Category Archives: Comics & Manga

C95 Winter Comiket (2018)

C95 – Unusual Guest! (Winter 2018)

1 Feb , 2019,
Levin Tan
,
No Comments

Breaking the record of all previous Winter Comikets, this year’s C95 brought in over 570,000 people over three days!!! (D1:170,000 + D2:190,000 + D3:210,000) This is a good 20,000 more than last year. I don’t know about you, but these numbers never cease to amaze me. Here at the Neo Tokyo Project, we also organise something similar in Singapore, Doujima, which is still very young and new compared to Comiket. Maybe we might one day grow to these sizes, who knows?

Anyway, a round up on circles this year: Type Moon (Fate basically, which includes FGO) continued to grow at a stunning pace and kept the top place by a large margin! THE iDOLM@STER (アイマス) also grew at an amazing pace to claim second spot, overtaking Kancolle (艦これ) which shrank a little instead and took third. Touhou (東方) is shrinking slowly along with Touken Ranbu (刀剣乱舞), but both maintaining their positions in fourth and fifth respectively since the rest of the genres below them are also shrinking. Azur Lane (アズールレーン) which I mentioned would be entering the rankings this year, has debuted (on the rankings) at 10th place.

Speaking of Azur Lane, they’re really pushing very hard. Over the last year I’ve been seeing their ads in many places on the JR lines and even video ads in the new E235 EMU trains. They didn’t have an official booth the last year in Winter Comiket, but this time Yostar came with a big one:

Azurlane booth by Yostar featuring vtuber!

Yomemi is interviewing Ayanami (on screen) at the Azur Lane Corporate Booth.

There’s even a virtual interview going on for you to be entertained while queuing! Yomemi’s “high tension” (テンション高い) personality was uplifting and likeable (although my friend wasn’t too fond of it), contrasting with Ayanami’s dandere character.

Ichijinsha (一迅社) had quite an interesting facade for their booth this year, making it look like a visit to a shrine. Could be said as Ichijinja (一神社) ww. Nekopara (ネコぱら) came back yet again for the 3rd year running, along with Tokyo 7th Sisters (looks like these two are regulars now), but a dedicated Nanoha (なのは) booth was nowhere to be found! As far as I can recall Nanoha had a corporate booth very regularly at Comiket. A little strange… let’s see whether they return this coming Winter Comiket.

Ichijinsha booth looking more like Ichijinja

Remember to ring the bell, bow twice, clap twice, and bow once again as you state your order to the lady at the counter at Ichijinsha/ja!

Another “corporate booth” (though not really) is the IOEA’s (International Otaku Expo Association) which our Doujima event is a member of. The IOEA is here to link up all otaku events around the world so please come on by the booth wherever and whenever you see one to check out similar events from all around the world!

Cosplayer in Kuppa Hime (Bowsette) costume standing beside IOEA signboard with various signatures from representatives of events around the world.

They had a cosplayer cosplaying as Kuppa Hime (or Bowsette) to promote this booth!

Close up of IOEA signboard with signatures of representatives from various conventions around the world.

We of course signed our event on this board too!

Now… you might be wondering what the title of this post was talking about. Comiket accepts applications for a circle booth from basically anyone and everyone, so it’s certainly not unthinkable, but it was still surprising to have Angela join Day 2 of C95 as a doujin booth! Angela is a very popular professional artist duo who have sung well known songs from Soukyuu no Fafna (蒼穹のファフナー) (Fafner in the Azure) and Shidonia no Kishi (シドニアの騎士) (Knights of Sidonia). They are also well known for their fun personality! What they had brought was something really unusual: A CD compilation of their 100 best MCs and an anthology of Angela related material (manga, illustrations, etc). To have them at Comiket in person manning their own booth and distributing their own unique material is really amazing and a treat to all! They even took care to bring enough that despite the long lines and hours of queuing, they only sold out near the close of the day. That meant that everyone who was in queue managed to get a copy!

Angela at C95!

Angela appears at C95! Distributing: 100 Best MCs Compilation CD & Angela Anthology

On to the more usual unusual stuff this year! It’s electronics related this time! Check it out:

Audio level meters crafted by RyoRobot Studio.

Audio level meters and 7 segment USB powered display crafted by RyoRobot Studio.

RyoRobot Studio crafts electronics for making your daily life more vibrant (that’s their motto). What’s showcased here are audio level meters (stereo too!) which jump like the EQ fancy graphics you might see on a digital player, except that these are made from segmented lights rather than display panels. The dancing lights from this booth certainly caught my attention immediately when I came to the section! There are also colourful 7 segment displays powered by USB. Nifty stuff indeed! Head over to his website to see some really nice pictures! (Though be aware it’s all in Japanese)

On to some cosplay! Still relatively fresh, from the Summer season, is Hataraku Saibou! (はたらく細胞!) (Cells at Work!) with cute depiction of cells as humans fulfilling their special roles in the human body, and even fresher, from the Autumn season, is SSSS.Gridman, whose most popular character is undoubtedly Takarada Rikka (宝多六花).

