cos-play photographer I'd been introduced to, when an Asuka Langley-Soyuz cos-player walked past. Something new to me at the time was the fact that the cos-player was wearing a mask that almost perfectly captured the anime-style of the character; as if Asuka had climbed off an animation cel and stepped onto the streets for real. It was slightly startling, somewhat amazing, and a little disturbing. The photographer then made a comment I found rather puzzling at the time: "I don't like those." I wondered about that remark for a while; the effect of the mask was certainly a bit strange at first, but it seemed like just one more manifestation of the cos-play phenomena, a kind of ultimate evolution of the genre. My copy of "Cruising The Anime City" arrived yesterday, and I now know why the photographer may have remarked on that Asuka in such a manner. Such cos-players are called "Kigurumers", they specialise in covering up every centimetre of skin in costume - even appendages like hands - and the Asuka I saw was quite likely to have been male. Just when you think you know your chosen interest in life... I was expecting a kind of otaku Lonely Planet from this book - descriptions of various anime related areas in Tokyo, some maps, and perhaps a few related comments. What its turned out to be is a kind of blitz introduction to modern Japanese pop-culture with a bit of shopping advice attached. There *are* a couple of maps in there - the two main ones cover Akihabara and the Nakano Broadway centre - but the essence of this book is the state of play in the otaku heartland today. It makes for entertaining, quirky, and occasionally disturbing reading. On more than one occasion, I found myself looking up from a paragraph and wondering just what the heck I'd got myself into when watching Battle of the Planets all those years ago. You can't really accuse the contributors of not knowing what they're talking about - Patrick Macias has obviously spent some time in Japan; Tomohiro Machiyama, is the guy who popularised the word "otaku", and the cos-play section is introduced by Jan Kurotaki, a columnist for Animerica and the best argument for legalising cloning I've ever seen... The various sections cover manga, anime, film, toys, games, and other staples of the city that has captured the imaginations of anime fans across the World. The author takes a tour of Toei studios, visits the Gundam museum, attends the Comiket convention, and interviews the head of the massive Mandarake second-hand anime goods chain. Its not a long book - I read it through in about an hour and a half, but its possibly the most up-to-date introduction to Japanese multimedia around; it contrasts nicely with Fred Schodts Dreamland Japan, which while a superb book is now a little dated in comparison. The authors are also refreshingly uncritical of even the extremes of otaku-ism, preferring to observe rather than offer opinions, rather like a nature film documentary. I have a few nit-picks; it would perhaps have been nice to cover something like Doreamon or Miyazaki  as a counter-point, as its a bit heavy on the more bizarre aspects. It seems odd that the Studio Ghibli museum isn't covered; the Toei tour is interesting but probably unavailable for those without the proper connections. The maps might have been better placed in their own separate section at the front or back of the book. For those who have been to Japan more than once, the book is not really going to be useful as a guide, as they'll probably have found much of its buying information out for themselves . For first-time visitors, though, it would probably prove an invaluable time-saver - I certainly wish I'd had such a work the first time I went. The format is a bit awkward for use as an everyday guidebook, but I suppose one could always photocopy the relevant pages. These are minor things, though. I heartily second the authors recommendation that investing in a Kodansha bi-lingual Tokyo atlas is the wisest thing any visitor to Tokyo can do, and you've got to like a work that lists the anime you can see Tokyo Tower in. It could be a bit longer for the price, but while it lasts, its as tasty and as refreshing as a bowl of your favourite ice-cream. And finally, theres my favourite section - that which covers model kits, and which is largely devoted to the remarkable collection of Mari Chimatsuri, which fills his house to a degree unimagined by even the most obsessive hoarder, and whose life story is so remarkably odd you could never, ever make it up, even if Hideki Anno remade Otaku no Video...   A combination model kit/flea market, that draws thousands of attendees.  References to a long running childrens anime about a robot cat and the Oscar-award winning director of Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and others, respectively.  I'll admit to a slight bias, as I have an interest in mecha toys. For more general anime fans, the areas covered will probably provide you with more stuff than you could carry back on a 747...  Hideki Anno is the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Otaku no Video is an earlier work that both parodies and glorifies Japanese anime fandom in the late 80s.