Monday, October 24, 2016

Otaku Paradise

Girls in yukata at a festival = very anime

In the long history of my travels, this may go down as my all-time favorite trip*, even with all the mishaps.  Besides the fact that I was doing exciting and interesting things in the home country of my current favorite art form/storytelling mode (even just taking the train into Osaka from the airport, I could already tell I'd arrived, in the stretches of walking paths along rivers, the schools passed, the places the train tracks cross the road...scenes that in my last two years of watching anime have become as familiar to me as those from my own childhood).  Even better, I got to spend some time with the Kawaii Kid Kingpin.  (I don't generally change nicknames for people here on the blog, but at dinner the other night I said something about teenage boys, and then realized that he won't be a teenager much longer, so in honor of that - and in anticipation of the day when we will totally rule the world of anime merch with our totally gucci company - an upgrade.)  Put all that together and you have a recipe for a great vacation that not even Yukihira Soma could beat.

So the Kawaii Kingpin has been in Kyoto for over a year now, studying at Doshisha University, which means he has had time to find out all sorts of things.  One of the details he shared with me during the last year is that he lives next to a block-long shopping arcade which was the inspiration for an anime called Tamako Market.  I proceeded to watch it to see what he was talking about, and immediately loved it (except for the damn cockatoo.  Talking animals suck), so the first day we met up he took me to see it (along with his university, but really, who cares about that???)  At that time it was early evening and there were plenty of people walking through, shopping for all sorts of things.  In an attempt to not embarrass myself by acting like a complete tourist in front of him, I didn't take any pictures that night, but after my harrowing escape from Kibune, I ended up back there, so I took my pictures then.  Sadly, you don't get the same bustling sense of life when it's deserted, but it's the thought that counts, right?

One of the (many (non-snarky)) things we agree on is the fact that Kyoto Animation puts out some good stuff...including the aforementioned Tamako Market.  I do believe that he got a great deal of satisfaction out of telling me how amazing their newly released - ie, yet-to-be-translated, sucks to be you - movie, Koe No Katachi (A Silent Voice) was when we walked past the theater.  And again at dinner that night.  And again two days later, walking along the river, at which point, I thought, "Screw it!  If I can follow opera being sung in Italian, I can watch anime without subtitles."  So I asked him for a synopsis and a heads up on any parts I might not understand, and he did an excellent job.  He was right - it was freaking fantastic.  The theme was the main character's road to redemption, and along the way it dealt with bullying - great story and beautiful animation.  I was so glad I got to experience it on the big screen.

I tried to visit KyoAni's shop - it would have been great to take home a poster, or basically anything dealing with their work.  It's out of the way, unless you're coming back from Nara...which unfortunately I visited on Thursday, when they are closed, as I discovered when I got there.  Oh well, next time.  Instead, I made it late that afternoon to the Kyoto International Manga Museum.  They have a huge collection of manga that you can sit and read to your heart's content - or just stare longingly at if you don't read Japanese.  They also have a pretty legit display about manga's history and how it's made, from which I learned a thing or two before hitting the gift shop and getting one of my two new favorite books - a collection of manga artists' interpretation of masterpiece works of art.  It is unbelievably gorgeous.

I had two more festivals lined up for this holiday...big, cool ones.  And then the Kawaii Kingpin said it would be best if we went to Denden Town on the weekend.  Also known as, when my big, cool festivals take place.  It took me all of about five seconds' consideration to realize that crowded festivals - regardless of how cool - pale in comparison to the opportunity to go shopping for otaku swag with one of the people responsible for getting me hooked in the first place.  To his credit, he said we could try going another time, but honestly, I've been to quite a few festivals this week, and the ones I missed will still be here next year.  The opportunity to spend time with a friend, on the other hand, is irreplaceable.
Also, based on the shop he showed me in Sanjo, we were going to need a full day.  And lots of money.  So we met up at 11, on my last day in Kyoto, to take the train to Osaka.  You can get most of the way there on one train, then it's three stops on your transfer and a short walk to Denden Town and its vast array of shops selling all sorts of dope swag.  If you can't find it in one shop, try next door.  Or the door after that.  Cross the street.  Go down the block.  It seriously never ends.  The number of beautiful things I saw was overwhelming.'s tough being a woman otaku with reasonably good taste (ie, if you're not looking for Free! or One Piece, you're SOL).  Women with reasonably good taste are not the target market the industry shoots for.  I guess chalk it up to the fact that women typically aren't as visual, or maybe have enough sense not to spend hundreds of dollars on figures, no matter how gorgeously made (present company excepted).  That said, there were plenty of women in the shops we visited, so we are clearly willing to put some money where our collective mouths are.  I appreciated the sympathy the Kawaii Kingpin expressed when he recognized the gender inequality that my kind suffer from, and we decided that when we start our company that we'll work to address it.  But don't worry, I found a few things to spend my hard-earned money on - a few different small Naruto figures, a swing charm with Shinra from Durarara!!, and an art book for the next movie I will be watching, Kimi no Na Wa, which looks brilliant, and the Kawaii Kingpin assures me that it is.
Not disclosed: his job as a subway mascot