White Blood Cells cosplay

The really cute White Blood Cells (CP:もがみひなた and CP:宇佐美おむらいす)

Takarada Rikka Cosplay

Most popular character Takarada Rikka(CP:真白ゆう) from SSSS.Gridman

And so another Winter Comiket ends. With this one being the one to mark the end of the Heisei Era as well. If you didn’t know about this, it’s actually quite significant, since the Japanese hold their emperor in very high regard. Many of the doujin circles came together to create an anthology just to mark this occasion. I’ll say it in each post, Comiket has a community spirit. It’s the gathering of everyone with a huge passion in their hobbies. No buyers and sellers, only participants and volunteers, and everyone contributes to it in one way or another. This is what will continue to always make Comiket magical.

For me, in the morning raids, my team this year was very on top of things such that we had alot covered. Over the years, we’ve definitely built up strategical and tactical mastery, and I hope to enjoy the next raid even more than this one. The afternoon was relaxed as usual, moving around to browse, helping others pick up things, and just enjoying discovering new works/circles, as well as appreciating the cosplays. Not to mention that because of the ongoing improvement of Big Sight, Comiket each year is slightly different in terms of arrangement, so it’s nice to observe how the dynamics change. This year (2019), the game changes in a major way, and I’m certainly looking forward to rethink our strategies and tactics, as well as to observe its effects. Unfortunately though, I had to rush off a bit early on the last day and so once again I missed the 現実 (reality) sign. Sigh… Hopefully next (this) year!

Photo of Big Sight

The Last Comiket of the Heisei Era

C93 – A Cool One (Winter 2017)

1 Feb , 2018,
Levin Tan
,
one comments

This year’s Comiket was cooler (literally) than average and it actually snowed a little before the doors opened on one of the days! The snow turned quickly into sleet and then a light drizzle though, so it wasn’t that memorable compared to the recent heavy snow that it received. With 550,000 attendees (D1: 180,000 + D2: 160,000 + D3: 210,000) this year, it’s one of the more crowded Comikets.

To get the usual things out of the way first, Kancolle (艦これ) has slid quite a bit this year to lose its previously uncontested top placement to… Fate. There’s an explosion of Fate doujins this year, definitely in some part due to FGO. Touhou (東方) Project has slid quite a bit over the years and this year, it’s now lost second place to Fate as well.  It’s also lost its place to THE iDOLM@STER (thanks to the recent releases of games which brought it back up), which took third, so Touhou (東方) Project is now fourth. Touken Ranbu (刀剣乱舞) has also slid in numbers and has been overtaken by Fate. Love Live! (ラブライブ!) has maintained about the same number of circles as previous Comikets. Azur Lane (アズールレーン), a newcomer, hasn’t entered the rankings, but I’m sure it will pretty soon…

One of the loading screens in Azur Lane (アズールレーン) was drawn by TwinBox who has a booth here. It’s a shutter!

On the corporate side, Nekopara (ネコぱら) came back again, same with Twin Angel (ツインエンジェル), and Tokyo 7th Sisters. Nanoha (なのは) was promoting their upcoming film DETONATION, with comiket being where/when they exclusively unveiled its PV! Also, notably, Key was selling the 10th anniversary memorial merchandise for Little Busters! and some reaaaaallly premium (¥15,000) anime t-shirts. Wow.

Exclusive unveiling of the PV for the upcoming movie! Comiket is one of those big events where these things happen.

Azur Lane (アズールレーン) has already assumed corporate presence in Comiket despite it being such a young game (only several months old). It had its origins as a Chinese game, but they certainly did well to penetrate the Japanese market. There’s cosplay of it as well! (Not really unexpected knowing how fast these cosplayers here are.)

Pixiv’s Azur Lane illustration compilation sold out each day!

Hellooo Atago! ねむ(nemu✾) is a very pretty cosplayer, and my photo here doesn’t do her justice (T.T) so head over to her Twitter!

One observation in the corporate side I must note, is that there’s been an increasing number of media content providing companies exhibiting year after year. Probably got to do with streaming being increasingly popular, whether be it streaming professional content, or popular livestreams and feeds. This time, I saw Abema TV (アベマTV) had joined.

Abema is giving Nico Nico Douga (ニコニコ動画) a run for its viewers!

With that, let me bring you to the more unusual side of Comiket. But first, this year I “brought” some non-comiket-goers along with me. Well, I say “brought”, but I actually just told them how and when to come because I certainly can’t bring them along with the raid team into the morning first cry of battle. That’d be very cruel. Might I remind you, it’s a war zone after all. And their reactions? Oh yes, they were blown away at the scale of things. One of them had been to the conventions in the US (large ones, certainly), and he was remarking that this is on a very different level! They spent quite some time going around row after row after row to “have a look at what is out there” but gave up exhausted after seeing slightly less than half the booths (on just one day). Comiket is really just that big. Nevertheless, they did enjoy themselves, so as I’ve ever mentioned before, there’s something for everyone at Comiket!

