Kannagi @ UFOTable Cafe

The clock is about to strike 18:00. It’s a cool Spring evening in Nakano, and I’m outside the station orienting myself with this map I printed out from the UFOTable Cafe website, with the goal in mind being to see the Kannagi exhibit currently on display there.

This cafe is farther then I thought. Shit on the map always looks closer than it actually is. After constantly thinking I’m overshooting, I finally look up and find myself at the cafe.

I’m pretty surprised by the vibe as I walk in. The decor is pretty normal looking. In fact, if you didn’t happen to notice the giant display of lineart right across from you, or the table of promotional material right by the door, you’d think this is a normal place. After some waiting awkwardly, the waitress finally notices me tells me I can sit anywhere I please in that cheerful, Japanese service person tone.

I sit down. To my right is a couple on what looks like a date. On the other side is some dude reading manga, and a girl who seems to be studying for midterms. The music coming through the sound system ranges from blues, to jazz, to… is that Shibuya-kei? I’m not well versed in music beyond anime songs, but I’m sure I heard some Brazil 66 and Pizzicato Five. This is the quite the otaku hipster hangout.

After a rather long look through the “Drink+Food Menu”, I holler out the ol’ “sumimasen!” Moments later, the same waitress comes to inquire about my order. I get a curry and pineapple juice. Once my food comes, I ask the woman if I can photograph my curry and juice.

“Sure,” she says, “in fact, you can take photos all over the cafe, except for the exhibit, of course.”

“Is that so?” I reply back, slightly suprised.

This sure isn’t the typical otaku joint–in addition to playing normal music, photography isn’t totally kinshi. Though, I guess they don’t have any reason to charge you 700 yen for a photo with one of the girls. However, the prices certainly are that of an otaku joint. All the drinks are over 400 yen, and the curry in front of me is 880.

That said, the meal was rather filling, and I was quite surprised I could even swing dinner here at all. With my food finished, I go over to the display space. It’s split into two levels, with the lower level being comprised of completed promotional art shown along side its respective lineart, some books, figures, and nice prints of all the ending illustrations. Lots of great artists here; Naruko Hanaharu, Okama, Azuma Kiyohiko, the Type Moon and Key artists… I almost wish I could buy these things, but I’m not that nuts over Kannagi. I should note that these two levels are split in a one-storey building, so I have to be a giant gaijin and duck down to see anything without bumping my head.

The second level is even worse–at one point you have to duck under a ceiling vent to see the rest of the display. It’s not an annoyance or anything, just probably not good for one’s back. The second level is composed entirely of sequences taken from the show.

A lot of key moments are on display, a good few of which I remember. The display opens with shots from the opening, then picks out certain bits in chronological order from the show as you go along. What’s really amazing about this is that each drawing is a beautiful work of art. Even while still, each individual drawing has a lot of movement to it, and you really begin to see why the animation in Kannagi was as kinetic as it was. That said, this display of cleaned pencil drawings isn’t quite as impressive as a display of cels, but you do what you can in this age of digital animation.

After going back and forth through the exhibit, I decide I have enough, pay for my meal, and head out the door. If you’re in the Tokyo area and happen to be a fan of such things, I highly recommend you check out this exhibit. It’s especially interesting if you’re an artist (or wannabe artist, like myself) and want to see what real pro work looks like, stripped of most of its polish. It’s also interesting if you want to see how all of the digital cartoons you watch start as pencil drawings. Go see it soon! I have no idea how long it’s going to be up for!