Monday, October 26, 2009

Toei Studios Gallery

Edit: I know I said that I wasn't planning on coming back out here right away, but since I'm beefing up the List of Anime and Manga Galleries, I decided that I'd return with my camera recharged and take a few shots. While I was doing that, the security guard came out of the guard shack next to the gate to invite me into the gallery to look around more. He was a really nice guy, and he let me take the photo of the Arale-chan dolls in the shack widow.

Toei Animation Co. is the biggie in terms of anime studios in Japan. Their titles include Dragonball and Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Slump, Sailor Moon, Galaxy Express 999, Mazinger Z, Mahoutsukai Sally, One Piece, Slam Dunk, Gegege no Kitaro and the newly released Thriller Restaurant. They've taken on outsourcing work from the U.S. on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, My Little Pony and G.I. Joe, among many others. They've got a couple of studio locations, but the one with a gallery that's open to the public is in Nerima.

To get to the gallery, start from Ikebukuro in Tokyo (from Shinjuku, Ikebukuro is 4 stops north on the Yamanote line). In the Ikebukuro station complex, aim east for the Seibu department store and then follow the signs to the Seibu Ikebukuro station. As of October, 2009, the ticket to Ouizumi Gakuen station (about 10 stops out) was 230 yen ($2.50 USD). At Ouizumi Gakuen, take the north exit. At the street, go along the station to the right about 50 feet (on the right, you'll see a big Galaxy Express 999 mural behind the bus stop) then take the diagonal cross street northeast 3 blocks to the next major intersection. Turn right (east) and walk to the second set of street lights. There will be a koban (police box) on the left side of the street at the intersection. Turn left in front of the koban, and you'll know you're going in the correct direction if you see a sign for "Create Este" up ahead. Go past "Create Este" 3 blocks and you'll see the Toei Studio buildings on your right. You'll need to sign in at the gate (country and name only) and you'll be given a badge. You're only allowed to visit the gallery area on the first floor of the first building past the parking lot. Fortunately, the gallery is free. The map is here.

Inside the door, there's a long hallway lined with posters from many of the TV shows mentioned above. There is an office area on the left, but there's nothing in it to look at. At the end of the hall are two rooms. The first has more of the posters, life-sized statues of the girls from "Pretty Cure", plush stuffed characters from "One Piece", and samples of the artwork used to make Mazinger Z and a couple other shows. In the middle of the room is a 20+ foot tall statue of Mazinger Z, and in the corners are little TV sets playing the opening and closing credits pieces from several of the shows. The second room has hundreds of figures made from the characters of the shows, a glass case filled with DVD collections, and some example goods. There was a goods shop, but it was closed when I visited. There's a second hallway with a camera room hosting old film shooting and editing equipment, and an editing room where one guy was working on a computer, but this room was off-limits to the public. Attached to the figures room is a rest area with vending machines selling various soft drinks and canned coffees, and a TV that had been left switched off.

(The rest of the studio complex is across the street, behind this sign.)

It's a fun little gallery to visit, but unless you're looking at the artwork to see how animation is created, you can blow through everything in under 20 minutes. It's best to go with a group and make it a shared experience. And it is free. Note that the Mazinger Z statue and some of the other displays are part of a rotating exhibit that gets changed periodically. What you see in the gallery may be different than what's described here, depending on when you go.

(Click on the strip to expand it.)

There are some fliers and brochures describing the company, located inside the door. There's also a small selection of film strips cut from the master rolls that you can take for free and use as bookmarks (they ask that you only take one strip per person).

Be aware that Oizumi Gakuen station is a proud supporter of Galaxy Express 999. There's a statue of the conductor in the station but you have to look for it; the outside of the station on the north side has the train painted on the wall; there are a few banners for the movie hanging from the street poles, and above the banners are replicas of the train floating over the poles. Some news about the paintings on two of the Seibu trains can be found here. I asked about the trains at the station and was told that they don't run on a fixed schedule. You have to call the home station and ask where they are at any given time.

Tourist Info
Toei's Official page

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