Now on to what I would like to draw your attention to this year. Watches! Well, pocket watches to be precise. Something a bit more exotic than your usual day crafts eh? There were actually a couple of booths selling these this time round, and they did attract a fair number of people (most craft booths don’t have a queue at all typically).

Pocket watches! The steampunk in you can surely relate, and it also carries an air of elegance if you happen to have a top hat and a monocle.

This one was one of the more expensive ones at this booth. (Should pocket watches be called Pokéwatch?)

Another one worth noting is the exhibition of a research project paper at one of the circle booths titled “Towards the High-quality Anime Characters Creation with Generative Adversarial Networks”. If you’re in the AI and Machine Learning sector (crossed with being an otaku as well), you might have heard about this paper a few months back, just after the middle of last year. While the outputs of the networks aren’t perfect, and can look awkward at times, it is a real treat to see it in action. It generates an anime girl based on the selected attributes you want the girl to have: hair colour, hair style, glasses (or not), Smile!, Sweet!, Sister!, Sadistic!, Service!… oops I don’t think the last few were part of the parameters. They’ve even built a website if you’d like to try it. And mind you, this booth had quite continuous attention with always a few people around it talking to the students who did this project, and they could explain it in Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), and English!

Now with this technology, you can finally have the exact harem you’ve always dreamed of!

So things like that pop up now and then and really add a nice touch to Comiket. Remember, Comiket is made up of its people, or participants (参加者) as we are all called. There are no sellers nor buyers, and everyone adds to its atmosphere and feel.  It’s well worth visiting, and my only regret this year was that I had alot more to rush around for than previous years (along with juggling messaging to different groups of people) such that I couldn’t stop to “soak in” the “Comiket atmosphere” (although I certainly added to it, I hope). In fact, I probably got a bit too absorbed this year, and stayed too late such that I even missed the last “reality this way” (現実->) sign, and I don’t have a picture to show for it! Oh well… Next year it is.

現実へ

C91 – The Depth of Comiket (Winter 2016)

1 Feb , 2017,
Levin Tan
,
No Comments

Comiket (コミケ) is “Comic” + “Market”, but having experienced a few, we felt that it definitely extends to more than that. Thinking about comics and doujinshi is just the surface, and so Haruta and I decided to plunge deeper. This is what this year’s coverage is mostly going to be about.

Firstly, let’s get the usual things out of the way. This year’s doujinshi had the usual top runners still on top: Kancolle (艦これ), Touhou Project (東方), Touken Ranbu (刀剣乱舞), iM@S, and Fate/Anything (and its spinoffs like Prisma Illya). Corporate booths had a really long queue for Gochiusa (ごちうさ), and the Grandblue Fantasy (グラブル) dakimakura (released ONLY on D2) sold out really fast. Nekopara was also present, and had cosplayers for each of the characters. Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel (快盗天使ツインエンジェル) was promoting its next season. It’s been a long time!

Nekopara!

Making a comeback after 6 years is Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel!

Secondly, if you didn’t already know, Tokyo Big Sight has now expanded by putting up another “double” hall. This year had 東7 (booths) and 東8 (changing room). To take advantage of the new space, both the doujin booths and corporate booths have expanded.

Comiket is just going to keep get bigger and better…

The new hall is still plenty spacious, which means that there’s still room to grow. Needless to say, Comiket is still war. Number of counted visitors this time was 550,000! (Not counting those not in the main queue after noon or so.)  And the booth count was 35,700! The most ever!

Now, something interesting before we carry on. Before the shutters were lifted to start the day, on D3, I had the chance to personally witness one of the doujin booths having 2 of their doujinshi barred from sale because it was just too NSFW. Think about that for a moment. (You may need to have seen some R18 doujinshi to understand what I’m talking about here.) And the reaction around me as the news spread was like “え?”, “まじ?”, “もう?”, and “www”, or a mixture.

So let’s start the dive, and let us bring you first, to D3, 西1.

This is the place for non-doujinshi stuff, and there are a great many things to keep your head turning. Last year I wrote about homemade headphones, this year I’m going to show you glass pens.

Completely made of transparent glass, with various nip sizes to your liking. By Kemmy’s Labo

These behave like quills where you dip them into ink, and the surface tension holds the ink on the nip while accumulating just enough at the tip for you to write! I saw people trying it out and I’m impressed at how consistent the thickness of each stroke is.

Well, there’s not just glass pens, miniature models for your Nendoroids and other similar-sized figurines as well! Check these out! Beautifully crafted; each and every single miniature!

Perfect for Nendoroids. Check out close-ups on her Twitter!

Music lovers are not left out either. This is also the place for you to get your indie music, including niche and very niche genres like 電波ソング/萌えソング, みみかき. DJ mixes are also in. Check out this booth which caries both 電波 and Camelia’s creations! I personally love songs which are かめりあ feat. ななひら. (Camelia does 電波 as well, so he actually has works in both booths!)

Camelia (かめるかめりあ) [left] & Confetto [right] booths, which had pretty long queues at the start of the day!

D3 at 西1 will never be boring, and I’m sure there will be loads more that I can feature each year. But let’s move on a little.

