Having just returned from a trip to Japan, I have a few things to share. First up is the much-hyped Good Smile Cafe, which I had the pleasure of touring during my visit. The cafe is periodically restyled based on the anime du jour, and this time it was, not surprisingly, modeled after Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This means that everything from the decorations to the food was created in the theme of that series.
I'd seen several photos of the cafe before, but wasn't sure what to expect to find when I entered. Would the idea of an anime/figure-themed restaurant live up to its promise? Read on for a photo tour and my impressions! Also, I'll do my best to keep spoilers at a minimum, but some images may happen to verge into spoiler territory for Madoka Magica, so consider this fair warning if you wish to remain entirely unspoiled.
While one would expect the cafe to be in Akihabara, or a more otaku-centric area of Japan, it's actually located in Matsudo, right next to GSC headquarters. This means it's a bit out of the way if you don't have a reason to head to Matsudo City already, but that didn't stop me from going!
Upon arriving at the cafe, I was greeted with a line of people waiting to enter. It took about 15 minutes to get in, but apparently it can take much longer if you arrive at the beginning of a new redesign. Good Smile Cafe had been branded the Madoka Cafe (or officially "Cafe Du Madoka Magica") for a while now, so the line you see here is relatively short. In particularly busy times, you're limited to an hour inside (there is literally an hourglass on every table), which should be plenty of time to eat and take in everything on display.
Outside the cafe, you can check out some Madoka displays, including a light-up sign featuring the series' protagonist. You can check out the menu while you wait, or converse with other like-minded otaku.
Upon entering, I took in the overwhelming amount of Madoka merchandise and decorations filling the cafe. The lighting is relatively dim, which I'm not sure was done as a power-saving measure (lights are out all over Japan right now due to the quake) or to simply improve the ambiance.
To the left, there is a bar area, where you can view the chefs preparing your food. They also appear to serve liquor, as I noticed some bottles, but no one was drinking -- this was lunchtime after all.
Once seated, I noticed that all the placemats featured unique captures of scenes from the anime, which was a nice touch.
We were given water and presented a menu with a variety of food choices, several of which were Madoka-themed. The food was a little pricey, especially if you ordered from the "Madoka Magica Cafe Special Menu", but let's be honest -- you're paying for presentation, not quantity of food. This is your one chance to order, so get it right! Once you order, you should have plenty of time to browse the displays, which I did.
By far, the biggest attraction is a (roughly) 1/2-scale recreation of the third episode's caterpillar witch (Charlotte). There's a stool below so you can stick your head in its mouth for a photo op if you can't quite reach.
Let's just say I didn't need a stool.
Behind Charlotte are wallscrolls of various witches from the series, as well as numerous Nendoroid Puchis.
Below them are tons and tons of Nendoroids on display. Ten points if you can name them all!
Dark Saber, I believe the only scale figure on display, is hiding in the corner, prepared to attack ...
Next to all the Nendoroids is a table with a bunch of notebooks in which you can write and sketch your own Madoka-themed illustrations. It's really neat to flip through them to get an idea of some of the talent that passes through the cafe.
Beyond all the wall scrolls, images from the series are projected on the back wall. There are couches to relax on if you have the time (notice GSC's mascot plushie on the couch to the left). But there wasn't time to relax; I had to take it all in!
One wall featured framed pictures of witches from the show.
Another featured a humongous wall scroll with promotional illustrations of Madoka below.
Madoka Kaname in Nendo form was also on display, and let me tell you, she looks great in person, even better than in the pictures I've seen! She's shaping up to be one of the best Nendoroids yet released.
Below Madoka, in the same display case, are a few weapons from Homura Akemi's vast arsenal. A nice touch if I do say so myself (although those unfamiliar with the series would probably be wondering what the heck a gun, a rocket launcher, and a grenade are doing in such a, ahem, moe environment).
Also on display is Nendoroid Gumako: Support Version with her bowl of Udon, along with the GSC-Seijin mascot. She's available for pre-order from GSC's online store (¥1000 of each purchase goes to the Japanese Red Cross!), with a ship date of October 2011.
We're almost to the food, but there's one more really cool thing I want to share! There are shelves filled with production designs of all the characters.
Of course Madoka's there, with her soul gem and shoes highlighted.
And then, Kyubey ... Need I say more?
There are also various sketches from the OP of the show. These are really neat to look at from a developmental standpoint. Okay, food's ready!
I ordered the Kyubey curry rice, obviously. The amount of detail put into the dish is impressive. He's got a rice head, ketchup eyes, a seaweed smile, and egg rings. It took me a while to figure out what the pepper was supposed to be, but it's the red circle on Kyubey's back. ¥850 (approximately US$10) just for curry rice is a little expensive (the soup to the right is not included), but like I said, you're paying for the presentation, not just the food.
I was told the drinks were ginger ale, but they tasted like club soda with syrup at the bottom (besides, I'm a firm believer that Vernors is the only true ginger ale). I recommend mixing before drinking! Each comes with a matching coaster featuring a character sporting the same color as the drink. Sayaka and Kyouko happened to be the two characters featured when I ordered, hence the blue and red drinks and coasters.
The rest of the food was great, too, and the presentation was wonderful. It actually cost less for the two meals you see to the right, but I was intent on having the Kyubey curry, dammit! (FYI, no chopsticks as the Japanese eat curry with a spoon.)
And half the fun involves eating Kyubey, admit it! There goes an ear (or wait, what is that appendage anyway?)!
Uh oh, Kyubey's seen better days. He's missing an eye (and half his head).
One ear left...
And he's gone. If you've watched the series, you know you wanted to do this at some point. Besides, you know there will be another to replace him.
Speaking of Kyubey, check out the paper placemats. I didn't use mine and rolled them up to bring back, but how would you like to eat lunch with that face staring back at you anyway? Those eyes...
I needed to head to the bathroom before I left, so I stopped by that area.
For the sake of completion, I decided to photograph the men's and women's bathroom door tags. Women get Madoka, and men ...
... get Kyubey. WHY, GSC? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?! *SOB*
And what would this article be without an interior shot of the bathroom. Nothing too fancy, but GSC has stuck their logo on pretty much everything in there. I heard the women's bathroom had figures in it, but I didn't have the balls to enter (or the other way around, perhaps).
On the way out is plenty of merch. Overpriced Nendorids lined the shelves, and wall scrolls were available to purchase.
There were also lots of t-shirts, figmas, and a few scale figures, but hardly any of the t-shirts were available, only a couple featuring Sayaka Miki (apparently the least popular character if number of t-shirts sold is any indication).
The above is my favorite, but unfortunately they were sold out. It's one I could wear without feeling completely ashamed of myself showing it off in public.
All in all, I thought the cafe was great. The food was decent, not worth writing home about, but a very cool presentation. The extras you get (I didn't even mention the witch's kiss stickers and I'm sure I'm forgetting more) make up for the relatively high price of the food, and it's neat to view things you can't see anywhere else. If you're in Japan and are a fan of GSC, I recommend checking out Good Smile Cafe -- you won't regret it. There's certainly nothing out there like it!
And be sure to check the gallery for pics that didn't make the article!
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