Finally, there was a little game I was playing called Things That Happen in Anime.  One evening walking along the river, we spotted a group of Japanese schoolgirls crossing the stepping stones in their uniforms, and the point was raised that this particular scene happens in SO many shojo manga.  So I decided to start seeing how many things we did that have happened in anime.  The fact that this game was going on will come as a surprise to the Kawaii Kingpin when he reads this, since I never actually clued him in.  Having watched - rough estimate - five times more anime than me, he has a distinct advantage.  Like, the kind of advantage Sora and Shiro have in No Game No Life against practically everyone.  Anyways, these were the ones I came up with:
1. The long-lost friend reunion - This played out a lot like when Sakura and Naruto see each other for the first time in three years.  We walked along, talking and catching up, while I was meanwhile thinking, "Wow, he's grown up so much."  Don't worry - just like Naruto, the Kawaii Kingpin eventually proved that he can still be as immature as ever.
2. Sharing an umbrella - This one didn't actually happen.  He called my umbrella ugly!  I wasn't about to offer after that, even if he was worried about the rain making his hair fall out (the most Korean thing I think he's ever said).  Besides that, my umbrella was teeny tiny - when I bought it in a downpour in Delft it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I loved the fact that it was small enough not to be a pain in the ass.
3. Pigging out on someone else's dollar - Two of my favorite anime (Noragami and Fairy Tail) both contain scenes where one character buys the others dinner...and they totally take advantage of it.  It's a bit of a stretch, but he bought my dinner one night, I bought his the next time, so I'm counting it.  Bonus - I didn't really make a big deal out of it, and I only did it the once, but when our curry arrived that first dinner I definitely relished saying, "Itadakimasu!"
4. Walking along the river banks - We were actually supposed to be cycling, but it is hard to talk and ride at the same time.  Cycling was my idea, and it seemed like a great idea at 8 in the morning, but after a long day filled with riding and being an outlaw (I haven't told you about that one...maybe next time), I was happy to walk a while.
5.  The giving of charms - I came up with this one while I was visiting Kodai-Ji.  Most temples sell lucky charms, each one for a different purpose.  I almost got him the matchmaking charm, but since he prefers his girlfriends in 2D, I didn't figure there was much point.  Instead I went for "Improve Skills."  We could be talking about his Japanese skills, or in art...not that he needs much help there.
My most valuable souvenir - original sketches by the best new mangaka
Friday night we went to a cafe...ostensibly for art time, and we did do a little show and tell, but mostly we talked.  At one point, the European (I've forgotten his specific nationality) sitting next to us cut into our conversation - I had been talking about the little Ranma 1/2 figure I'd gotten out of a machine in Shinkyogoku arcade, which the Kawaii Kingpin thought he might recognize.  The C in our A/B conversation said that it made him feel old, since that was his first anime, and we ended up explaining our relationship - that he was in university and I was his high school art teacher.  However, I realized later that maybe that didn't fully sum us up.  I'm incredibly impressed by how much his art skills have grown in the last year, and he always had the kind of encyclopedic knowledge that comes with loving something as much as he loves anime.  Although Mrs. Uzumaki was technically the one who first lured me to the dark side, watching Fairy Tail during yearbook meetings, it was his passion that fanned the flames, and as far as manga and anime goes, his skills surpassed mine long ago.  If you don't believe me, just check out the manga above, which he created for a class project.  He's truly earned the right to steal Darth Vader's line and say, "Now I am the master."

*I say "may" instead of "will" because we agreed that our next big adventure needs to take us to Tokyo, and - oh, the possibilities!

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