Comiket is getting more and more international every year, as they reach out to other countries with blooming culture and other countries reach in to Japan. The Comiket Official Page on Facebook said that they had probably just gotten the most number of international visitors yet. And this year, as part of their International Otaku Zone, they featured Singapore.

Pictures and short paragraphs describing what otaku conventions in Singapore are like.

The Japanese have probably heard some stuff about Singapore, most likely something to do with that lion with a fish tail (and you can juuust see it in that picture in the middle), but having a zone like that at Comiket is something I’d say I’m somewhat proud to see happening.

Let me now take you outside. To the cosplay areas!

You can find cosplayers just about anywhere outdoors, even mixing with the queues for the booths as seen here!

Comiket is never complete without talking about the cosplay. From swimsuits to armour (the proportion of which swings depending on the temperature), there is a really great number of cosplayers that it makes perfect sense to chillout after hitting your popular booths (most are sold out around noon to 1pm anyway) and have a really long look around. You’ll also see endless blogs, tweets, and posts online of all the different cosplays each time Comiket comes around.

This time, we took a plunge deeper as well, and Haruta interviewed two of these cosplayers. First up, we have Shimizu Taichi (清水 泰地).

Feast your eyes on those muscles! Get more on his Twitter!

A professional body builder who’s put his muscular body to good use for his hobby, Shimizu has always loved anime and manga since young. One day it suddenly occurred to him that his body figure is similar to some of the anime and manga characters. So he decided, why not cosplay these characters? Thus he debut during Summer Comiket 2015 as the green superhero Hulk from Marvel Comics.

Since then, Shimizu has cosplayed several other characters, such as Alexander the Great from Fate/Zero, Broly from Dragon Ball Z, and his most famous, Zangief from Street Fighters. When asked what his next cosplay plan is, Shimizu said he hadn’t thought about it yet, but he’s most likely bringing it out during Summer Comiket 2017! With that, Haruta left him to put on a coat (remember it’s winter!) as he takes a break from posing as Nappa from DBZ.

Next, we have a newbie to the Comiket scene, Kuro, as he cosplays Ezio Auditore da Firenze, from Assassin’s Creed II!

Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Kuro’s a newbie, but goodie!

Although being his first time debuting at Comiket, Kuro is no stranger to cosplay, having dabbed in the hobby for around one and a half years. His first cosplay was Kotetsu, from Tiger & Bunny, in his casual everyday wear.

When asked for his reasons for starting cosplay, Kuro said that he went to a party with his upperclassmen, where everyone is a cosplayer. Due to the influence, he decided maybe he should give it a go, and since then he hasn’t stopped yet.

Kuro also has a passion for swords, and thus likes cosplaying characters carrying a katana. Kuro has cosplayed several Hakuoki characters as such, and more recently, Mikazuki Munechika from Touken Ranbu. Kuro plans to challenge a different type of characters by cosplaying someone from Idolish 7, though which one specifically, he hasn’t decided yet. When asked how long does he see himself continuing the hobby, Kuro said the future is still uncertain now, so for the time being he’s going to try for another two to three years, then take a look again from there on.

Every cosplayer has a story, and realising that (while looking at the numbers), you can start to see why this post is a deeper dive. But of course, we can’t carry that many stories (nor pictures) in one post, so head on over to our Facebook page for a larger album of cosplayers!

Comiket is much more than just comics and commercial booth merchandise (limited edition or not!). I’d like to reiterate what I’ve said before, and this is the view of the organising committee: Everybody at Comiket is a participant. There are no sellers, no buyers.

You see, Comiket is made of its people. Coming together, sharing such a huge passion for whatever they have (really whatever as you would have noticed by now), every single person there adds to how awesome this event is, and everyone is there to enjoy themselves. Even the rush for limited edition stuff are all done very nicely, very “politely” if I may say. And let us not forget the volunteers who work tirelessly for 3 days straight to guide the crowds. Their crowd control and systems they put in place are absolutely amazing (this one you can only understand once you personally see it).

Attending Comiket is kinda magical, and always leaves me with a sense of awe, sense of exhilaration, and a sense of fulfilment in the end. I’m sure everyone feels this magic too. Which is why, never failing, there will always be this at the end of the 3 days:

Sign says: <- Reality ->

C89 – Winter Comiket 2015

16 Jan , 2016,
Levin Tan
,
2 comments

Comiket is just awesome!

Comiket is war. Anyone without a mission, without a strategy, will accomplish nothing on this battlefield.

After C84 with Arvin back in 2013, I certainly was raving to go for another one, so when I finally got another opportunity, I went back to Tokyo once more – for C89.

I cannot emphasise enough how big Comiket is. If you’ve been to one before, you’ll know. If you haven’t, it’s unimaginable. Even my memory of C84 had gotten kinda hazy and I was still amazed at how large it was this time. For comparison, take US’s largest similar convention: New York Comic-Con. They have over 170,000 attendees over 4 days. At Comiket, a single day has more attendees than Comic-Con for all 4 days, totaling at over 590,000 over 3 days! And these are only the attendees who queue at the opening. Those arriving after noon are not counted.

