Atlantic Canada’s first full time anime and manga shop will be opening its doors in Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 2nd.
Hibiki anime shop was the brain child of Matthew Rawle, a Halifax resident who wanted to meet the demand for quality anime and manga merchandise in Halifax. For many maritime otaku (this reporter included) the amount of anime and manga merchandise available from traditional retailers was quite lackluster to say the least.
For Rawle, there’s a definite market for anime and manga merchandise but the demand for those goods is not being met by the traditional retailers. Mr. Rawle hopes to meet that demand with Hibiki anime shop.
Hibiki’s anime shop will have its grand opening on September 2nd and that weekend, Matthew Mercer, voice of Captain levi in the Attack on Titan English dub and Leon S.Kennedy in the Resident Evil video game series and Marisha Ray, TV host and Cosplayer will make their first ever Canadian appearance at Hibiki’s anime shop.
I got a chance to speak to Matthew Rawle, the owner of Hibiki’s and ask some questions about the shop, the otaku community in Halifax and of course anime.
CM: What inspired you to want to open an Anime/manga shop in Halifax?
MR: I had been an anime fan from way back, and I had really wished at the time that there were some place that catered more to my interests – i.e. there was somewhere local that I could get more than just DVDs and figures – but I had only really picked up the hobby again in the last three years or so. With the introduction of Crunchyroll and the revitalization of Toonami in intervening years, opening an anime store in Halifax made sense from a business perspective, but we also have a really great fan community here – almost 20% of fan-run panels at last year’s Hal-Con were anime-related, Animaritime’s practically right down the road, and there are a bunch of different groups that are active within the community in some form or another. You look at something like Anime North and see how big it has gotten, and while the Atlantic region isn’t near as big in terms of number of people, I’m certain that the passion is there. I’d really like to emphasize that I’m just a regular person – opening an anime store in Halifax is an idea that anybody could have had.
CM: What were the difficulties (if any) you had in getting hibiki’s started
MR: I think I’ve actually had it comparatively easy in trying to get a business started, and I’ve actually been really lucky, I think. I’ve been using social media since day one to initially see if there was any interest, and since to try to get the word out. Since the store is in the Halifax area, I was able to qualify for a loan through the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, which is a great organization that has provided startup money and additional funds to all kinds of great local businesses, including Games People Play and Giant Robot Comics. Through them, I also qualified for funding from Futurpreneur Canada, which was formerly the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. I pretty much lucked into a great location in south end Halifax which had formerly been a Japanese grocery. I’ve just been really, really lucky and fortunate to meet a bunch of people who believe in what I’m doing.
CM: What are the anime & manga titles that people are hoping Hibiki’s may carry when you open in September?
MR: I have been getting a lot of requests for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and for good reason; it’s really fortunate that Viz has picked up the rights to the first two parts of the series and have started reprinting the third. I’ve also gotten obviously a lot of requests for Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online merchandise. Anime culture is actually really diverse, with over 100 new properties a year, so while it’s really difficult for me to cater to fans of every single series, hopefully people will be able to come in, look around, and either find something they like or find something new.
CM: What kinds of merchandise will Hibiki’s carry in September?
MR: They say that it’s usually a good idea not to show your hand, so I can’t say for sure everything that we’ll end up carrying, due to a combination of wanting to surprise people when they walk in the door and not really knowing the totality of products that we’ll end up stocking. For the time being, people can expect anime DVDs and Blu-Rays, manga and light novels, wall scrolls, figures, Gunpla (Gundam plastic model kits), clear posters, and magazines. A lot of this merchandise is imported from Japan, and in my experience merchandise moves fast, so we’re going to be full of stuff that you simply can’t get anywhere else, locally or otherwise. If someone wants something but it’s not something that we’d usually have, we are going to be doing special orders as well.
CM: During the grand opening week for Hibki’s anime shop, you’ll have Matthew Mercer and Marisha Ray at the shop, which will be the first Canadian appearance for both of them, How difficult (if at all) was it to get them to come to Halifax for the grand opening?
