New York City, a metropolitan with everything! Even when you and your friends were some of the early onsets of Western Anime and Manga fans. For the readers who are too young to remember, we had to go to stores to buy multiple DVDs of an anime series. If you were broke or cheap, you would look up shady anime streaming websites and hope your computer doesn’t get infected by a dozen trojan viruses.
I’m taking this post back, back before the many legit anime streaming services (Crunchyroll, VRV, FUNimation), back before being able to buy decent figurines, video games & Blu-ray disc on Amazon, and back when you had to be lucky to find a lolita-esque dress while shopping at the local mall. I’m going back around ten years ago when you stylized your outfits based on the many fashion trends in Harajuku and walked on the streets of NYC. You were grateful that you were able to pick up any Anime, Manga, Japanese Pop Culture item you wanted because there was a store around you that might have it.
Here today, gone tomorrow with their green tea ice cream bears. It was one of the first established Maid Cafes in the West. Some of the customers of Maid Cafe NY would disagree with the “Maid Cafe” title since the establishment didn’t run as a traditional style Japanese Maid Cafe. They thought it was more of a regular cafe with a cutesy maid theme that sold cosplay items. Mainstream media had fun when Maid Cafe NY popped up. All I can say about that subject, different cultures, different interpretations. The Cafe was shut down after about two years; it was one of those places you go just to say you went there. I thought it was an interesting idea but should have been executed with American food and labor standards in mind…probably get something on the lines of a cutesy Hooters-esque restaurant… with chicken wings, cake, and bubble tea… that sounds bad.
Or what my friends called it, “The Underground Mall.” It had the feel of “The Under meets 80’s-90’s mall architecture.” The Under? You know that cyberpunk level from Pokémon Colosseum? Anyway, back then it was a fantastic place to buy Sanrio and San-X merchandise, anime figurines and Gundam models. Even though there was a “Buyers Beware” sign flashing over the Center due to a circulating rumor about some of the items being sold might be fake. Today, most of the shops have shut down, leaving empty storefronts. You can still visit and buy pens and stress balls shaped like cute animals or food items.
Regarded as New York City’s “Last Great Arcade” and produced a few top fighting game players in the past. Chinatown Fair was one of the places where you would see people hunched over a Tekken game cabinet, playing and training. I remember back in high school an old friend flashed me his Initial D Driver’s License which he got from the arcade. Sadly Chinatown Fair was closed in 2011 but then opened back up in 2012 as Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center, catering to family/casual market.
What can I say about Flushing? Anything your heart desires! Morning Glory, Anime Castle, video games stores and various types of Asian restaurants in the east part of Queens! But you have to do a lot of walking and avoiding crowds. Being in Flushing a few years ago, it’s almost the same, but with a few more stores.
If you were too lazy to hop on the 7 train or didn’t want to walk around a lot, there was Kinokuniya. A three-floored Japanese bookstore in Midtown Manhattan. Each floor is catered to different types of demographics. The third floor has mostly figurines of anime characters, manga in both Japanese and English, CDs, DVDs, graphic novels and a small cafe where you can buy Onigiris. The main floor has mostly book and books for fashion, fine arts, etc. Fun fact: they sold lolita dresses on this floor in the past, first time I laid eyes on the price of one lolita dress. The basement floor has stationery items, traditional Japanese pieces and books, and magazines in Japanese. A bookstore with a little bit of everything.