Back in C84, I didn’t care much about doujins and circles, and just went for the commercial booths. My Japanese was quite bad, so I couldn’t understand much even if I did buy doujins. But this time, I upped my level, and really prepared for war. Before flying to Tokyo, I had already met up with a group of friends to discuss our plans, routes, and strategies. We had a Facebook chat group and a Whatsapp group for communications as well.

I took the first train from my hotel down to the Tokyo Big Sight. But when I got there, there were a number of people already ahead of me! Ok, I thought, it doesn’t look that bad. That was until the sun rose and I could see everything…

picture of queue into Comiket on day 1

Everyone in front of me and to the left are ahead of me in the queue! (Day 1)

Queue for Comiket

Nice sunrise while queueing. (Day 2)

The only level up from here is to queue overnight, which is what one of my friends did. You have to be prepared though. This is winter, with temperatures around 4C or lower in the middle of the night. Summer is easier, and that means more people queue overnight too.

Marker for end of queue

This marks the tail of the line. It takes skill to find this fast!

Queueing is almost like what Comiket is made out of. You do that for everything – from getting in, to buying your stuff, to use the vending machines, toilets, everything. And usually, from the tail of the queue, the head is not visible, and vice versa. This can leave people confused as they search for the tail to join the queue. No doubt, with experience, this gets easier.

This year’s comiket was divided into (mostly) Day 1 – BL (and Gundam), Day 2 – Kancolle, Touken Ranbu, and Touhou, Day 3 – iM@S and LL!. I was targeting the commercial booths, Kancolle, and iM@S, so this was pretty much perfect scheduling. The people who arrange these things are very knowledgeable about the fanbase and content, so they try their best to schedule it such that most people can get what they want.

Now, knowing what you want to get isn’t sufficient, you also need to plan how you want to get it, because…

Hall crowds at C89

Multiply this view by exactly 10 times for the total indoor crowd at any time.

That booth you want to visit is a high school classroom sized table located in there somewhere! You aren’t going to get to it without planning! Also, check out the flow of people between halls:

Crowd flowing

When crowds are this thick, people behave like liquid flowing…

Another thing to be amazed at is, despite the colossal crowd, everything runs superbly smoothly! It is crowd management at its finest. You have to give it to them:

Comiket volunteers in orange caps and armbands

These are the volunteers of Comiket who help things run really smoothly.

There are 3,500 of these volunteers who help out on minimum 2 of the 3 days in Comiket. I asked my Japanese friend, and he said that all these people get is a free Comiket catalog (worth ¥2,500), a free meal, and get to keep their hats and armbands. That’s it! And yet, each Comiket has more applications for volunteers than they accept! So why would they sacrifice being able to buy stuff? Well, apparently these volunteers have enough connections that they can get what they want from their friends.

You might be wondering now, how did I get all these photos, wasn’t I located in a battlefield rushing for my own stuff? Well, see, Comiket almost ends at noon. By the time you hit around 11.00am, the most popular booths sell out:

Booth Utsura Uraraka, by Eretto sensei.

Day 1 booth Utsura Uraraka (A61ab), by Eretto sensei. Sold out!

The popular booths then sell out around 1pm, and by 2pm, you are basically left with all the non-famous/popular ones. That is not to say that they are not good, just not as well known. For instance:

FNP from Singapore!

Booth: FNP (Day 2, J03b)
A doujin circle from Singapore!

Circles not from Japan can be found participating in Comiket. I did come across several from China as well, and they sell good stuff too!

On day 3 usually, you can find circles dealing with electronics. Anime, manga, and electronics are somehow related as proven in Akiba, and here is no different:

Home-made headphone drivers

HAL900 (circle name) selling home-made headphone drivers.

Comiket is not just about doujins and merchandise, but also about cosplay. Here’s a shot of one of the several cosplay areas:

Overlooking the outdoor cosplay area

It can be hard to find your cosplaying friends here!

Gochiusa, short for Gochuumon wa Usagi desuka? (Is the Order a Rabbit?) is the biggest thing in Akihabara currently, and I was glad to be able to find a full cast of cosplayers here at Comiket!

Gochiusa Cosplayers

Is the order a full cast of Gochiusa cosplayers? Cosplayers: Cocoa, Chino, Takahiro, Rize, Sharo, Chiya

If you’re looking for more cosplay pictures, check out our C89 Facebook Album!

The spirit of Comiket is meant to be a community thing, as you might find in the official brochure and website. There are no “customers”, but only participants. This is something everyone understands. And while it gets really crowded and disorienting, the whole convention proceeds in a very orderly fashion. Even during one incident I witnessed where a cosplayer wasn’t happy with the way someone was photographing her (rather *ahem* angles) and things got a bit heated, everyone helped to ensure that the photographer didn’t run away and a staff member was called to help. The photograph was deleted, and all was alright.

