Monday, November 14, 2016

Sydney: A Piss Weak Anime Shopping Guide

Back in the 1990’s there used to be fan created guides of lists of anime shops in local areas on places like newsgroups like arts.rec.anime. Unfortunately lists like that have disappeared. If you want to find “bricks and mortar” stores locally, you have to do a bit of searching. Surprisingly this can be a slightly difficult. It amazes me that no one keeps list of stores any more. Then again if you can get it easier, cheaper and quicker from online store, why in heck would you bother with physical stores?

But after compiling lists for stores in Japanese cites, I thought it would be fun to do guides for local shops. After getting my Opal card on Thursday (which I got for a future trip so I could get from Central Station to the airport easily), on a whim I decided to go up to Sydney and attempt to compile a list of shops for my blog. Admittedly I haven’t actually been to Sydney for at least five years. These days I only go to Central Station and then on to the airport and never visit the actual city. I admit that for this particular trip to Sydney I had visions of the cool record stores and anime shops that were there in the 1990’s. My hopes would soon be dashed though. Since the Olympics, Sydney CBD looks horribly rundown. Leaving Central Station and walking along Eddy Avenue, the first thing I noticed was all the shops along the street are all closed and bordered up except one café and a 7-Eleven. There are homeless people everywhere, young foreign backpackers roaming the streets ready to exploited by local recruiters, and the city seems to be in a state of disrepair, covered in a fine layer of grime and graffiti. There’s also the ongoing construction for the tramline up George Street. And as always, it gets hot and humid, even in spring. The city looks and feels ugly and uninviting.

Unfortunately most of the stores are in the CBD. Below I’ve listed the stores of interest in alphabetical order;

Anime At Abbotsford
Main Store
Address: 318 Great North Road, Abbotsford
Phone: (02) 9712 1418
Opening Times: Everyday 9am to 6:30pm, except Sunday, closes at 5pm

CBD Store
Address: Shop 125, First Floor, Prince Centre, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket
Phone:  (02) 9281 9355
Opening Times: Everyday 10am to 6:30pm

Easily the biggest and best anime shops in Sydney. I think this shop opened in 2007 in Abbotsford (hence the name of the store). Admittedly I have never been out to the store in Abbotsford, but the city store near Chinatown is just jam packed with figures including figma, Nendoroids, S.H.Figuarts and various arcade crane game prizes. Of course there are also a ton of regular figures from manufacturers such as Good Smile and Kotobukiya. The Abbotsford shop also stocks some general pop culture items such as POP Vinyl figures. The online version of the shop stocks artbooks, however neither shop has them on display from what I’ve seen. The prices are relatively decent when compared to online shops. While it’s pretty easy to find the shop in Abbotsford, the one in the Prince Centre is a little more difficult to locate. If you go into the proper Prince Centre entrance on Quay Street, go up the escalators to the first floor, walk through the glass door on the balcony area and the shop is out in that area. The Abbotsford store also holds regular events.

AnimeWorks
Address: 259 Broadway, Glebe
Phone:  (02) 8041 3913
Opening Times: Everyday 10am to 7pm, except Saturday, closes at 5pm, Sunday, closes at 4pm

Just my luck, this shop was shut for the day when I visited. Apparently the owner went to a convention in another state for the weekend as a vendor. This part of town looks really rundown and shifty. Right next door to AnimeWorks is the most infamous “rub and tug” massage parlour in Sydney. Really not a good look or perhaps the best place to have an anime shop, but whatever… From what I could see through the windows and in their online shop, while the do have a heavy anime bent in the stock, there’s also a fairly large percentage of general pop culture items. It seems one wall is filled with POP Vinyl figures. They also stock Gundam model kits, various kinds of merchandise such as towels and key rings, plush toys, some manga, t-shirts, some cosplay items and of course figures galore. Prices seem rather reasonable and competitive.

Books Kinokuniya
Address: Shop RP2.2, Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9262 7996
Opening Times: Everyday 10am to 7pm, except Thursday, closes at 9pm, Sunday, 11am to 6pm

The local branch of the biggest book chain in Japan. Certainly this branch isn’t as good as some of the branches in Japan, however it surprisingly does stock a lot of Japanese magazines, manga and books. When I went a few years back, I was really disappointed at the lack of artbooks. This time I was really surprised at the stock they had. They must stock at least a couple hundred different titles including four different “Love Live!” artbooks. There’s also quite a number of different weekly manga anthologies, loads and loads of manga and even a small selection of monthly anime magazines such as Animedia, Newtype, Megami and Animage. Of course the real problem is the price. It’s as if they’ve doubled the original cover price in yen and then converted it. In short, while the range is pretty damn good, it’s far easier and cheaper to order this stuff from Amazon.co.jp or elsewhere. Kinokuniya also stock manga in English (not too far from the entrance). It’s far more reasonably priced than their Japanese stock. Also the “manga cows” of times gone by don’t visit the store anymore, so it’s easier to get around.

Comic Kingdom
Address: 71 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9267 3629
Opening Times: Everyday 10am to 5:15pm, except Thursday, closes at 6:15pm, Saturday, 10am to 4:15pm, closed on Sunday

The oldest comic book store in Sydney which began back in the 1960’s I believe. I didn’t realise this shop had an infamous reputation for bad service and a “comic book guy” from “The Simpsons” type of owner. Apparently the shop was going to shut down in November last year, but here we are a year on and they’re still open. Admittedly there is little of interest for manga and anime fans; a small range of “Robotech” and “Battle of the Planets” back issue comics and various English language “hentai” manga from the late 1990’s. I think there is very little in the shop which was published in the 21st century. In terms of non-anime stuff, there are some interesting old annuals from the 1970’s and load of old sci-fi magazines from the same era and a little bit more modern down the back. I managed to snag a copy of “Fanfare” magazine from 1980 which has Captain Harlock on the cover and an 11 page article on anime by Fred Patten.

