In a brilliant attempt to circumvent me running out of steam doing a day-by-day recount of my trip, this time, I’ll be writing just one post featuring only the juicy bits – Akihabara, Comiket (doujins) and more!
I’ll organize this post by sections that go in chronological order. At the end of the recount, will be a section that is dedicated to all the acquisitions that I got during my trip.
Without further ado, here we go!
(Warning! Image intensive and somewhat NSFW. Also, the changing aspect ratio of the pictures is due to the fact that a number of them were taken with different cameras.)
The first few days of my trip were spent in Shizuoka on a homestay program that was part of a prize that I received for winning the National Japanese Speech Contest about half a year back.
What more can I say? After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
But, if I were to add something to that, I’d say that Mount Fuji was simply breathtaking. And I’m not talking about the view. The air there in the mountainous/countryside area was just unbelievably clean and fresh. Definitely an experience of a lifetime.
In addition, there were a myriad of sightseeing spots and activities that were prepared for us to visit such as shrines and traditional arts and crafts workshops.
Also, my homestay family were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Mrs. Iseki used to be a chef with her own cooking show on TV and the food was superb. I even had a chance to sample a Japanese musk melon during my stay.
Dreams really do come true! (^.^)
Akihabara, Mandarake and other Anime Stores
After that, the rest of the trip was spent mainly in Tokyo. A number of days were allocated to perusing the various anime stores that were sprinkled throughout Akihabara. Mandarake, Radio Kaikan, Kaiyodo, Kotobukiya, the works. I also visited the main Mandarake store in Nakano.
Regrettably, as I haven’t had much time this past year to watch anime, I’m really out of touch with many of the recent series. What this means is that my purchasing choices were severely limited as I have a strict rule that I adhere to as a collector. That is: Only buy merchandise of series/characters that I know of and like. I do this for 2 reasons. 1. To avoid buying merchandise of a series I might despise later upon viewing and 2. To limit my spending. This being the case, I really couldn’t shake the feeling that, to a certain extent, this trip was a wasted opportunity as most of the merchandise on sale were of recent series.
But, we must push on regardless!
I had no idea that the Tamashii Nations Akiba Showroom was located in Akihabara Station all this time. For the uninitiated, the Showroom is a small space where Bandai displays all its new and upcoming figure releases. After seeing pictures of this place on hobby news sites for ages, it’s nice to explore it in person. Happened to be there just in time to catch a glimpse of a figure that I’ve been waiting ages for, S.H.Figuarts Auto Vajin!
As I don’t think it would be a wise idea to inundate this entire page with pictures, here’s a video instead (^.^).
One of the places that I knew I had to go to was the GSC Cafe. I’ve seen countless photos of it online and it was time for me to experience it for myself. The current promotion was for Infinite Stratos, which I unfortunately haven’t seen much of. Still, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the decor and intriguing character-themed food.
I got Cecilia Alcott’s Homemade Sandwiches.
Not living in America can be disheartening at times. Especially when they get the third Madoka movie screened in theaters there. Fortunately, this trip was just in the nick of time as several cinemas in Japan were still screening the Madoka movie (even 2 and a half months after it’s premiere). While I was there, I also managed to catch the yearly, obligatory Kamen Rider team-up movie.
Impressions? (Highlight to read spoilers.)
- Madoka movie: Phenomenal. Magnificent. Stupendous. Stellar. Brilliant. Marvelous. Sublime. Seriously. It was great.
First things first, you could really tell that the movie was written with the fans in mind. What do I mean? There were a ton of fanservice and fanwanks. Not fanservice in the ecchi/erotic sense, but stuff that fans of the show wanted to see in the original show. For instance, 5 member dance-themed henshin sequences with a different dance type for each girl? Gratuitous time-stop HOMU HOMU battles? Charlotte X Mami? Charlotte’s Magical Girl form? YES, YES and HELL YES!!! These people know how to treat their fans. Save the convoluted, contrived and bizarre ending that didn’t make a ton of sense character-wise to me (yet), it was superb.
- Kamen Rider movie: Meh. Same as the last one.
Both movies were seen at Shinjuku Wald9 Cinema. Sadly, I completely forgot to take any pictures of/at the cinema itself…
Another place that I wanted to visit was the Tokyo Pokemon Center. With the recent release of Pokemon X and Y, the whole store was decked out in X and Y decorations. With regard to merchandise, the name ‘Pokemon Center’ did not lie. Shelves and shelves of everything Pokemon from stuffed toys to stickers to stationary as far as the eye could see.
As an adult collector however, I was looking for stuff featuring the human characters of the Pokemon franchise, which they were sadly lacking of. Still, I did manage to find something pretty evocative of both Pokemon and Nintendo there – check out the acquisitions section below to see what it is!
Comiket 85 Day 1 and 3
Finally. The main event had arrived. It was time to sharpen my sword on the battlefield that is known to otaku the world over as Comic Market, aka Comiket. Interestingly enough, if you guys remember, this isn’t my first rodeo as I’ve actually been to Comiket before (Comiket 77, 2009).