At the end of it, Comiket leaves you with a tired but wonderful feeling, as you go back to count your loot (which can’t even fit in one picture). I can’t quite describe how that feeling is like, but it’s something of awe, satisfaction, amazement, and accomplishment. Comiket is an amazing experience that will keep you going back for more! However, as you leave, there’s always someone to remind you…

This way to reality.

“Reality, this way ->” is what the sign says.

Ikebukuro and “Otome Road”

25 Jul , 2014,
Edric
,
No Comments

At the doorstep of Sunshine City Prince Hotel is Otome Road, often referred as Fujoshi Street, is one of the most well stocked and up-to-date in BL content. When I went down in April, this little street had expended to the neighboring shopping and food district, right up to the doorstep of Ikebukuro Station.

Walking along the street towards Sunshine City and Otome Road are stylishly dressed male promoters, some with long blond dyed hair line the street. Like girls dressed in fluffy maid outfits in Akihabara who would only become chatty with guys, Ikemen at Ikebukuro, would only devout their attention on girls.

Most Anime related shops at Ikebukuro are generally skewered towards the Otome market.

Animate

DPP_0407If you are in the hunt for unique off the shelve merchandize. You should never give Animate a miss. Anywhere Otakus would congregate, Animate will be there. But the two sitting in Ikebukuro which are different from the rest around Japan.

Along Otome Road is ACOS, the Animate that marks the start of Otome Road. Right across from Sunshine City, this Animate sells everything for the girls and girls only. Even its café sitting on the 6th floor of the building spots either a yaoish or reverse harem theme. Often polarized from the Moe Moe Kyun Kyun fluff at Akihabara.

ACOS do not only stock up on keychains, folders and other character goods, but also delicate an entire floor to Cosplay. It is a one stop center for the casual Cosplayer to buy off the shelf costumes (sadly no armor), wigs, costume accessories and prop weapons.

IMG_2560NTPEKLocated a few streets away, in a recently furbished building is Animate’s Flagship store. This is the biggest Animate around with multiple floors dedicated to merchandizes and character goods for both guys and girls. From food products like instant curry, tapestry, cups to Manga, Doujinshi for girls to digital media.

Animate is probably the most convenient retailer to purchase anime related music without rummaging through shelves after shelves or records.

The combination of convenience and variety at a convenient location makes both Animates at Ikebukuro a must go to place to end your shopping in Japan. Just remember leave some yen for Tokyo Banana if you promised anyone back home.

Comic Toranoana Shop B

Until recently, Shop B was Shop A. Stocking an inventory of male oriented Hentai. But, with companies wasting no time in capturing the women’s market. It takes little logic to see why one of the biggest retailers in doujinshi should not delicate at least one of it’s many shops for the ladies.

There is no better place to plug that shop in other than Ikebukuro. Located opposite Ikebukuro Station, Shop B now host an inventory of doujishi of stacking men on top of other men, reverse harem, Boys’ Love and shoujo manga. This is the holy grail of yaoi content. If you’re looking for copies of Eren x Levi, Tiger X Bunny or Uta Prince you missed at Doujin Events, this is the place to be.

What happened to Shop A?

Well they got evicted by Shop B, kicked a couple streets, down the road, into a dingy looking building. It now occupies two floors. One solely for the high moral reader who prefer less skin and the other for those who prefer less clothing.

Lashinbang

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The Japanese got to love second retailers and by the end of the first week in Japan, we start to see why. Second-hand retailers holds a major advantage over others mainly because of their unique inventory, cheaper prices and the wild chance to find an out of production antique. Random loot from UFO machines, Gachapon and Kuji often end up on the shelves at second hand retailers, most of the time, they still smell new.

We cannot help to leave Lashinbang out from the fun when they recently expanded their shop last year to hold more products for the ladies.

Situated between ACOS and K-Books on Otome Road, Lashinbang operates a second-hand shop selling a mixture of figures, games and character goods. On their ground floor units every corner is stocked up for the ladies.

DPP_0406On the second floor, that’s the guy’s department with stocks of generic figures, illustration books and doujinshi. It lacks the grandeur as compared to shops in Akihabara, but what choice would you have if you’re dragged by the collar to go shopping on Otome Road?

Right, if Lashinbang have doujinshi for the guys, they definitely have one for the girls. The shop is not on Otome Road, but the neighbouring shopping district. This outlet is for the bookworms. They don’t carry stock of any other products other than books.

If you cannot find what you fancy, you could always hop off to Fromagee next door.

K-Books

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Ikebukuro would not have always been the place for girls to get their Anime goods. But in 2000, after next door rivals Animate decided to make the switch to emphasize on the girls, K-Books decided to make the switch as well. Ikebukuro would have to content with Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. There is no better demographic than to target the girls market and to give them some privacy in the process.

Most retailers of Anime merchandizes rarely mix first and second hand goods together. But K-Books does just that, at least not under the same roof. Spotting five shops littered along Otome Road, this is the largest congregation of K-Books on a single road.

They sell everything from Otome merchandizes, doujinshi, digital media to Cosplay related products.

To complete the experience on Otome street, K-Books also operates the Swallowtail Butler’s Café.

