Manga haven exists in NYC
Lots to talk about in the anime and manga world: The "fade away" date for anime publisher Geneon is tomorrow. Online retailer Right Stuf pulled listings for all future Illumitoon DVD releases. Manga publisher Vertical announced it picked up the license to release Osamu Tezuka's "Black Jack." Bandai landed U.S. publishing rights to the "Lucky Star" anime.
Instead of discussing those stories, though, there's a story I wanted to share from my recent vacation that's patiently waited to be shared for several weeks. It's a story about how cool this hobby can be at times.
The setting: New York City. While I was having lunch one day with Del Rey Manga publicist April Flores, she gave me a heads-up about a manga cafe in midtown Manhattan that I had to see for myself. Such cafes, where customers can pay a fee, kick back and read manga to their heart's content, sometimes with snacks and drinks available, are ubiquitous in Japan but still a novel concept in America.
The cafe, Manga Cafe Atom on 38 W. 38th St., is in a blink-and-you'd-probably-miss-it location in the shadow of the bright lights and flashing video screens of Times Square. The only thing heralding its existence was a small sandwich board sign on the sidewalk in front of a small building. To access the elevator, visitors push a button, wait for a light on the panel to go out, open a door that looks like a door to a small closet, then head up to the third floor and open yet another door.
Sure, the initial impression might not be all that great, but the fact remains: It's a manga cafe in the heart of Manhattan. For $5 an hour, anyone can just pick up a pile of manga, curl up in a comfy chair and start reading. An additional $1 gets you access to unlimited cups of coffee, too. And while there isn't much English-translated manga -- most of the library is in untranslated Japanese -- there's still enough to keep any manga fan happy. I certainly had fun paging through copies of "Astro Boy," "Chicago" and "Buddha," three titles somewhat hard to find here.
What really surprised me, though, was what happened as I was leaving. When I paid for my time, the person at the desk -- he might have been the owner; I'm not really sure -- said, "Wait! I have a gift for you." And he presented me with pristine copies of the first volume of "Strain" from Viz's now-defunct Pulp line and "Samurai Legend" from CPM Manga.
Sometimes the true charm of manga can appear in places where you least expect it. And in a small corner of New York City, that charm definitely exists ...
A few months ago in HiLife, Wilma and I profiled a few local cosplayers, one of them being "nemu*nemu" webcomic
co-creator Audra Furuichi. I'm happy to note that on Halloween, Furuichi accomplished the ultimate cosplay, donning a wedding dress and getting married to her "nemu*nemu" partner, Scott Yoshinaga. Congrats, guys, and here's hoping for many years of wedded bliss to come ...
Cel Shaded, a look at the world of Japanese anime and manga, appears every Monday. Reach Jason S. Yadao