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Growing Up In One Of Tokyo's Largest Subculture Hubs

December 11, 2017 12:00pm
by Isaac Wong

Once upon a time between an alley leading into Nakano Sun Plaza and a local-branch of Yoshinoya, where a small pharmacist now stands, there used to be a timeless café by the name of Meikyoku Kissa Classic. Its leaning walls, old 78 RPM records, and horribly sweet coffee had been a haven for people wanting a reprieve from the overcrowded streets of Nakano for seventy glorious, long years.

The café was something special for a long list of reasons. Having survived the bombings of World War II and the endless decadence of the early 90’s, however, it was finally torn down in 2005 when owner Yoshiko Mimasaka passed away. (A second generation location has since opened in Koenji carrying over all of the furniture and records. You can look for Meikyoku Kissa Renaissance to find it.)

To this day, Classic is still one of my favorite spots in Nakano -- even a decade plus after its destruction. It represented many of the ward’s defining quirks. Tenacious, obsessive, obscure, mysterious, weird; it was a spot that defied time and space, almost as if it existed in a dimensional warp known only to the savviest of explorers. Nakano houses many of these worlds in its endless corridors and corners. A realm for every obsession, each more bizarre than the last. Nakano was where I was born, and Nakano is where I learned that the rest of the world is not Nakano.


Walking through Sun Plaza into Broadway is like crossing the threshold of the regular human world to that of uncontrollable fantasy. The brightly lit shopping strip at the front is squarely a spot for families and hungry weekenders, unremarkable save for maybe the density of pedestrians in this age of dying shotengais. However, as you reach the end of the strip, you may begin to notice a few fast-footed geeks striding defiantly against the crowd to reach the gates of Broadway.

There is a clear distinction that Broadway doesn’t reside in the same world from the get-go. A giant wall of rare doujins to the right, a used PC parts store to the left, and a general sense of eeriness to the dim lighting. Its still populated with people, but they seem to be here for a wholly different reason than the normals outside. You’ve just entered Broadway, the Holy Land of Subculture.

From the very beginning, the Broadway building was fraught with complications. A whole book can be written on this subject alone, but the long and short of it is that it cost ¥60,000,000 to construct (in 60’s money no less) and had a laundry list of people with a finger in the same pie. One of which was the children of a former Japanese General who committed suicide after the fall of Imperial Japan.


Incurring debt was like breathing air for the people attempting to maintain development, and construction had taken a large hit for it. With the grand design altered to favor both convenience and money for those involved, corridors inevitably turned into unintelligible spaghetti, with most corners leading to painful dead-ends. Storefronts are commonly hidden from pedestrians by random walls, and escalators and elevators are often placed in the most inconvenient locations for workers and customers alike. Its a far cry from what could have been.

This was the late 80’s and early 90’s, a time when money was flowing in uncontainable streams. Shinjuku and Shibuya were booming, absorbing cash flow like a parched sponge, thus sucking up revenue from most of the surrounding areas. No sane business owner would set up shop here, much less make a profit. The chaos within the walls was much too untamable, the world outside much too alluring. That was, of course, until rent prices were so low that one individual couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.

As those fortunate enough to have visited Nakano Broadway before may already know, a good 40% of the location is occupied by Mandarake, a used merchandise, and subculture haven. With a charming Kowloon-esque aesthetic and a penchant for scaring the life out of children, there's a whole lot to be said about the now legendary location.

Founded by Furukawa Masuzo in 1980, the former comic creator-gone-psychonaut entrepreneur clearly envisioned something incredible when he modestly borrowed the initial 6.5 square meter share space that would become Mandarake. Filled to the brim with old comics, signatures of famous creators, and animation cells, the visionary was able to capture the ease of access to creators in nearby locations and bring a bit of their magic to the general public. As patronage increased, the tiny store grew steadily until he was able to incorporate in 1987, spreading like wildfire into the surrounding unoccupied spaces. Once he obtained the main space on the third floor, the entire building breathed a new life never seen before.

I remember it clearly, the first time I went up that escalator to the third floor in Broadway -- it was nearly 20 years ago. The sheer amount of information being presented to me in one moment was enough to give me a fever that night. Since then, I've been totally obsessed with the place. It was a dark portal to every material thing that I’d ever want to be around in life. Mandarake was a catalyst for every niche hobby to find purchase in at Broadway.