This time however, I went prepared! Using the very handy-dandy Comiket Merchandise Guide from ANN (Why are all the series names localized?!) and the Comic Market Web Catalog (No need for thick physical catalogs anymore!) I marked down all the industry booths that caught my eye and the locations of my favorite artist circles. Essentially, the plan was to visit the industry section (West Halls 3 and 4) on Day 1 and the doujin artist section (East Halls 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) on Day 3.
Yet, all that planning did not prepare me for the absurd length of the queues for several of the industry booths and the limited stock of some doujins. The queue for the Aniplex booth alone was a whole 3 hours long and I could only get most of my top priority doujins before they began selling out within a couple of hours.
Lesson learned. When going to Comiket, unless you go with a ton of friends, like Konata did in episode 12 of Lucky Star, getting more than a handful of doujins is all you can physically manage.
All in all, it was a far, far, far more successful endeavor than the last Comiket I went to. Spoils of war in the acquisition section below!
Right next to Tokyo Big Sight, is Diver City. Home to the 1/1 scale Gundam statue! While I’m not a terribly huge fan of Gundam, it was still truly a sight to behold and a marvel of engineering. I hope to live to see the day when a life sized Valk from Macross, Arm Slave from FMP!, Eva from Evangelion or Knightmare from Code Geass gets built.
Washinomiya Shrine in Saitama
Whee! For a Lucky Star fan like me, you can’t spend New Year’s Day in Japan without having your hatsumoude (first shine visit of the New Year) at Washinomiya Shrine in Saitama – home to Kagami and Tsukasa.
Not to mention, that year was a pretty good year to go to Washinomiya as it was also the 10th Anniversary of Lucky Star! Honestly, you can never get tired of reliving your favorite anime.
Being the first of January, the temple was crowded and we had to contend with yet another long line when wanting to offer our prayers. After Comiket, that’s pretty much the last thing we wanted to see.
A couple of hours later, after praying, indulging in festival food (cotton candy and candy apples!) and checking out the ever-intricately drawn emas (prayer plaques), I spent a bit of cash at a booth offering a Lucky Star Sega Kuji. Managed to walk away with the B prize (Tsukasa) and a couple of other extras. Once again, acquisitions coming up below!
Last but not least, our final destination for this trip was the Bandai Museum in Omochanomachi. If Saitama was far away from Tokyo, Omochanomachi was an eternity away – 3 hours away from Tokyo by train. But it was all worth it as the collection of Bandai toys, merchandise and paraphernalia were astounding. While there were numerous exhibits at the Bandai Museum, the Japan Toy exhibit was undoubtedly the main attraction for me. It chronicles the evolution and history of Japanese toys and has a little bit of everything from wooden toys to Super Robots to Evangelion to Godzilla to Digimon to Kamen Rider to Sailor Moon to Cardcaptor Sakura to Precure (all Bandai, of course). Had an absolute blast there.
Here are some pics of my personal favorites:
Once again, instead of flooding the page with photos of a single venue, here’s a video covering the entirety of the Japan Toy exhibit:
With that, the trip came to a close and it was time to return to home sweet home.
Time to prepare for the new school semester ahead (NOOOOOOO) and to sort through all my acquisitions. As mentioned in the beginning, I haven’t been keeping up with much of the recent anime series, so my purchases this time round are (comparatively) rather scant.
- Akihabara, Mandarake, etc…
Well, truth be told, it’s still an impressive haul nonetheless, if I do say so myself. For this trip, we have (from top to bottom, left to right):
Kamen Rider Gaim DX Genesis Driver
Kamen Rider Gaim DX Sonic Arrow
Medicos JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Super Action Statue Kujo Jotaro
Sega Prize 5th Angel with Light-up Angel Core
Sailormoon Miracle Romance Nail Collection
Loose Precure Card Commune
S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider W Hardboilder
Frog (Gekota-esque) Mini POCHI Coin Purse
S.H.Figuarts Sailor Mars
S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade
20th Anniversary Dengeki Heroines Figure Collection
Kotobukiya 1/7 Scale Kaiba Seto
Movic 1/6 Scale Takamachi Nanoha
Megahouse 1/8 Scale Tsuchimiya Kagura
Cu-poche Tomoe Mami
Device Metal Charm Collection 06: Klar Wind -Ring Form
Chibi-Arts Hanasaki Tsubomi
Choro-Q Evangelion 3.0 Trading Figure
Puchi Chara Heartcatch Precure! Trading Figure
S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider Delta
Loose Petanko Mini! Akemi Homura
Romando High Quality Collection Doll Cure Black
Infinite Stratos Coasters X 2
Infinite Stratos Table Mat
Mattel Yu-Gi-Oh! Deluxe Winged Dragon of Ra Model Kit
Kamen Rider Gaim Gashapon Sound Lockseed Mango
Kamen Rider Gaim Gashapon Sound Lockseed Decade
Kamen Rider Gaim Orange Lockseed Lock
Kamen Rider Gaim Melon Lockseed Lock
Misaca Promotion IC Card Sticker
Gekota Strap Lawson Version
Loose Hirasawa Yui Soundrop
Loose Mahiro Inami Rubber Strap
Loose Death Note Key Chain
Loose Light-up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Stone Mask Keychain
Kujibikido Light Novel Kuji E-Prize Suzumiya Haruhi Strap
Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku Clear File
Madoka Chocolate Bar Tomoe Mami (Banana Macadamia)
Madoka Chocolate Bar Charlotte (Raspberry Macadamia)
Heartcatch Precure! Volume 2 DVD
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun Replica Can Coin Bank – Saten/Ichigo Oden
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun Replica Can Coin Bank – Mikoto/Coconut Cider
Loose Niitengo Key Memorial Set Tsukimiya Ayu Trading Figure
Loose Kamen Rider Wizard DX Kick Strike Ring
Madoka Magica Wafer Snack X 2
Evangelion Wafer Snack
Kamen Rider Gaim Orange Gummy
Holding Hands Madoka/Homura Mascot Plush Set
Lucky Star Line Art Collection 2nd-Year Students
Lucky Star Line Art Collection 3rd-Year Students
From the Madoka and Kamen Rider movies, I managed to snag these premiums:
Madoka Movie Pamphlet
Kamen Rider Movie Coloring Book
Kamen Rider Movie Pamphlet
Madoka Movie Signed Board Madoka X Homura Version
Madoka Movie ‘Witches Artwork’ Booklet
…okay, you caught me. I got that signed board from Mandarake.