 

Otome Road ends with Mandarake. In our next edition, talk about food as we dine on a tight budget from Osaka to Tokyo.

Additional Photographs by Bob

Shopping at Akihabara

6 Jun , 2014,
Edric
,
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Akihabara, the holy ground for Otakus; a must visit for any true blue Otaku. Akihabara is well known for anime merchandises, electronics and exotic toys. Some establishments have several outlets along the same street selling different kinds of products.

Where to start?

Mandarake

mandarake

Mandarake sells everything Otaku. Figures, consoles, old manga, music CDs, cosplay stuff. The list goes on. The only item that isn’t second are Doujin-shi (they sell second hand Doujin-shi as well).

Besides the price, Mandarake is extremely honesty about the condition of their goods. The condition is clearly stated, using a grading system and notes describing the defects, on every Doujin-shi, Nintendo DS, Games, from it’s packaging, instruction booklet to the condition of the actual product. It is possible to find something in a mint condition at Mandarake.

If you’re not convinced, when buying a new Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita or something behind their glass cases, you could ask the staff to open the product to have a look. It not strange to find unopened set at second-hand price.

Mandarake at Akihabara is mostly staffed by Japanese speaking staff. They employ foreign students at their establishments, especially at Akihabara. If Nihon-go doesn’t work for you, try speaking English, slowly, clearly, and pray they start running for their Gaijin part-timer.

Start with Mandarake! Be warned, it is possible to spend an entire day rummaging their building at Akihabara for loot.

http://mandarake.co.jp

Comic Toranoana

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Manga is common in Japan, but Doujin-shi aren’t and not every establishment carry what you want. Comic Toranoana is one such establishment that specialize in helping Doujin circles sell their works to Otakus. You don’t have to rush for Comiket or other Doujin events to grab a Doujin-shi when you can buy them directly from Comic Toranoana.

Comic Toranoana have several shops along Akihabara, all of them caters for every fetish. Hentai materials are always at the highest levels. Remember to bring your passport if you want to buy anything NSFW, their staff will check for identification if they suspect you’re below 18.

Take it as a compliment if someone of the opposite gender asks for identification.

Other than Doujin-shi, they also have a collection of games, illustration books, manga.

http://www.toranoana.jp

IMG_1605NTPEKYellow Submarine

If TCG like Magic The Gathering, Weib Schwarz or Pokemon is what you seek, head down to Yellow Submarine. Not only an Otaku theme retailing figures and merchandises, they sell TCGs. TCG shops sells a lot of rare cards, prominently displayed on the cabinets.

Some outlets provide tables and chairs. If you’re really good with your Japanese, you could join their in house tournament or find someone who would gladly play a game or two with you.

On top of figures, merchandizes and TCGs, some of the outlets stock a huge range of model kits. Not only mecha, but tanks, battleships, guns, trains, including the various accessories to give them more bling.

Yellow Submarine also specialize in board gaming. Sadly, most of them are in Japanese. But, they sell weird dice like an extra large D20 to hurt your DM with.

http://www.yellowsubmarine.co.jp

Electronics Shops

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Other than the Otaku stuff, Akihabara is also the hardware zone in Tokyo. If you want to build your own customized PC, Gundam or your personal Dethcube, you will need to get the materials here. Laptops are expensive and often below specifications. On the other hand, peripherals, like keyboards and mice, are competitively priced.

Nothing moe here.

Traders

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Games, console, DVDs and Eroge. Traders is the place to go. They carry second-hand products. Mainly consoles and console games and gamepads. They are very honest about the condition of the products they sell. If you could master some words of Japanese, you could ask them to have a look at the product you want.

Trader’s selection of games range from localized western titles, PC games. Eroge are on the top floor.

http://www.e-trader.jp

IMG_1576NTPEKKimidore

Kimidore at Akihabara specialize in selling illustration books, A4 size folders and tapestries. Not just the normal run-of-the-mill ones, but beautifully illustrations by famous artist like Tony and CoffeeKizoku.

Kimidore is one shop you don’t want to miss if you are looking for something to fill up that empty space on your wall, or souvenir ideas for your friends back home.

It’s illustration books makes perfect coffee table books and they are not always available at second-hand shops.

If you’re an art collector, Kimidore sells paintings by famous illustrators — at a price.

Don’t miss the wall graffiti along the stairwell.

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http://ameblo.jp/kimidore-akihabara/

Mottainai Flea Market

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The Mottainai Flea market is always held outside UDX Building on selected weekends. At Akihabara, vendors sell their second figures, folders and plushies. If you’re on a mighty quest in search of epic loot at low prices, the Flea Market is the best place to start the weekend morning. They close by late afternoon or bad weather.

Check out their website to find out when they will organize their next Flea Market at Akihabara.

http://mottainai.info/fleama/schedule.php

Street Performers

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There’s no better way to end the evening than to find a cozy spot at Akihabara Station to listen to street performers singing to Anime music. They are not professionals or idols but damn, they do have good voices.

