I really do. So much.
Today I was thinking about my old neighborhood back in P-town and everything I miss about it. Unfortunately, a lot of the things I miss no longer exist, including the Anime Cafe.
The Anime Cafe was the coolest place in town. Possibly the coolest place anywhere. I used to put my chihuahua, Charlie, in my backpack and walk there after school to look at the manga, and the t-shirts, and wish that I could afford the action figures and the movies. They always let you look at the comics even though you weren't really supposed to be taking them out of their protective wrappers and putting your greasy hands on them (^_^)
Why would I miss a store? Aside from the fact that it was part of my exceptionally nerdy, coming-of-age/formative years, my nostalgia owes a lot to the authenticity of the place.
Some of their staff was volunteer, they had no air conditioning, advertising was by word-of-mouth and handmade signs, projects were always halfway done because everyone was too busy reading the books and discussing the movies to paint the walls or organize the shelves.
The carpet was dingy and the lighting was all wrong, but they made up for it by plastering the walls and windows with the newest, cheeriest import posters. Smiling faces with giant eyes hawking strangely shaped candies and overlain with enormous neon kanji characters called out from every surface.
Workers were genuinely excited about the product; they were super fans; otaku in a good way. I had hoped that their dedication would keep the place alive forever, but these days, a hair salon stands in its place.
What I'm driving at with this post, in my round-about way, is "authenticity." What makes a business authentic? Is it the specific product being sold? Is it the way employees feel about the business?
Does the business have to be struggling to be authentic? If so, what happens when a struggling business finally develops its wings and begins to take off? Does it suddenly become fake?
Or is authenticity simply a product of marketing? Is it possible to pretend your way to an "authentic" business? This is something I think about when I buy an ice cream cone from a Ben and Jerry's store. Judging from the marketing materials I've seen from the company, I feel that they are an "authentic" company. But I don't really have a verifiable reason to feel that way. I've never been to their parent company, I've never worked there, I've never asked any of their employees how they feel about the company...and yet, with their brochures and their signs and their slogans about recycling, they have me convinced.
Whatever that secret authenticity factor is, the Anime Cafe had it. That authenticity is something that my adult life is often lacking, and it leaves me longing. If only I had the answers to my barrage of questions, I would infuse my life and my work with authenticity...or perhaps I already have it...maybe I just need a brochure that says I do.
The anime art style continues to influence my work. I often utilize bright colors and exagerated figures as a result of the Japanese anime art I was exposed to through my friends in high school (Thanks Kym and Linda).
If you are interested in learning about this art style, you can read more on The Anime Project website.