- Pokemon Center
Didn’t really manage to catch them all, but I caught some pretty sweet Pokemon merchandise:
Monster Collection Thunder (Zapdos)
Framed Pokemon Hanafuda Cards
Mei (Rosa) Metal Key Chain
Pokemon Kid’s Can
While I would have preferred Hanafuda cards that could actually be played (as I play with my friends quite often), they only had a framed set and I could not resist. Why? Nintendo as a company started out with making and selling Hanafuda cards. Pokemon is also something that they are exceedingly well known for. So, what better commemorative set to get than Pokemon Hanafuda cards?
Honestly, I got the Pokemon Stamp and the Pokemon Kid’s Can (badges and finger puppets inside) just for the Poke Ball/Master Ball packaging. The Poke Ball one is a pretty decent replica.
Yes. Pokemon Macaroni.
- Washinomiya Shrine
My winnings from the Lucky Star Sega Kuji. Really glad that I at least managed to get one of the top prizes.
B Prize – Hiiragi Tsukasa Kimono Figure
D Prize – SD Figures X 5
E Prize – SD Key Chains X3
F Prize – Artbook X2
From the line-up, it would appear that I have a thing against Kagami. This is a complete misconception as everything Kagami-related was already gone by the time I got there.
Charms from the Shrine
Lucky Star Soy Sauce Ramen
- Comiket Day 1
Long queues and heavy books do not make for a good combination. Industry booth loot is as follows:
Steins;Gate UFO Catcher Doll Makise Kurisu
Steins;Gate UFO Catcher Doll Okabe Rintarou
Cardcaptor Sakura Animated Artworks Artbook
Cardcaptor Sakura Revised Key Frames by the Animation Director Artbook
Cardcaptor Sakura Animated Character Designs Artbook
Kill la Kill Inflatable Ryouko’s Scissor Blade
Inoue Toshiyuki’s Uchoten Kazoku Original Collection Artbooks + Signed Board
Rozen Maiden Pin Set
Shingeki no Kyojin Opening “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” Deconstruction Book ~The Memories and Documents~
Shingeki no Kyojin Clear File
Ano Hana Movie Revised Animation Collection
Kill la Kill 3 Star Badge
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai Animation Production Sourcebook
Shingeki no Kyojin Animation Collection Volume 2 (The clear file comes with this)
+ a shit-ton of Upa gachapon figures. Seriously, the normal variant (the one I wanted) just refused to pop up. Threw in the towel after 12 tries.
Kinda sad that I wasn’t in to/haven’t seen quite a number of the series that they were shoveling out exclusive merchandise for at Comiket… Once again, can’t help but feel like it was a wasted opportunity…
Whatever the case, those CCS artbooks (click here for previews) were unequivocally the cream of the crop. Being a die-hard CCS fan, these books that feature detailed drawings, setting material and line art are just phenomenal.
- Comiket Day 3
The pièce de résistance, the one you guys have been waiting for… doujins! And look what planning ahead can get you. For those who are interested (and I know you are), here’s a list of circles (in no particular order) I bought from:
Alice no Takarabako
Kossori Kakure Dokoro
Yami ni Ugomeku
Yoru no Benkyoukai
Sadly, as mentioned previously, many of the other circles that I had my eyes on had already sold out within the first few hours. Also, there’s a manga by DATE that I got at Mandarake, but I put it together with the doujinshi for obvious reasons. (^.^;)
…and no, don’t ask, because I will not be scanning them. Scans will pop up sooner or later.
I realize that I haven’t been posting much over the past year and I sincerely apologize for that.
For those of you who have been sticking with me through the thick and thin, thank you guys very, very much. It means even more to me now as I’ve left many anime forums and communities, where much of my traffic came from.
Hope you have enjoyed this little recount of my 2013 Japan Trip and hope you’ll enjoy the stuff that I will be posting in the future.
Here’s to a splendid 2014.