HobbyCo
Main Store
Address: Shop 50/53, Level 2, Queen Victoria Building, 429 - 481 George Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9264 4877
Opening Times: Everyday 10am to 6pm, except Thursday, closes at 9pm, Sunday, closes at 5pm

Rhodes Store
Address: Shop 60, Level 1, Rhodes Waterside Shopping Centre, Rhodes
Phone: (02) 8765 1165
Opening Times: Everyday 9am to 6pm, except Sunday, opens at 10am

MacArthur Square
Address: Shop C027, Level 1, 1 Gilchrist Drive, MacArthur Square Shopping Centre, Campbelltown
Phone: (02) 4627 5311
Opening Times: Everyday 9am to 5:30pm, except Sunday, opens at 10am

The only hobby store left in Sydney’s CBD by the looks of it. Naturally I only went to the shop in the CBD. Their main products they deal with are scale trains and model kits (a much undervalued hobby I think). I really think it’s unfortunate that practically no one outside hobby shops sell plastic model kits anymore... Anyway, the CBD HobbyCo sells just about every Bandai model kit on the market by the looks of it, including Gundam kits and a small section of Evangelion kits. In fact they had an episode of “Gundam Build Fighters” on an overhead TV playing in store. They also stock a wide range of Hasegawa’s Macross kits, a small range of Ultraman and crane game prize figures and fairly good range of figures including some “Gundam”, “Love Live!” and “Yamato 2199” figures. I’m always impressed at the amount of and type of anime related merchandise in this shop. There’s also a sizable range of Shonen Jump related figures and merchandise not far from the counter. The entrance to the CBD store has a bust of a Gundam one side and a huge Beargguy on the other. Looking at the pictures of the Rhodes store online, it seems that there isn’t much in the way of anime merchandise there.

Hondarake
Address: Suite 204, Level 2, 39 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9261 5225
Opening Times: Everyday 11am to 7pm, except Sunday, 12pm to 6pm, closed Tuesdays

To get to this second hand Japanese bookstore is an utter pain in the arse. Over the last decade or so, it’s been in several locations, however this one is the most hidden and out of the way. The only way you’d know it actually existed is its name in hiragana on its outside window, two stories up. To get there; go to the entrance of the building on Liverpool street (clearly marked “39”). Do not walk up the stairs. Walk straight through to the courtyard where on the other side where you’ll see a Japanese restaurant with taiko drums either side of its entrance. Turn around at in front of that restaurant entrance and you should see a glass elevator. Annoyingly the button is nowhere near the actual elevator (actually on the column to your right). Take the elevator to the second floor and Hondarake will be to your right. The shop’s name means “full of books”. It’s part of an obscure Japanese chain of second hand book shops, 14 in total, mostly in Kyushu but it also has branches in Aomori, Chiba and Tottori. Never heard of it? Not surprised. Why do they have a branch in Sydney? God only knows. The shop has second hand Japanese novels, magazines, a ton of manga, CDs, DVD and a few anime artbooks. There are some English subtitled and/or dubbed anime and Japanese films as well. Though I did manage to snag two “To Heart” artbooks, be warned, the range is really, really limited. The original store they had was a gold mine of anime magazines and manga (back in the early 2000’s). It does seem really piss poor now. The Japanese lady running it spoke in a mix of English and simple Japanese, which was a bit weird.

Kings Comics
Address: 310 Pitt Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9267 5615
Opening Times: Everyday 9am to 6pm, except Thursday, closes 8pm, weekends, 10am to 5pm

The other comic book shop in Sydney. This is very much like any comic book shop in the country; lots of Marvel and DC titles and merchandise, Walking Dead comics and merchandise Doctor Who merchandise etc., practically nothing to differentiate it from any other popular comic book store. As expected there is a fair wack of English language manga, but certainly not as well stocked as Kinokuniya. There are a couple of books on anime as well and a very limited range of figures, mostly S.H.Figuarts of popular stuff like “Sailor Moon”.

And that’s that for anime shops in Sydney. I walked through the Chinatown/Haymarket area as well as through the little arcades and was utterly surprised that all of the bootleg DVD shops had disappeared completely. I think I only saw one shop sell Chinese DVDs and Blu-rays in Market City, but you could tell it wasn’t their main business. All of the little hobby shops selling model kits had disappeared as well. I was also a little annoyed that general second hand book, CD and DVD stores had been wiped out from the CBD. I knew that the two Chinese newsagents, who stocked anime magazines and bootleg merchandise, had shut down in the mid 2000’s. Even Game Infinity had disappeared without a trace. In its place was just a blank white façade as if its existence had been wiped from everyone’s collective memory. But of course the internet has killed video stores and fandom has collectively shifted away from plastic model and garage kits to completed figures that sell for hundreds of dollars each. Though I don’t mind the stores that still exist, it was all a bit depressing really. Sure I don’t miss the horribly overpriced DVDs and shitty service of the Cartoon Gallery, but nostalgia for the 1990’s bit a little hard. Regardless I quite enjoyed my trip up to Sydney. However I don't think I'll be heading back any time soon.

I’m hoping to do post on whatever anime related shops still exist in Melbourne sometime in the future. I’m hoping to head down there sometime in mid or late 2017. I’m hoping things might be a bit better there.

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