Monday, August 31, 2009
We tried to visit New People Mall two weeks ago for the Grand Opening. I was not nearly prepared for the event that made Japantown look like a reborn "Cherry Blossom" Festival. The street was closed, there was two separate bands playing J-Pop and everyone was walking around in those hideous "Lolita" outfits. It's hard to be Goth when it's 95 degrees and sunny out. But they all looked like they were having a good time. The line to get into the actual four story New People Mall was stretch all the way to the old Denny's. Being that i'm an aging man with two kids, suffice to say it was too long to wait.
Fast forward two weeks and there was hardly a crowd at all. Not quite empty, but not a ton of people in New People Mall. It started as a vision four years ago by CEO and Founder of Viz Media, Seiji Horibuchi. Viz is one of the largest importers of all things anime and manga. Most of you have Viz materials in your home and may not know it. At 20,000 square feet over 3 stories with a price tag of $15M, I'm sorry to say his timing could not have been worse.
I spent part of the morning visiting Sony Metreon. It doesn't seem like too long ago since I was last there. Hell, my office is right across the street. But it might have well been 5 years. Although it had foot traffic, I would say 60% of the retail stores or restaurants were EMPTY. I was shocked. Most noticable was the absence of the Sony Playstation and the sister Sony Lifestyle store. This thing was called the Sony Metreon for god's sake....! The playstation store temporarily filled up with part of a very strange Farmer's Market..! The beloved Things from Another Universe store upstairs is also gone. Were talking about a showcase retail destination site smack in the middle of downtown a block south of some of the most coveted retail space in the world and it's almost shut down..! gadzooks..! Someone needs to fire the leasing director at the Sony Metreon for losing it's namesake tenant!
Back to New People Mall. I had low expectations based on what everyone was saying which is good because had I waited in line to see this, I probably would have been very upset. First of all, it's a beautiful building designed by the Japanese firm Torafu. The building itself is supposed to be artwork.
As you walk in, there is a spacious "lobby" with Blue Bottle coffee stand which is supposed to incredible coffee. Downstairs is the small movie theater which only plays Japanese contemporary movies.
Up the short flight of stairs is the actual New People Store. It's what you expect including all kinds of Japanese knick knacks. Most of which you have seen before, but it's always kinda cool to see a new spin on this stuff. The idea is to give you a sense of what it's like to shop in Tokyo. It's not terrible and they have quite a variety of stuff. I would probably come here every time I visit.
Sadly, my harshest criticism will be for the "Fashion" 2nd floor. But I must preface that I couldn't or wouldn't buy 95% of anything here because it's really all for girls...who like to dress as Gothic Lolita or a Harajuku teenager on Sunday. Either way, not for me.
The is 6% DokiDoki which I believe serves as the defacto poster girl for the entire New People Mall.
My question is: if Sony stores cannot survive in the Sony Metreon, what hope do stores carrying Gothic Lolita and Harajuku fashions stand???
The best reason to vist the New People Mall and the highlight of my visit was Superfrog Gallery's exhibit of Deva Loka by the legendary Yoshitaka Amano.
Born in Shizuoka City, Japan, Amano started working for Tatsunoko Productions, where he worked on character development for such popular animated television series as Gatchaman (G-Force), The Adventures of Hutch, the Honeybee and The Time Bokan series.
After he left Tatsunoko Productions in 1982, he started working as a freelance illustrator and expanded his career to gain worldwide recognition for his visual concept design for the popular game Final Fantasy.
His works both in illustration and computer game design, such as “Vampire Hunter D”, “Guin Saga”, “Final Fantasy”, “Front Mission” etc., became legendary in the industry. His fine art oriented works have been shown in galleries and art fairs all over the world in recent years.
So what does the future hold for New People Mall? If the cinema can compete with the Kabuki right down the street and play more underground movies that cannot be seen anywhere else, it might survive. I think New People Store will do ok selling t-shirts and the like. The 2nd floor needs to broaden it's appeal if any of these apparel stores are to survive at all. The gallery is promising, but I don't see too many kids with $66,000 that it costs to buy one of the large Amano paintings. I'm quite positive that much will change with New People Mall within a year.
Sadly, I could not make it out to the Arbito Show at Super 7 last weekend. It looked quite fun at it appears most of the resin figures sold. I did stop by the store today and got to take a look at these pieces first hand. Alex and I were discussing Arbito's illustrations and some of them have a R.Crumb feel about them whereas I was getting a Peter Max vibe from the square framed joints. Either way, Arbito imparts his own fresh vibe and colors on his numerous mediums that make us look for more.
This Patty Power is the last one unsold!! Go get it!
These friggin Seekers killl...
While I was in the store, I spotted the Super 7 archive cabinet. I guess Brian liked it so much at Scott's new S7 Store in Florida, he thought the OG HQ should have one too. I agree. It's pretty cool.
Notice anything? All Super 7 original characters. It should be noted that most of these toys were released in the last year. wow.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Here are the toybot studios customs for the BLObPUS Exhibition: The Outsiders and Others Show at The Ghetto Gallery on September 5th.
This pair by Redhanded are amazing...!
Joe Wu of Kaiju Chronicle fame