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THE AKIBA: A Manga Guide to Akihabara by Makoto Nakajima (a J!-ENT Book Review)

October 19, 2008 by  



Photos from “The Akiba @2008 Japan Publications Trading Co., Ltd.”

“WOW!  I am absolutely impressed by this guide of Akihabara!  Not only does it provide you with pictures and information of popular maid cafes, video game stores, cosplay, electronics, figurines, retail stores, dojin-shi, restaurants and more… there is actually a fun, enjoyable manga storyline that provides information about Akihabara that I can simply proclaim this book as one, if not, the best printed reference in English for those who are interested in visiting or knowing about the Akiba!  Highly recommended!”

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BOOK: THE AKIBA: A Manga Guide to Akihabara

AUTHORS: Story and Art by Makoto Nakajima

COMPANY: Japan Publications Trading Co., Ltd.

PAGE COUNT: 98 pages

There are plenty of books in English for those interested in traveling to Japan but for people who are interested in visiting the city of Akihabara (the electric city in Tokyo known for its otaku-driven stores from maid cafes, anime figurines, dojinshi, cosplay, video games, etc.), finding a resource in English with detailed information is not that easy.

Also, for many travel books, there is always your standard mention of the city but what about a book on Akihabara written by otaku for otaku’s?

Well, “THE AKIBA: A Manga Guide to Akihabara” is not only an excellent resource, it’s one of the most enjoyable books from Japan distributed in the US courtesy of Kodansha America, that I really just am impressed by it’s information but also how it’s written in a way to not only keep the reader interested, intrigued but definitely a book that can encourage travel to the city.  It’s that fun!

The book is broken into two parts.  The first part is the manga and the second part is the actual guide to Akihabara.

Photos from “The Akiba @2008 Japan Publications Trading Co., Ltd.”

The manga is a very enjoyable storyline about a couple in Tokyo.  Hiroshi and Yoko.  One day, Hiroshi said that he will be stopping in Akiba (short for Akihabara) after work.  The next morning, Yoko starts to worry because not only has her boyfriend not come back from work, she finds out that he stopped working over a month ago.  This is not like him and she starts to worry.

She notices that he left behind his cell phone and also received a text message from a person named Okada who said that he will meet him at Raji-kan in front of Ayanami.  Who is Okada?  What is Raji-kan?  Why is he going to Akihabara?

This leads the trendy Yoko to the city of Akihabara.  A person who really never looked at the city all that much but has heard about the culture from newspapers and magazines.

This leads Yoko to the Raji-kan (or Radio Hall) building.  The interesting part of this manga is that it also shows actual pictures (in grayscale) of various things from Akihabara.  The magazines that are passed out by women in cosplay to the stores in buildings that Yoko is visiting.  Also, some maps as well of where things are located.

So, while searching for her boyfriend, she runs into Okada-san, a rental display case manager  (for figurines) at a hobby shop but is also a hardcore otaku (and cosplayer) who loves the way of life in Akihabara.

Okada gives her information of why he was to meet Hiroshi but Yoko through running around Akihabara for the day, really doesn’t understand Akihabara all that much and asks Okada for his help.  The two go on a journey to find Hiroshi and Yoko begins to understand that her boyfriend is not what she thought he would be.  That despite his cool look, he is an otaku that frequents Akihabara quite a bit.

Through their adventures, will Yoko accept the otaku lifestyle and the way things are in Akihabara?  Will she find Hiroshi?  Also, does Okada start to have feelings for Yoko (or the sense of having a woman by his side in Akihabara).  You’ll have to read to find out!

The manga was just so fun to read and I just found it so informative of the various shops featured, that I was very happy to see manga used as a educational book (even explaining a little of the history of how Akihabara became the way it is) to an informative reference book with maps and information on shops featured in the actual manga storyline.

Without spoiling the storyline, all I can say is that the adventures of Yoko and Okada in their search for Hiroshi was very enjoyable and I have no doubt in my mind, those who are interested in Akihabara will learn from this manga, and of course, this book in general.

Photos from “The Akiba @2008 Japan Publications Trading Co., Ltd.”

The second part of the book features the “Shop & Restaurant Guide to Akiba” and this section is in full color.  Not only do you get the history of the Akiba but nearly 30-pages of detailed information on maid cafes, large retail stores, restaurants, PC stores, figures, games, dojin-shi, audio equipment, cosplay, arcades and other stores.

With the book arranged by Otaba (Otaba is a social networking service community of the otaku, by the otaku and for the otaku), I would imagine that the shops selected are the best in Akiba and what is recommended.  So, you get a photo, information and also the address, phone number and store or shop hours as well.

The book is about 8.5 x 10, so the book is large and not small.  The manga art was pretty cool and the whole “Genshiken”-like (title of a popular anime series about otaku, some who are cool otaku and a girlfriend who is more trendy but loves her boyfriend even though he is an otaku)  storyline definitely made me interested.

But it’s just the overall concept and how well it was executed in order for a reader not to be just drawn in by the storyline but to see photos and maps incorporated to the manga storyline that made it even better.

And of course, the shop and restaurant guide is just the icing in the cake when it comes to this book.  Very informative and it truly is a well-done reference book for the type of shops and restaurants that would attract otaku.

I’ve owned many Japanese travel books and even have interactive CD’s and audio books that are educational but “THE AKIBA: A Manga Guide to Akihabara” is definitely one of the best out there!  Granted, it focuses primarily on Akihabara but for many otaku, that’s the only city that they probably want to focus on and spend their hard earned money on.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people bought two copies, one to keep at home as a reference and one to keep with themselves while visiting the various shops and restaurants in Akihabara.

All in all, an excellent reference with an enjoyable manga storyline that I highly recommend!

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