Sunday, October 21, 2007

New York Run: New Kinokuniya Now Open!

On Saturday, some friends and I decided to make a shopping expedition to New York City and the Mitsuwa shopping center in Edgewater, NJ. Things went swimmingly: we arrived at Mitsuwa early, then took the shuttle to NYC. The first stop was Rockefeller Plaza, where we poked around the old Kinokuniya bookstore for a bit; the place is looking a bit run-down, but it's still open for business and crammed with goodies. We then strolled over to the Nintendo Store, where expedition driver Suj T. snagged a copy of the elusive US Hajime no Ippo game for the Wii, and expedition navigator Ray C. very nearly bought an olive drab Nintendo jacket.

We ate a tasty and very filling lunch at Yoshinoya (mmm, gyuudon), near Times Square, then made our way to Book Off, on 41st Street, in front of the New York Public Library. I bought a cheap but still unopened copy of the Clannad game music 3-CD box set, and half a dozen volumes of manga, including Elfen Lied 11. I've been following Elfen Lied via the manga for a while now, and I have to report that the scifi plot devices and new characters are getting loopier by the chapter. There's still plenty of melodrama, nudity and richly-deserved decapitations to keep the reader distracted, but overall I get the impression that the anime chose a good point to wrap things up, three or four volumes back.

On the way back to the Port Authority for the return to NJ, we decided to check out the new Kinokuniya location, on the Avenue of the Americas, behind the Library and Bryant Park. We weren't expecting to do anything beyond confirm its location, since the old store was still operating and no official announcement had been made for an opening date. But, lo and behold, the door was propped, and Kinokuniya was open for business! We chatted with a manager, who was helping work out the bugs at the cash registers, and learned that we had happened to arrive on their first day. Even the previous day, apparently, they hadn't been certain when they would be opening.

The new location is really nice, and we had the place almost to ourselves. It's huge for a store in NYC, with three levels. Street level is devoted to magazines, English-language books, tourist information and other materials suited for a general audience. The basement has Japanese novels, business oriented publications, and other stuff of little interest to me. The second floor is almost entirely given over to manga and anime. It looked like they hadn't quite finished stocking it as of Saturday, but I would guess that it already has the largest selection in the Northeast; I spent maybe 45 minutes there, and didn't have time to do anything like a thorough inspection. The second floor also has a cafe, still unfinished. It'll be impressive when it's done, with a seating area overlooking Bryant Park through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Kinokuniya apparently plans to hold an official grand opening sometime in early November. Also, we learned that Takehiko Inoue (of Slam Dunk fame) will be at the store on Nov. 19 as announced previously, to paint a wall mural. However, the events of the 19th may only be open to the press, according to the employee I talked to. It sounds like there will be an attempt to arrange public events with Inoue on Nov. 20, but things seem quite up in the air. I'll be keeping an eye on developments, with a possible return visit in mind.

Loot from my inaugural Kinokuniya raid included the English version of the Welcome to the NHK novel, and the Lucky Star Official Guidebook. The Lucky Star guide, which covers the manga only, is small, but well worth the price (about$14), with 30 pages of color illustrations, then another hundred or so pages of black and white character guides, sketches, and a glossary of L.S. terms. I also picked up the latest Japanese volume of Yotsuba&!, published last Monday. It looks like it will be great stuff, as always, involving more simple, amusing adventures for Yotsuba and friends. One of the appealing aspects of Yotsuba&! is that it makes me feel good about my Japanse ability: the language is basic enough so that I can understand about 95% without cracking open a dictionary, and the other 5% is obvious from context. I wonder when there will be an anime adaptation? It seems like an obvious candidate.

After Kinokuniya, we retreated to Mitsuwa, had dinner at the UCC Cafe (mmm, curry rice), stocked up at the supermarket, and drove back to Connecticut. All in all, it was an excellent trip.


Anonymous said...

Nicely written! I felt like I just went back in time by reading this blog.

Sujith said...

Good summary. Although you did the same thing that I did when I told the story. I completely omitted our stop at the Toys 'R Us in Times Square. I can't remember when we stopped there in the sequence of events. :)

Matt said...

Anon: Thanks! But, I think you have given away your true identity :)

Sujith: TRU was right before lunch, I think. I figured I'd omit it, since nothing anime-related occurred there.