Stores that exclusively sold Warhammer 30k miniatures, weapon shops selling faux blades, tacky shirt stores, a dozen different branches of Recomints (now defunct), an arcade dedicated specifically to “poverty” fighting games, fashion doll stores, a real-deal military surplus store, a bookstore filled with poetry and leftist literature, a bookstore filled with really questionable pornography and more. It was the only place you could buy a rare Otomo Hiroyuki compilation comic, cross the path to get your fortune told, go upstairs to look at animation cells, and then go downstairs to the basement to get some bleeding edge Japanese fashion.

The stores were strange because that building was the only place where they could thrive without judgment, not because they had any notion of strange subcultures being cool. Just as that sentiment was starting to turn on its head, however, Murakami Takashi began his expansion into Broadway totally changing what it means to be a nerd in the modern age.

As Meikyoku Kissa Classic was beginning to be torn down, Murakami Takashi was in the middle of his big foray into becoming the pop art legend he is today. His DOB series was a giant success, and his collaborations with figure maker and sculptor Bome regularly netted billions of dollars in the art market. He had rebranded nerddom as profitable, using Superflat aesthetics to validate the previously socially embarrassing past-time. Murakami was a household name in Japan; from Louis Vuitton to Kanye West, he had permeated the zeitgeist of the 00’s in a deep way.

One of the methods he used to retain a sense of currentness was to begin hiring prolific net illustrators and artists such as JNT, ob, and the now independent Chaos*Lounge crew to aid him in creating relevant work. In order to maximize the effectiveness of his new hires, Murakami opened Kaikai Kiki Gallery so that he could feature them and other internet-based artists in a fine art context, suddenly legitimizing an art form that was essentially no-brow. Something neither low for its subject matter or high for its commercial usability. Several new Murakami affiliated galleries and stores would pop up soon after, solidly ingraining his influence in the building. Almost overnight, Broadway becomes a hub for young artists and creators as a place to connect, research, and create.

Nakano Broadway is where I learned to be a creator as well as a consumer. Its a place where subcultures collide and new worlds are born, bringing waves of new appreciators with them. Its a place I sincerely want the best for, and god willing, a long and healthy lifespan. As it stands, the new Murakami developments are bringing in new customers from around the world, all of whom I hope grasped the magic of Broadway. Every dim corridor, every nonsensical corner of this building should be protected, and every weird soul that resides it celebrated.

May Nakano Broadway Live Ten Thousand Years.

Words by: Isaac Wong

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Hunter x Hunter Editor Teases ‘God-like Chapter’ for Series’ Return

September 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Another year, another hiatus for Hunter x Hunter. At this point, there’s not much that creator Yoshihiro Togashi can do to alleviate the ennui of long-time fans who have been disappointed with the slow pacing and intermittent publishing schedule ever since the series moved onto it’s latest ‘Dark Continent’ arc all the way back in 2012. Or at least, that's how it seemed, with recent comments from the editor of the series would have us believe that things are really going to start heating up.

Hunter x Hunter series editor Moji’s comments come from the NHK series 100 Cameras, which sees one hundred cameras placed in the Weekly Shonen Jump office to chart the activities of the editorial staff as they struggle with the various problems that come from the hectic environment of weekly publication. Moji was featured in a short scene from last Monday’s show, where the following exchange happened between him and a cameraman.

Moji: “I’ve just gotten my hands on something seriously crazy.”
Cameraman: “What?
Moji: “A God-like chapter?”
Cameraman: “...what god-like chapter?”
Moji: “It’s been a long time since I received a manuscript that brought me to tears.”


The manuscript that Moji clutches in the scene is of course none other than the latest chapter for Hunter x Hunter, which has come out of hiatus for the second time this year to resume in next week’s issue (September 24).

It’s easy to get excited at comments such as these, especially since fans have been waiting so long for the newest arc of the series to pick up and show us it’s full potential, but it is important to take these comments with a fairly large pinch of salt. It’s in Moji’s best interests to get fans excited about the new chapter so that the magazine’s sales can be boosted, so it’s possible that he may be overexaggerating for publicity purposes.

