While not quite as recognizable as Madhouse or Ghibli, the animation studio Ufotable should immediately pop out in the minds of certain fans. Founded in 2000, Ufotable has produced shows like Fate/Zero, Coyote Ragtime Show, Tales of Symphonia and the Garden of Sinners films, as well as animation sequences for video games like Tales of Xillia.
But not content to simply make animation, Ufotable also run a number of interesting real-life spaces: in Tokushima, where Ufotable have a branch office, they run a cafe and a full-fledged movie theater (which shows, naturally, a lot of Ufotable works, but also other anime films and even live-action stuff). And here in Tokyo, Ufotable have two separate restaurants. This weekend, we braved Tokyo’s worst snowstorm in 45 years to bring you the first in a series we’re calling Eating Out Otaku Style with a trip to Ufotable Cafe.
Located near Ufotable’s studio in Nakano (yes, that Nakano), Ufotable is situated on an unassuming street but is immediately spottable by the long line of people waiting to get in. A reservation is required, and customers are circulated in in one-and-half hour blocks of time. Based on our observation, it’s a pretty popular place: only cancellations due to the aforementioned snowstorm allowed us to upgrade from the counter to a table.
What makes the place so popular? We suspect the exclusive exhibitions play a big part. Ufotable Cafe swaps out its theme every few months, and the current exhibition highlights two upcoming video games by Kadokawa: Kancolle Kai, based on the popular girls-as-battleships browser game, and Natural Doctrine, an RPG with character designs by Ufotable.
The cafe features two small galleries (small is no exaggeration, you have to duck under a very low ceiling to get to them) that display exclusive posters, designs, and concept art from the games. Despite the limited space, they pack a variety of interesting stuff in there, and because photos aren’t allowed in the galleries, fans come to get an early glimpse of what these games look like.
But the theme isn’t limited to just the gallery. Everything down to the placemats, coasters and food and drinks are based on these two games. From the KanColle menu, we ordered the “Yasen no Yashoku” (“night warfare midnight snack”), a beef bowl that included a specially cut and stamped piece of KanColle seaweed. From the Natural Doctrine side of things, we sampled a blue soda named, somewhat less creatively, “Jeff,” after one of the game’s characters. It was good, though!
Is Ufotable worth a visit? If your trip to Tokyo includes the west side of town (which it absolutely should), totally. It won’t blow your mind, but it’s a charming place with pretty good food and a nice atmosphere – and, of course, merchandise. Remember, a reservation is required, though you might be able to get a seat on a weekday.
Address: 1-38-11 Nogata, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30am – 11pm, closed Monday