Friday, February 13, 2009

Japan '08: Shibuya

The 109 building in front of Shibuya Station. This intersection appears all the time in film and anime, usually viewed from above with thousands of people in the cross walks.

Shibuya is best known as a place for hip young cosmopolitan urbanites window-shopping for $400 shirts; in this respect it is not really ideal Matt habitat. Shibuya does include some prime sight-seeing opportunities, though, as well as a couple of O.G. anime shopping venues.

Here is the statue of Hachikou, in a little park just outside of the Hachikou gate in Shibuya Station. This is a really famous place to arrange to meet people, and like the neighboring intersection, frequently gets referenced in various media. The statue commemorates a loyal dog who would meet his master at the station every evening at the same time. Even after his owner died, Hachikou would come to the station and wait.

Mandarake, Shibuya shop: the Rulers of Time.

Mandarake Shibuya is one of the oldest Tokyo otaku landmarks (some half-hearted searching failed to turn up the date when it opened, but it was well established in the mid-1990s). Mandarake strictly deals in used goods, and carries a little bit (actually, a lot) of everything that has an otaku following: toys, anime, games, manga and doujinshi.

Shibuya Mandarake is intimidating. The stairs are dark and made up to be somewhat cave-like, and it's a surprisingly long descent to the Area-51-warehouse-like shop. The stairwell ends in the boy's-love section, in an arrangement that almost seems designed to scare off more timid souls, who would be well served taking the elevator in the center of the building. Once I was safely through the yaoi gauntlet and sorting through used anime DVDs, however, all was right with the world.

The Mandarake chain plays music over its P.A system, like all of the anime stores. Mandarake always had the best tunes, though, with famous themes from the likes of Z Gundam, Macross, Evangelion in heavy rotation, interspersed with more obscure material. I just about plotzed when I recognized the theme for Cougar-Man, the fake sentai show in Masami Yuuki's 1990 OAV Assemble Insert, coming over the loudspeakers at the Shibuya branch. A store that is playing the Cougar-Man theme for its patrons in 2008 is hard core: these guys are the rulers of time.

Bome 10th anniversary exhibit in Parco Factory, Shibuya.

After dragging ourselves away from Mandarake, Ray and I (Sujith was off playing Street Fighter IV at an arcade, I think) dropped in on the local COSPA, then checked out an art gallery exhibit on the history of bishoujo figure sculptor Bome, at Shibuya Parco, a hoity-toity department store. I'm not much of a figure collector, but it was fascinating to see the evolution of Monsieur Bome's talent from his garage-kit days in the 1980s. An early sculpture of Lum from Urusei Yatsura almost looks like something that I could have attempted in my misspent youth; his modern stuff is almost miraculous in the way that it takes fundamentally two-dimensional characters and makes them into three-dimensional objects.

Catalog and flier for the Bome Exhibition.


cdndave said...

just found your blog looking for gunbuster info. Just read the blog from "Tuesday, February 06, 2007".
Very informative. Well written. Now reading "Japan '08: Shibuya". Don't if I'll ever get to Japan so its to be able to find a blog like yours to take me there. Thank you very much.

Matt said...

I'm glad you're enjoying the travelogue, cdndave! I'll have to get working on the next installments...