In my last cafe review, I visited some pretty and quiet little cafes that weren’t too out of the ordinary. This review however, will look at the opposite end of the spectrum!
I’ve been trying to get into some mobile gaming recently to pass the time during commutes, but my Japanese level is so low I have been living vicariously through a friend who is a big fan of “Ensemble Stars” – or EnStars as it is affectionately shortened to. Ensemble Stars is an idol group mobile game, set in a high school where young lads who attend perform together. Apparently it’s a spin off of a female idol group game, aimed instead for a female audience. I can’t really comment on the actual game play – I haven’t played it myself.. but I learned how much of a big deal it was once I was invited to a limited run theme cafe based upon the game!
Idol groups are a pretty big deal in Japan – large collectives of beautiful girls and handsome boys who can sing together harmoniously, perform dance routines, attend meet and greets and appear on talk shows. All while looking fabulous and capturing the hearts of the nation. Think AKB48 and the Johnny boy’s.
Animate Cafe Tenjin
The cafe was actually inside Tenjin’s Animate store (Animate is a chain of Anime and Manga stores across Japan) – where they routinely mix up the theme based on a current trending series or game. EnStars had a run there for about 2-3 months before it finished earlier in the year. To attend the cafe, you initially request a time slot and are entered into a ballot and assigned tickets if you’re lucky. My friend with her awesome Japanese skills was able to do this TWICE and we got to sample different things off the menu.
My friend ordered her favourite group’s dessert – A strawberry mousse. How adorable is this?
The cafe was completely decked out with giant pictures of all the characters, music from the games playing and even little birthday shrines set up for the character who’s birthday month it was. For each item you ordered, you would be given a coaster at random with special artwork designed for the cafe only. Each band had it’s own themed items on the menu.. I opted for the sets of two of the bands which landed me with:
The Undead Set
A burrito, fries and a tiny little bat with a blackcurrant soda and jelly!
The FINE Set (pronounced “fee-ney”)
Honey and peach french toast with a sweet tea and jam
The food itself was fun – a little pricey but tasted good and I felt like it was mostly that you ordered for your band, and the hype of getting the random coasters. The presentation was awesome, the drinks were all different colours, types and flavours and the food was inspired by the bands with little decorations or flavours that characters liked (except for one dish which was cruelly based upon eggplants – apparently which a character is constantly teased for disliking!).
The Akatsuki group’s latte, with their traditional Japanese style design and the Ra*Bits neon soda with popping candy!
There were plenty of hard core fans in there who were ordering several items to complete their band set, wielding bags adorned with tonnes of badges, keyrings and more. The cafe began when everyone for that particular time slot was seated, and a mini competition was held where you could select a band on laminated cards, and if your band was selected at random you could win a prize.
The Animate theme cafes are definitely not for the fainthearted – if you’re not a dedicated fan, the sentiment of the experience can be lost on you. But I was lucky in this instance that I had a great teacher who was enthusiastic to share the stories and character profiles with me which made it all the more richer for me.
I recommend visiting an Animate cafe if you’re in Japan long enough to see a theme based upon something you’re really into. Or, if your Japanese ability is high enough or a friend invites you along to their time slot and you’re curious – do go! It’s worth the experience.
EnStars will be having another limited run across Japan later this year – so if you’re a fan, it’s worth looking into it now to avoid disappointment!