A three-foot-tall statue of Arale, the world-famous manga character from Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump, greets me at the entrance to Anime Attic.
“Anime Attic, A Place for Anime Addicts!” reads the tagline.
“Please kill me,” reads my mind right now if you are an ESPer (or if you are reading this right now).
Listen, I can bitch all day about how Toriyama sold out by licensing Arale to an American company that specializes in overpriced markups of import goods from the Eastern Union, but at the end of the day, that guy is worth hundreds of millions and I work a part-time job at a bank.
None of that changes the fact that I am now forced to enter Anime Attic as part of my newest investigation into the devious, sort of airheaded supervillain known as Mighty Slammer.
And when those automatic doors open to the first floor entrance, whoo boy do I get a whiff of anime fan musk.
You know the smell. It’s got a hint of yesterday’s deodorant mixed with thirty six hours’ worth of sweat, and a hint of Magic the Gathering if you really sniff up close. An especially pungent scent at the heat of the summer. I imagine they sell this at high-class Paris perfume shops and call it Le Nerde Turbo, or something like that.
I try to keep from breathing as much as I possibly can, and enter the Anime Attic. I’m saving Atlanta, I repeat to myself. I’m saving Atlanta. I’m sacrificing everything to save Atlanta.
The place is as I remember from the last time I was made to come to one of these. Rows and rows of shelves crammed together with barely enough space to walk through them, haphazardly plastering merchandise in every direction. Instead of sorting by product, it’s sorted by niche fandom. The mecha gunpla kits are over by the front (they look the most appealing to window shoppers), the Gojira/Ultraman kaiju stuff is in the back near the register, and so are all the signed posters of idol singers.
Speaking of idols (have I mentioned how much I hate idols?), the real crime here is one entire aisle that just sells CDs and cassette tapes of idols and idol groups from all over the Eastern Union. Surely anyone coming here will have already bought all of those long ago; what, are they hoping the creepy fans of one underage singer will chance upon the cover of a brand-new one and decide to become a fan of her too?
And the store isn’t just this room. There’s four floors; the second one, I hear, is dedicated exclusively to selling pins and keychains of cute anime boys for teenage girls to stick on their bags.
Wall scrolls hang up from the first floor ceiling, showing off scantily clad pink haired women who look embarrassed and unnerved by the prospect that you shall bed them soon. Great taste by the store owners to put that up where it can all be seen.
There’s also anime figurines all over the place. About half of them are various anime boys and anime girls in action poses, since they are indeed all from action manga for kids. I recognize the pirate hero Trifle from the classic comic series Legend of the Perilous Seas, a rip-roaring adventure that I used to read all the time as a kid back when I subscribed to King Comics. There’s also, of course, rows upon rows of Arale figures, and a few from Toriyama’s post-Dr. Slump comic called Zone Space, which is famous and good in its own right I guess, but it’s so serious and not funny at all that it really never appealed to me.
I decide to ignore all of the merchandise from now on (even the little section featuring that hit new yuri comic Kuchibiru Network) and march straight to the register, where I will figure out where the holo-booths are and finally—
Ah, shit! It’s her.
“Ah, shit,” she says, “it’s you.”
Staring, or rather glaring, me in the face is that pig-tailed, scowling white girl who haunts my nightmares. Or at least my coffee shop-related nightmares. It’s Tony the barista. Tony with an “ah.” Please do not call her Tony with an “oh.” Trust me.
I really thought a place like this would have a robot cashier, not a human. Especially considering the clientèle of this joint, you’d think they’d want to strip out a lot of the person-to-person interaction.
Once I come to mentally accept that I shall be sneered at for the remainder of my time in Anime Attic, I gather up my feelings and greet her. “Hello, Tony with an ‘ah,’” I say. Oops, that was more aggressive than I intended. But you know what? She deserves it. She’s a jerk!
“Gosh, you’re really mean,” she says. “Well I guess that makes sense, considering…”
She shrugs. “It’s hopeless. You’ll never learn how to be a decent person. I’m done trying.”
What did I do to this poor woman?!
“Listen, I don’t know why you’re working at Anime Attic n—”
“I have more than one job,” Tony says. “I’m a young adult who needs money. Got a problem with that?”
“No, I just mean like, you don’t seem like the type to, uh…”
Her glare deepens further than I could have ever imagined. “I am personally offended by your implications. It’s just a job. I just work here. Okay? Now, what the hell do you want?”
“Uh…” I’ve honestly almost forgotten my real purpose here; this verbal lashing has been so intense that’s it’s wracked my brain. “Oh. I want to ask where the holo-booths are. I’d like to see them.” And investigate them for possible criminal activity, because I am an awesome hero, but she would definitely not tell me if I added that part.
Tony rolls her eyes. “Of course it’s the holo-booths. Fourth floor. You can’t miss them.”
“Oh, you actually told me. Thank you!”
“Just because you’re a shitty customer doesn’t mean I’m a shitty employee.”
“Wow, you actually helped me out. I’d shake your hand if I didn’t think you’d slap me.”
“Hurry, go. There’s other customers waiting.”
There’s not a soul in line. But I take her advice and walk up the stairs to the fourth floor. I pass the pins and keychains floor, I pass the floor for yuri-related goods, and I reach the fourth floor, where the holo-booths…
I don’t know why my mind didn’t even consider the possibility that holo-booths in Anime Attic, let alone ones on the second-highest floor, were going to be in the porn section.
But here they are. The R-18 section of Anime Attic…