Thirty years ago, there was no anime revolution taking the country by storm. Cosplay was not even a word that most Americans understood. There was virtually nowhere for the true Otaku (Manga/Anime enthusiast) to go to satisfy their obsession. Slowly, corner comic shops and basement record stores became host occasionally to a corner shelf or a small countertop display with a couple of figurines and a few manga that nobody knew quite what to make of, but were cool. Sometimes the shop owners were rewarded with a sale, even.
Ten years later, that corner shelf had evolved to an entire shelf at the comic store, and even a section at the local Barnes and Noble which catered to this emerging Otaku cult. Nobody but the initiated knew what they were, but they were there for a new generation of youngster to wander in and explore. A beachhead was established in this invasion of Japanese culture, and people started to notice. By the time another decade had passed, the invasion had been taken to the next level. Comic conventions had as many attendees dressed up as characters from Sailor Moon and Naruto as from the Marvel and DC favorites. Cosplay done the Japanese way had suddenly become cool enough to bring the Otaku out of their mother’s basement and into the sunlight. That little shelf in the back of the corner comic shop had reached the next level of its progression as well. Last September, Las Vegas got a look at the next stage when a store called Anime Revolution opened up in the Town Square shopping center. Evolution complete.
Shop owner Jacob Anderson caught a vision for what this growing Otaku nation wanted, and where they would come spend their money, and he made it a reality. Not a comic shop or a novelty shop with a shelf of trinkets imported from Japan, he knew that this was a market of the truly obsessed. Nothing but authenticity, and an understanding of his consumers, could gain the loyalty of this target audience. A little pageantry, visual marketing, and taking the steps to provide an actual experience for his customers have made Anime Revolution a real success.
Guests are greeted every time they walk in the door. They are not just greeted, but they are welcomed. There is always a Cosplayer in the store, making it clear to the Otaku who enter that they are home, and among those that understand them. Providing a place to come and find the unique items relating to the stories they love is one thing, but understanding the community spirit and the Japanese culture which is as much a part of being an anime fan as the stories themselves makes all of the difference. In fact, the store has been asked to participate in the Aki Matsuri Japanese Festival being held at the Rio on October 24 and 25. It is a significant endorsement for the shop to be recognized as not just another retail outlet trying to capitalize on a trend, but a venue for those with a true appreciation for the media and the culture.
Pretense and posturing are not a part of the environment at Anime Revolution. There is a big video screen in the back which can become a venue for informal video game contests. Customers can come in on a weekend and throw down with the owner of the shop head to head. There are smiles and jokes on the lips of every employee which are sincere and infectious. They will recognize what customers are looking for no matter how obscure the reference, and will be excited to meet someone else who gets it. When merchandising genius comes together with an actual appreciation for the clientelle and a desire to cater to them, unique gems like Anime Revolution are the result.
By Jim Malone