Some of them sell their own CDs. Many like Rinka, don’t, and the only payment is your appreciation and support.

Akihabara is generally for the guys, although they do carry materials fujoshi will love too. However, Ikebukuro is the true fujoshi playground and holy land of BL, and that’s coming up in our next article.

Book Review: Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool

28 May , 2014,
Edric
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If you’re an Otaku and you’re not reading this book, you’re missing out on the fun.

Cosplay Queen -- li Niku Urshijima. Japan's most famous (and controversial) cosplayers.

Cosplay Queen — li Niku Urshijima, Japan’s most famous (and controversial) cosplayer

The first time I picked up Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential was from Kinokuniya when it first was released in 2010. Written by Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda, a husband and wife team based in Osaka. Brian Ashcraft was a familiar name to me as I had read his works on video game website Kotaku as a Senior Contributing Editor. He writes for many other publications.

Tuttle's Edition versus Kodansha's 2010 Edition with a monochrome finish.

Tuttle’s Edition versus Kodansha’s 2010 Edition

The 2014 Tuttle Edition reprint comes in color and new content, reflecting changes that took place since 2010. Making Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential the most up-to-date text about Japanese popular culture. It contains more than 16 pages of new content and adjustments made to existing articles to keep them coherent to the present.

Sailor Dude GrowHair san

Sailor Dude GrowHair san

When Ashcraft first published Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, reviewers are initially dumb struck with his brazen use of prose, with one online reviewer in 2011 commented that “He can’t decide whether he’s writing a piece for a magazine, or a serious investigation into this unique culture.”

Reviewers should get their heads out of their assess. No one will enjoys a long-winded academic essay on Schoolgirls, that is the harsh reality of today. This book is for Otakus, brought up by the internet, anime, manga and schoolgirl idols, who are thinking of making their hobbies an academic obsession.

Schoolgirl photographs by Motoyuki Kobayashi who believes that schoolgirls prevents suicide.

Schoolgirl photographs by Motoyuki Kobayashi who believes that schoolgirls prevents suicide

The Tuttle edition had done well to draw in readers with the use of full colored pages coupled Ashcraft’s addictive short, direct, bite sized prose. If you’re lost on where to start your own research about Japanese popular culture, start flipping through the pages of Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool.

6% Doki Doki at Harajuku

6% Doki Doki at Harajuku

Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential is available at Kinokuniya Singapore, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Manga Festival 2013

17 Feb , 2013,
Crimson
, ,
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Singapore’s inaugural Manga Festival took place over the weekend, with a series of activities that catered to the otaku palate.

Organized by key Japanese publishers, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and partners including Kinokuniya bookstore, Manga Festival saw both an exhibition of manga titles and artwork at The Arts House, as well as signings by established mangaka such as  Yaro Abe (Shinya Shokudo), Masayuki Ishikawa (Moyasimon/Tales of Agriculture) and Mine Yoshizaki (Keroro Gunso).

Crypton Future Media, Inc’s president Hiroyuki Itoh (Crypton’s the company responsible for VOCALOIDs) and THE Danny Choo were also present for a meet-and-greet and sharing session (which later included dinner with the fans at a nearby food court).

Admittedly, we found the manga exhibition kinda small. While the shelves were stocked with selected manga titles and merchandise, VOCALOID art, and there were PS Vitas and iPads around for browsing digitized manga, we’d hoped for more content.

No doubt, if the exhibition included original cover sketches, manga panels, story boards and maybe information about the publishing process in Japan, it might have made for a more wholistic activity.  We did enjoy ourselves though, and we’d definitely love to see this event happening in Singapore again.

Here are some of our photos from the event:

 

AFA12: Day 2

10 Nov , 2012,
Edric

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As we prepare for Day 3, here are some highlights from Day 2.

Check out our convention coverage by our on-the-ground spy Edric!

Stay tuned, we might have something special coming your way for AFA day 3, when we focus on more cosplay coverage and celebrities on the show floor.

AFA12: The Preview

Nov , 2012,
Edric
, ,
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On Friday night, we were given a rare opportunity – coverage of the set-up at Anime Festival Asia (AFA) 2012 just hours before it went live.

Set at Singapore Expo this year, the event spanned more than 7,500 square meters, with some 100 exhibitors showcasing a wide variety of exclusive Japanese pop-culture products and merchandise.

What’s more, cosplay’s a hot topic this AFA, and ’12 will play host to a multitude of celebrity cosplayers from Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia, and joining them will be this year’s World Cosplay Summit Championship winners, Team Shikon.

Saturday will see cosplayers picked by these celebrities from the con floor participating in the Regional Cosplay Championship (RCC) Cosplay Singles competition, while Sunday will see teams from around the region duking it out on stage to clinch the team title.

Toy Toyota will be screening an animation film from 10 am onwards when titled PES-Peace Eco Smile. The original animation film is a collaboration between TOYOTA and STUDIO4C, and many stores will begin selling their products when doors officially open.

Don’t forget to also check out the stage activities in Hall 8! (You can take a look at the program schedule here).

Here are some photos from our preview.