Posted on January 14th, 2013
Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 3:57 pm
So, after over decade of existence and a change of ownership and name, Anime Kingdom/Anime Raku, the anime store that was critical not only to my development as an anime fan, but as a human being as I made a lot of life long friends there, went out of business in October 2012. I only found out this past weekend when I was running some errands while visiting the US. I was pretty shocked by it.
Truthfully, it was probably a pretty inevitable thing. Niche retail doesn’t survive gentrification, and hobby-oriented shops are niche pretty much no matter the hobby is. It doesn’t help that anime and manga as a physical retail medium as opposed to streamed and downloaded content has essentially been the end game for that market even while the physical market boomed from 2000-2007, but given all of the stores selling figurines and plushies up here in Canada, I have to think it wasn’t just the content being sold that was the problem. A lot of the pieces of downtown Bellevue have changed radically over the past decade or so, and the financial crisis and the dot com bust were always ever only going to be speed bumps in Bellevue’s eventual growth from bedroom suburb to high-rise condos and such. The buildings that sat half-finished during the years where I made it downtown every Friday to pick up a stack of new manga and DVDs, and to hang out with the friends that probably kept me from being a hapless shut-in were all finished years ago. Therefore, it only makes sense that some of the last 1-2 and story retail spots in that area would eventually succumb to the bulldozer. That’s not to say the building itself has been flattened yet, but apparently it will be.
It also wasn’t all great memories in the long term either. Friendships that seemed at the time to be immutable were felled so rapidly it hardly seemed possible. People grew up, got married and simply disappeared from the social circle not out of malice, but maturity. Even I’m part of that – I hadn’t bought anything from the store in years, not because I wasn’t a fan, but because I couldn’t reasonably be spending big money on school and anime at the same time. My purchases have narrowed into very specific releases, and are pre-ordered from Amazon. I’m sure other folks from those days have made the same kinds of trade offs.
Still, I’ll always reflect fondly on those days. They provided a lot of fodder for my blog posts, and while some of them are coated in the most embarrassing fanboyism (not that this post isn’t, and not that I won’t probably regret this meta-aside a decade from now looking back,) I will always cherish the memories themselves. Yeah, it’s bland and banal as all get out to fondly remember taking the bus down from Bellevue Community College, walking in the winter cold down the alleyways, and going in the back entrance to Anime Kingdom to see a group of good friends talking about the latest episodes of the newest shows. It’s plebian to cherish walking out that back entrance across the alley to the Starbucks attached to the Barnes and Noble (whose manga selection sucked back then, and who didn’t have 10% pre-order discount,) and buying a venti peppermint mocha and a slice of lemon pound cake or a chocolate croissant with your friends, then walking back to that store and talking geek stuff until the store closed at 7. I know many other people’s early 20’s are way more exciting than mine. However, they were mine, and I will always look on them fondly.
Rather, I loved that chapter of my nerd life, and there can no be question that it is closed.