That being said, Hunter x Hunter is penned by the mad genius Yoshihiro Togashi, and he’s done some pretty crazy stuff in the past. But with the current arc still in the midst of heavy exposition in order to set up the new breed of Nen powers, the only shocking thing I can really think of is a major character death - and there’s certainly a fair few candidates. Obviously, Kurapika himself would be the most devastating death, but since he has effectively become the main character at this point, it’s unlikely that Togashi would shoot himself in the foot in such a way. If anyone’s going to die, then I’d argue it to be Leorio - he’s never served much of a purpose anyway and would be a good way to add some stakes to the current arc for Kurapika.

Either way, we don’t have long to wait to see what the true nature of Moji’s comments was, with the latest chapter of the series releasing next Monday. I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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‘Karakuri Circus’ to Get Hardcover Reprint in Preparation for Upcoming Anime

September 21, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

The announcement of an anime adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s Karakuri Circus earlier this year came as a surprise to everyone and brought a lot of attention to a series which had previously enjoyed a fairly small cult following. So to prepare for the anime’s premiere next month, publisher Shogakukan will be releasing a new edition of the series, featuring never-seen-before material in an all-new format -- perfect for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

Titled “Complete Edition,” this new reprint of Karakuri Circus will be A5 sized, making it slightly bigger than original takonbon releases but slightly smaller than the original magazine print. Still, the bigger size will let you appreciate Fujita’s excellent artwork all the better, and will come in handy when it comes to some of the Complete Edition extra features, which include never-seen-before production notes, illustrations, and character sheets, along with all of the original color pages from its initial run in Weekly Shonen Sunday.

For longtime fans of the series, this is a fantastic opportunity to dive back into Fujita’s masterpiece in an all-new fashion, and for newcomers to the series, it’s a fantastic opportunity to read the manga before the anime begins airing. Even though the anime begins in merely a month from now, since two volumes will be released each month from now on, it’ll keep a good pace with the anime adaptation, and will perhaps tide over those viewers who’d prefer to wait for the Blu-rays to release.

Furthermore, with VIZ recently announcing their English release of Naoki Urasawa’s similar cult hit 20th Century Boy’s Japanese hardcover, deluxe edition under the name The Perfect Edition, it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if another publisher follows suit by licensing this deluxe edition of Karakuri Circus, especially when considering the hype for the upcoming anime. Nevertheless,  both volumes one and two of the Complete Edition are now available in Japanese stores. They are priced at 1400 yen each, and you can check them out via Shogakukan’s official website.

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Taito Brings The True Space Invaders Experience Home In Japan With Arcade1Up

September 20, 2018 4:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Arcade pioneer Taito has announced this week at Tokyo Game Show that they're teaming up with US home arcade startup Arcade1Up to bring their 3/4th sized cabinets to Japan starting in December. 

Priced at 58,000¥, the newly designed and manufactured cabinets are made to provide as close to an authentic gameplay experience as possible to the original machines released back in the late 1970s. Arcade1Up announced their products for the US market earlier this year, featuring an array of influential and popular classic arcade titles to be released in an affordable and size-efficient manner for anyone who has dreamed of owning an arcade machine with their favorite game. What makes the Tokyo Game Show announcement so exciting (aside from the release in Japan) is that two new offerings, Space Invaders & Pac-Man, are being shown off on the show floor.

These arcade replicas are actually a brilliant solution for the Japanese market as space is often very limited in the average building. These smaller form factor cabinets are perfect for any office or homeowner looking to add some fun to their surroundings. They even use the original artwork and design of the classic cabinets, making them an eye-catching decorative piece as well!

The first 3 cabinets are going to be released in December of this year, with pre-orders for Japanese buyers currently available on Amazon. If you're in Japan and want more details on how to buy, check out the official Taito website for the product. If you're in America and want to see Arcade1Up's other offerings, check out their official website for more information.

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Rhythm Game Legend Naoki Maeda Announces New Game, SEVEN's CODE

September 20, 2018 3:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Longtime rhythm game producer Naoki Maeda announced the first title from his newly founded venture, Unlimited Studio, in collaboration with developer Applibot at Tokyo Game Show. After his departure from Capcom last year many fans were wondering what was next for the man who helped define the rhythm game genre. The announcement that he was creating his own studio prompted a lot of speculation as to what direction he was moving in, and it seems that he's sticking with familiar territory.

