It’s been quiet here at Let’s Anime World HQ. Actually that’s a lie. It’s been really busy, which is why there haven’t been any new Let’s Anime columns for a bit. What have we been up to? Well, we went to Tokyo last month, and that’ll take up a bit of your column-writing time right there.
What did we do? We went to Asakusa, to Ekoda to see a band belt out the theme to “Battle Fever J” and “Spiderman”, to Nakano Broadway, to Akihabara, to funky Shimokitazawa and theme-park consumerist Odaiba. We also went to Oizumi Gakuen, home of Toei Animation and their Toei Gallery.
How you get there: take the train to Oizumi Gakuen, hang a right out of the station, and head up the street past the Galaxy Express lampposts. After a few blocks and a lot of sweating (it’s summer) turn left onto Toei Street. When you see the big studios on your left, look to your right and there it is.
Get your pass from the guard at the booth and you’re in!
The Toei Gallery is not a studio tour; if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of how Japanese cartoons are produced you might be better off visiting the Suginami Animation Museum. However, if you’re interested in the hundreds and hundreds of characters and properties Toei has brought to life via animation, then the Gallery is where you ought to be.
UFO'S ARE REAL!
There’s a large room filled with chronologically-arranged displays of all of Toei’s films and television series, from KEN THE WOLF BOY right through to their 70s UFO ‘documentary’ to GALAXY EXPRESS, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, SAINT SEIYA, SAILOR MOON and PRETTY CURE. Also there’s a huge Danguard Ace statue.
Above you, cutouts of super robots and super robot pilots are watching.
Television sets screen an endless loop of TV opening credits, giant PRETTY CURE cutouts enchant the little girl patrons, and there's a general overwhelming sense of truly being in the belly of the Toei beast. One case displays maquettes of anime characters, built to assist the artists with a 3D model. It’s fascinating to see the proportions and stylistic exaggerations of 1960s anime brought to three-dimensional life.
Another room features merchandise based on Toei characters. Arale from Dr. Slump is encased in a glass pillar, Captain Harlock’s Cosmo-Gun rests on a shelf, and hundreds of thousands of yen worth of DVD box sets are trapped behind glass.
HI YO YO LEMME OUTTA HERE
Garage-kit renditions of popular and obscure Toei characters inhabit one exhibit, from the heavy hitters right on down to monsters from 30,000 MILES BENEATH THE SEA and the evil doll from the final episode of the 1968 CYBORG 009 series.
On your way out of the building, peek through the door into the office and you can see even more Toei-branded merchandise, including this CANDY CANDY poster.
Is it worth the hike? It definitely is for anyone who grew up watching Toei’s animation on television as a child, as I did. Not only do you get to see your childhood TV heroes brought to gigantic life, but to see them in pop-culture context next to the fifty other super robot shows and the Manga Matsuri festival screenings and the theatrical feature films is a revelatory experience. Also, some of the exhibits are charmingly translated.
And when you get back to the station, enjoy a soft drink from the vending machine painted to resemble the friendly conductor from GALAXY EXPRESS 999!