August 14, 2008
This all began with Dai Sato. He's been on the writing teams behind Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Samurai Champloo, and Eureka Seven. He's listed as working for FrogNation, a company that specializes in cross-continental anime and videogame projects. Delighted to find a map to FrogNation HQ, I (and my trusty partner) headed out. We were armed with gifts of chocolate and maple cookies, plus my Master's thesis questionnaire on anime and the creative process. We had a map. We had Suica cards. We were prepared.
Or so we thought.
The thing about ambushing creators is that they might not be there in the first place. This is a big holiday season in Japan -- the whole city feels like it's on summer vacation -- and maybe that was the case here. But for all appearances, FrogNation HQ appears abandoned. First, it's in a converted residential space, the first floor of which has become storage for a second-hand shop which appears to no longer exist. No one answers the door, the mailbox is full, and the buildings behind it are all being bought up for condos. Despite the website being live, no one has answered emails.
Are you out there, Sato-san? It's me, Madeline.
Of course, the news isn't all bad. Despite the fruitless attempt to find FrogNation, we did discover the Yoyogi Animation Gakuin, an "anime school" nearby. Once again, however, they were closed. But I'm a fan of any school which allows this guy to stand guard. He's a six-foot high model of some kind, and he's got wicked claws and a pretty scary face. This photo doesn't really do him justice. I'm not sure which project he's from. (If anyone does, let us know.) But I'm sure saying hello to him is a great way to start off your school day.
In addition, we discovered the generosity and patience of the people we encountered. Construction workers, police officers, and everyday salarymen and -women were eager to help us. One man in particular brought us to the building in question, and even called FrogNation for us from a payphone on his own dime. (The phone number didn't work.) I ended up giving this man some of Sato-san's chocolate, because he certainly earned it. Wherever you are, 'tou-san, I hope you enjoy your sweets.
Stay tuned for more posts as I sojourn through Mitaka in an attempt to give my favourite animators their due...in chocolate form.