I’ve mentioned before that my fascination with anime culture and collectables is so intense that I’m entirely happy to just surround myself with fictional alternate rainbow-colored worlds and smiling cartoon girls. Not everyone – in fact – most people probably wouldn’t empathize with my obsession for more than a day or two, and certainly not two weeks. But my vacation is for my own amusement, and if visiting anime shops brings me the most pleasure, then that’s what I’ll do during my vacation. Because my temporary room-mate had to go to work for the day, and I knew that I wanted to pick up some goods for a friend back in Florida, I returned to Nakano Broadway.
Arriving a 11:30, I realized that most of the mall’s anime shops don’t open until noon. I stepped into one rental cube shop that was open. I was primarily hunting for Godzilla & Ultraman vinyl figure toys for my friend back home who specifically asked me to hunt for cheap and obscure monsters. In the rental cube shop I spied a small gasshapon figure of GINO priced at only 100 yen, so I asked the clerk to extract the figure for me to purchase.
With nearly 30 minutes to spare, I decided to purchase a soda and relax. Beverage vending machines are ubiquitous in Japan. Oddly, they don’t appear in anime remotely as frequently as they appear in real life (while, similarly oddly, mikan crates appear in anime all the time, yet I’ve yet to see a single one since I’ve been here in Tokyo.) There’s even minor competition between machines. Typical vending machines now charge 160 yen for a drink, yet occasionally one will come across “special value” machines that offer the same size and variety drinks for only 100 yen. I also think that it’s neat that the Suika train passes can also be used to purchase drinks from vending machines or pay for goods at convenience stores since the Suika cards are essentially just debit cards. Just wave a Suika card across the scanner on a soda machine and push the selection button for the desired beverage.
The variety of beverages here in Japan is practically overwhelming. Vending machines serve up typical flavored waters, fruit juices, fruit sodas, and assortments of coffee. And some beverages seem quite odd to American eyes.
To my dismay, I discovered that the change in my pocket would only total up to 160 yen if I included the pennies – the 1 yen coins that vending machines don’t take. So from the fourth floor I tread the steps all the way down to the basement, which is a sprawling underground complex of small restaurants, butcher shops, drug stores, and grocers. I found a small grocery store that had bottles of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, but no other sodas, available at 100 yen including tax.
On Nakano Broadway’s first floor I passed by Okashi Machioka, a convenience store-sized shop that sold nothing but snacks: candy, chips, cookies, soft drinks.
With my fresh bottle of Coke – and I’ve noticed that Coca-Cola in Japan has very slightly less carbonation than American Coke, making it a bit easier and smoother to drink – I trod back up to the fourth floor where I sat on one of the corner padded arcade stools. The sit-down 2D fighting games were all shut down while an attendant waited to turn them all on at noon.
While sitting across from a row of vending machines, I consciously realized for the first time that Suntory’s new C.C. Grape was the grape-flavor sibling to C.C. Lemon. It’s an obvious parallel, but I just never deliberately thought about it. Since I love C.C. Lemon, I realized that at some time during my remaining stay I’d have to try out C.C. Grape.
One could literally spend days intently examining all of the anime collectables available in Nakano Broadway alone. I discovered, to my surprise, that the “Macross Gold Book” still retails at a hundred bucks here. I anticipated that it would be more by now.
A complete set of 301 Fujiko Fujio Land manga volumes from Mandarake costs $2,500.
At the Mandarake toy shop on the second floor, I spied two bins on the floor filled with vinyl Ultraman monsters priced at 100 yen each.
At a rental case shop, I (re-) found the selection of used Ultra Family figures for 100 yen each. When I asked the cashier to confirm that the figures were indeed 100 yen each, he assured me then asked which one I wanted. He briefly looked at me incredulously when I said, “All, kudasai.” He sold me all ten for an even 1,000 yen.
I came across a store that had a neat window display of Blade Runner collectables.
I stopped into the Mandarake men’s doujinshi store to see if the shop carried figures. I got absorbed instead into flipping through the 200 yen discounted doujinshi in hopes of randomly finding some old Dirty Pair books. I was amazed to find a 400 yen doujinshi with a Hitsugi Katsugi no Kuro (“Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro”) cover actually drawn by creator Satoko Kiyuduki. I immediately decided to buy it. I later opened it to find that it’s an all-ages full color collection of illustrations of cute anime girls eating snacks, drawn by a variety of artists.
Further down the aisle I was very excited when I noticed that the store actually had a significant sized section for just vintage 1980s & 90s doujinshi. On one hand I was thrilled to discover one vintage doujin with a Dirty Pair cover for 1,000 yen. On the other hand, I was disappointed that I found only one. I did spot the first doujinshi I’ve ever seen based on the Bubble Gum Crisis OVAs, but it distinctly looked like a short text story rather than an illustrated comic.
In another rental case store, I spied a gachapon Binchou-tan diorama of Chiku-tan pushing a wheelbarrow with Binchou-tan following behind. I have two of these Binchou-tan gachapon dioramas, but not this one, so I decided to buy it for 200 yen. In another case, I spotted a loose Hello Kitty to Issho series “Minase Shizuku” six inch tall PVC figure for 400 yen. The shopkeeper extracted both toys for me, first offering both of them to me to inspect closely. Then, after I paid, he carefully wrapped the Kitty figure in bubble wrap, then individually bubble-wrapped each piece of the Binchou-tan figure set.
At yet another rental case shop, this one clearly specializing in antique nostalgia collectables, I spied a 600 yen Bandai Gamera vinyl figure that I purchased.
At one rental cube shop, I found a Bandai vinyl Minilla figure with no cardboard hang tag priced at 3,200 yen. In the Mandarake toys shop, I purchased a Minilla figure with no cardboard hang tag for 1,200 yen along with a 2003 Mecha Godzilla “Link Science” exclusive version with black armor and original hang tag for 3,000 yen.
I arrived back at Jon’s apartment at 4, a half-hour before he arrived home from work. That evening we walked down the block and across the street to the Jonathon’s family restaurant. I had the eponymous anime “hamburger steak” with mushrooms and small sides of corn and French fries. I opted for the “A-set” that added a bowl of white rice and unlimited trips to the “drink bar” for 420 yen.