I’m back. Sorry to keep you waiting.
Last weekend, I’d originally planned to visit Akihabara with a friend. It’s kind of like Mecca; everybody ought to do it at least once, right? But things happened and I had to cancel at the last minute, so I asked my friend if he couldn’t meet me around Osaka instead. It worked out for the best, because we spent a lovely rainy day in Osaka’s own anime and electronics hub, Nippombashi, a.k.a. Den Den Town.
I was impressed with the variety. You’d think that once you’ve seen one shop, you’ve seen them all. But this was not so:
*Animate had a kind of a crowded, homey feel to it. One floor was dedicated to manga, another to anime goods, and the top to CDs/DVDs. I was shocked to see a lot of very attractive, fashionable people shopping around. The back wall of each floor had some hetero H and Boys Love.
*Melonbooks only had two floors, but it felt gargantuan. Everything was exceedingly well-lit, organized and nicely displayed, and again, everyone looked good. More than half of it was doujinshi. The amount of porn was breathtaking. All of the Boys Love was segregated to a large inner store on the second floor.
*Mandarake (in Umeda, but we went on the same day) felt like a cave: Rough walls, a T-Rex skeleton, and endless shelves of vintage books and toys. The organization was workmanlike, and people there looked just a bit more like what one would expect of otaku. But only a bit—not a bandana or fanny pack in sight.
There were many other places: Several maid cafes, a museum selling Tony Taka and Nishimata Aoi’s art for several thousand dollars apiece (!), heaps of dodgy electronics stores. Even a Touhou vending machine.
People in the area were surprisingly well-informed. One nice girl at Animate knew the names and faces of Touhou characters, and a maid at one of the cafés we visited was a fan of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. I’m sure many of them are trained to have a working knowledge of popular shows, much like a supermarket employee is trained to know where to find your favorite brand of potato chips.
But as hard as it is to wrap my head around, it’s also quite possible that these are just normal young people who love anime. Clearly, the gender line is already changing with the increasing presence of BL, so why not other stereotypes as well? I used to be suspicious of Nakagawa Shoko, the supposed born-and-bred otaku idol… But really, given time and the law of averages, why wouldn’t she appear? Den Den Town seems to have plenty of her kind.