Being billed as a music game that's "not a music game", the concept actually seems pretty novel. A deep story is being woven in the title, with episodic content being released over the course of the title's first year of release. General gameplay hasn't been described in detail yet, but in game battles/action are going to incorporate a rhythm game element of some kind. The story of the game involves solving a series of mysteries that may save humanity from extinction. Depending on how players perform in the game, results will change globally in-game for all players as the story progresses. Maeda has long been concerned with accessibility for players worldwide and of all skill levels, and that seems to definitely still be the case. His initial announcement stresses that the focus on the game is fun, while still offering a challenge for skilled players.

In addition, an audition event for illustrators and musicians is being planned, allowing for even more interaction with the game for all types of people. Longtime rhythm game fans will be pleased to see some familiar faces popping up in the title as well. Rhythm game veterans such as cranky, t+pazolite, REDALiCE, and newcomer KSUKE have been announced as participating with the title. The four of them appeared during a special announcement & talk event at Tokyo Game Show today to discuss the upcoming game.

There's still a lot more information to come, and we're definitely going to be keeping an eye on this title. Maeda's last creation, the short-lived CROSSxBEATS, was a blast to play and featured an excellent array music. His determination to create the next evolution of music games is something that should excite fans of all kinds, and it'll be really interesting to see the development of this new project. In the meantime, you can check out more details at the official website, or follow SEVEN's CODE on twitter for more information.

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Hiroshi Fujiwara & Pokemon Team Up For Thunderbolt Project

September 20, 2018 2:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

The Pokémon company has officially announced that they're partnering up with streetwear legend Hiroshi Fujiwara for a new line of boldly designed & striking products featuring some of their most iconic characters. Originally teased on Fujiwara's Instagram a few weeks ago, the collaboration is titled THUNDERBOLT PROJECT and is being promised as an ongoing series of different pieces to be released through 2019 "and beyond". At first glance, this might seem like an odd pairing; but given Pokemon's long history with outside designers that have a unique style, this seems like a no-brainer for a brand that is loved by so many people worldwide.

There hasn't been much in the way of information about the project made available yet. We do know that the first item from the collection is slated to drop at the upcoming Hypefest event, taking place on October 6th & 7th in New York, at which Hiroshi Fujiwara is a member of the organizing committee. So far we've also caught a glimpse of a few minimal but amazing looking items from the collaboration including a black t-shirt with Pikachu's silhouette in white and a hoodie featuring a grey colored Mew on the back. Both items incorporate a thunderbolt shape that seems pulled directly from the logo of Fujiwara's Fragment Design label and are a stark contrast from the typically colorful designs seen in most Pokémon merchandise.

While Fujiwara is no stranger to collaborations with pop culture icons (we covered his recent Bikkuriman collaboration a few months back), it's always exciting to see two behemoths in their respective industries team up like this. Both parties are known for pushing boundaries and have years of significant experience in trying new and exciting things, meaning that the possibilities here are endless. For me personally being a massive fan of the Pokémon franchise and an avid streetwear enthusiast, I'll definitely be copping as much of this collaboration as possible.

You can find more information on the official THUNDERBOLT PROJECT Instagram account, and we'll be sure to report as more details become available!

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Lupin the Third to Take Over Universal Studios Japan in 2019

September 20, 2018 12:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

With the likes of Detective Conan and Sailor Moon receiving themed attractions as part of Universal Studios Japan’s “Cool Japan” initiative, it will perhaps come as no surprise that Lupin the Third is next in line to be featured in the ever-changing line-up of Japanese popular culture-themed attractions. But with the franchise only recently emerging from a lengthy TV anime hiatus, it’s a sign that the series is back and better than ever.
 
Lupin’s entrance into Cool Japan comes during the initiative’s fifth year, and there’s perhaps some poetry in the fact that the Lupin franchise celebrated it’s own fiftieth anniversary last year, with the original manga launching in 1967. Perhaps due to this seniority, then, Lupin will be kicking the almost equally legendary Neon Genesis Evangelion off the XR Ride attraction (which was previously occupied by Final Fantasy) to deliver it’s own VR attraction. While the details on this attraction are few, having rode the Final Fantasy VR ride earlier this year, I’m sure that the surprisingly effective combination of a VR headset and moving carriage will be entertaining, to say the least.
 