MR: It actually was nowhere near as difficult as one might think it would be. I had initially wanted to bring in Bryce Papenbrook, as this was back around the time that he had just been announced as the voice of Eren in Attack on Titan. I contacted his booking agent, A. Jinnie McManus of Point of Contact Booking, and we sort of worked out the nuts and bolts – she usually books clients for conventions, but she was very accommodating, and when things ultimately fell through due to a scheduling conflict, she recommended Matthew instead, and Marisha is sort of tagging along with him. It’s been fortunate that in the time since it was announced we were going to be bringing him in, Matthew’s gotten more than a few high-profile roles in series like Kill la Kill and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. It’s sort of an experiment, because if it goes well I’ll definitely be looking at bringing in more voice actors for similar appearances in the future – Jinnie’s client list has some of the biggest names in the business right now, but it would be for the fans, because while we do have Johnny Yong Bosch coming for Hal-Con this year, there is ultimately a one-year period between one Hal-Con and the next. I want to give people appearances to look forward to outside of Hal-Con’s structure, and as long as it’s financially feasible for me to do so, it’ll more than likely happen.
CM: When deciding on making Hibiki’s a reality, how did the state of the anime market play in that decision?
MR: This is actually a very good question. I spoke above about Crunchyroll, which completely revolutionized the anime market and brought anime to more consumers than ever before. Things like the simuldub of Space Dandy and the relatively short amount of time it took for Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan to actually get on television shows that there is a definite interest in anime culture. The market had truthfully slumped a bit, the reasons for which were almost exactly like the video game market crash of 1984 – licensors were picking up shows, any shows they could get their hands on, regardless of quality, and releasing them. Obviously that didn’t fly, and you see licensors being more selective and thoughtful with what they ultimately choose to bring over, and what gets dubbed and what doesn’t. It was kind of a sea change now that we’re seeing Japanese companies, through subsidiary publishers – Aniplex of America, NISA, Viz Media – releasing their products into the American market, taking shows that were never intended to leave Japan and finding international success with them. TV Tokyo, one of Japan’s largest terrestrial broadcasters, actually has a significant financial stake in Crunchyroll. Basically, Japanese production companies have come to care about the international markets, and as opposed to just licensing their shows to whoever wants them, they want to strive to create the best possible product on a world stage, which is also why sometimes you’ll only see a DVD release or only a Blu-Ray release of a particular property.
And the final question
CM: What are your favorite anime series and manga series?
MR: Of all of the questions, this is probably the most difficult, because there’s what I personally enjoy and then there’s what, you know, deserves the acclaim and the recognition.
For manga, I would probably have to choose Bokurano by Kitoh Mohiro. I can really only describe it as Evangelion-esque in construct, except much darker. It really showed me how powerful manga can be. There was an anime adaptation in 2006, but they changed some things and it’s generally considered an inferior product; Kitoh even called out the production on those changes. However, it did give us Ishikawa Chiaki’s “Uninstall”, one of the best opening themes to date.
Anime is really more my forte, and speaking of Evangelion, I absolutely must start by highlighting it as a seminal work. Out of everything I’ve watched, it has stuck with me the longest. I have really weird tastes, because I generally don’t actively dislike anything, so I can enjoy a fanservice-heavy action show like Strike the Blood on the same level as moe fluff like Kiniro Mosaic or Non Non Biyori. I’m also really drawn to shows that are a bit strange, even by anime’s standards, series like Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity Has Declined) or Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. I’m not necessarily sure if I have a favourite, but there is a series called UN-GO which is similarly weird, which was the first show that I really fell in love with when I started watching anime again in 2011. Since then there’s been a ton of noteworthy series, like Tsuritama, Jormungand, Kyousogiga and Gatchaman Crowds, each and every one of which deserves to be watched and discussed and analyzed and enjoyed. The problem I have is usually not that there’s too much stuff to watch – the problem is that the stuff I’m watching is too good, and I think that’s the case for a lot of fans.