It is not often that I get the opportunity to say with absolute sincerity that the bathroom was the highlight of a restaurant, that is not to say that everything about the Gundam Cafe was bad – no, the bathroom was that good (but more on that later…)
Just getting into the cafe proved to be difficult as initially I had planned a fully Gundam themed Sunday with a visit to a location test in Akiba for the new Gundam Vs Gundam Extreme, followed by a re-fuel (a-ha!) in the Gundam Cafe. However given it had recently opened there was a solid hour long queue to get in and I had Rebecca in tow who I am afraid to say is someone for whom the charm of Gundam holds little power.
So we tried again on a weekday at 12 – still an hour-long queue… at this point we just gave in and resigned ourselves to the wait.
1 hour later we had been ushered in to the slightly Gundam themed interior by the all female staff which did little to differentiate the place from the hundreds of Maid Cafes that clutter Akiba – I guess this being Akihabara some degree of excrutiating Moe could not be avoided.
Inside was the usual Gundam merchandise and a solid effort made of depicting a Gundam beneath a star filled sky in the ceiling. There was also a vast TV showing endless Gundam adverts interspersed with bits of history from the Gundam universe, trailers for the new Gundam Unicorn and also the hilarious invented origins for the Gundam themed coffee – Jaburo Blend – very amusing if you are a Gundam fan.
The food itself had some nods to the world of Gundam as you can see above and survived on that gimmick seeing as it kinda felt like canteen food if I am totally honest. The biggest dissapointment to me was that the take-home mug system was no longer running due to apparent demand – so no souvenir mug for me…
So at this point I was feeling a bit underwhelmed as there was nothing really about the cafe that either screamed “Gundam” or that justified the Maid Cafe-esque prices.
That was until I popped to the bathroom……
It is pitch black with an illuminated switch on the wall – you flip the switch. The lights brighten slowly to the appropriate Gundam sound effects revealing that the mirror on the wall is the eyes of a Gundam, as if you were in the interior of the Gundam head! Then the seat of the (gundam themed) toilet infront of you automatically rises to the sound of a Gundam launching!
This is what reminded me of why I was here. The Gundam nostalgia. The fact that you could slap Gundam branding on anything and people who grew up with it or the people who grew up with the legend of it will still buy into it. And for me in that moment all the memories of watching the show as a child came back on the cue of a single sound effect that could only be – Gundam.
They must be doing something right as there are plans to open a similar cafe in Shizuoka near the recently erected 1/1 Gundam statue. For the hardcore there is even a point card scheme that enables you to have access to pilot cards awarded by rank which in turn allows you to order from a members only menu…. I did the maths and you would have to go there at least 25 times to be awarded the lowest rank – I am afraid I don’t love Gundam that much, I would struggle to get excited about going back there for a second visit – sorry!
Oh and sorry for dragging you there Rebecca, I owe you one (or several)