Furthermore, there will be a new restaurant themed around the Lupin series, which will be both comedic and “hard-boiled” according to USJ’s official website - perhaps suggesting that the food served in the restaurant will be a little out of the ordinary, or perhaps that the diners will be treated to some kind of show during their meal, much like how the Detective Conan Mystery Restaurant had diners solving a mystery as they ate. Themed restaurants such as these are common at USJ, and it’s worth bearing in mind that it will most likely require reserving ahead of time, unlike the VR ride.
 
Finally, the official website teases an “original story” that can only be experienced at the park, through the attractions, which is sure to excite any fans of the Lupin series. Detective Conan did something very similar this year as it had attendees solving mysteries alongside Conan and the gang through the various park attractions, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Lupin followed suit, perhaps letting us do some thievery with the gang, or perhaps putting us in the shoes of the hapless Inspector Zenigata as he attempts to bring the gang to justice.

Either way, the attractions are expected to launch sometime in 2019, so we have a while to wait for more concrete information. Keep your eyes on the official website for more details.

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Lounge Neo Announces 家-Yeah- Anniversary Event Lineup

September 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There are few events I look forward to more than Lounge Neo's legendary annual 家-Yeah- anniversary event, and today we finally got a look at what we can be expecting from this year's event. Calling on some of the greatest talents from Japan's massively diverse club and internet music scenes, I'd dare suggest that no amount of planning could prepare you for November 25 when the back streets of Dogenzaka are taken over. Just to give you a scope of the scale of this event, 家-Yeah- will be utilizing not only Lounge Neo, but also Club Asia, Vuenos, and Glad.
 


This year celebrates the fifth anniversary of the 家-Yeah- event, as well as the 16th anniversary of Lounge Neo itself. With an incredibly stacked lineup of talents, including regularly featured talents such as Ujico*/Snail's House, Yunomi, Tomggg, and more, this really is set to be the ultimate party. Possibly the wildest part of this all, however, is the fact that this is only the first wave of announcements, with more to come for the event in the near future. It's a long one, but the current lineup can be seen below:

AMUNOA
Batsu
BUDDHAHOUSE
Cola Splash
Chordal Poem Secrets (Redcompass/Hercelot)
DJ DJ機器
DJ WILDPARTY
D-YAMA(MOGRA)
Genick
imai
isagen
JABBA DA FOOTBALL CLUB
KAN TAKAHIKO
Keita Kawakami
Kick a Show
KO3&Relect 
KOTONOHOUSE B2B Ujico*
国士無双
HyperJuice
has
長谷川白紙
Masayoshi Iimori B2B Maru
 feat. ONJUICY
マザーファッ子
三毛猫ホームレス feat. lulu
Miii
melo B2B Oblongar
okadada
Pa's Lam System
pavilion xool feat.ノレ
PARKGOLF
パソコン音楽クラブ
Seimei & Taimei (LOUNGE NEO Special Set)
SIRUP
TENG GANG STARR
tomad
Tomggg feat. ボンジュール鈴木
TORIENA
TREKKIE TRAX CREW
UNSQ
WATARU
ゆnovation
YONEDA
YonYon
YUC'e
yuigot / Applekid
Yunomi feat. アンテナガール, ローラーガール, 桃箱 with きあと

Amps
栄免建設株式会社
gu^2
hype
K8
LADY’S ONLY
monolith slip
テクの幸太朗
VIBES MAFIA
XYLÖZ
Ryuki Miyamoto
YOCO ORGAN
HAKA GANG VS なーどーぷクルー VS v.o.c crew
103i
BREADSHOP
JunyaUtsunomiya
kyo
Miyabi
NES
ryuzk
skmt
shucream
SUNOKO
taros
Yackle


Taking place on November 25 at Lounge Neo and surrounding venues, 家-Yeah-  is being priced at 3,500 yen + 1D for an advance ticket and 4,000 yen + 1D for door sales -- not a bad price for what's quite literally a club music festival with some of the greatest talents right now. Those interested in checking out further information on the event can hit up Lounge Neo's official website.

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