Fans of Japanese animation in Paso Robles will be overjoyed when Anime Express moves in Saturday, bringing along with them well-known voice actors and a manga artist for their grand opening.
Anime Express, also located on Madonna Rd. in San Luis Obispo, is the only retailer on the Central Coast dedicated entirely to Japanese animation (or anime), comic books (or manga), and imported video games.
One might not expect Paso Robles to be a gathering place for fans of Japanese animation, or anime, but Jason Newton, owner of Anime Express, said the demand is there.
“We actually have a pretty big fan base that drive from Paso to San Luis Obispo, so we thought we’d help them out by putting a store up there,” Newton said.
Newton and his wife Brandie, two former Cal Poly students, opened the store in 2001 with the hopes of bringing anime, imported video games and other related products to the Central Coast when they realized such a store never existed.
“The Central Coast is unlike a metropolitan area.it’s very divided and it’s pretty much big, big gaps of space between the major populated areas like Paso and Santa Maria,” Newton said. “Our goal is to put these stores in locations where everyone can reach them and Paso is one of the largest growing towns on the Central Coast.”
Anime Express will have its grand opening in Paso Robles this Saturday and will feature Lex Lang from the anime “Rurouni Kenshin” and comedy shows like “Prime Time Glick;” his wife Sandy Fox from Cartoon Network’s “Hi Hi Puffy Yumi Ami” and other shows like “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill;” and finally, local manga artist Irene Flores, whose comics Newton said have had great success at Anime Express.
The grand opening will also feature a drawing for the new Nintendo Wii system, which is set for release on Nov. 19. The drawing is Anime Express’ way of thanking its past and future customers, according to Newton.
Since their first year, Anime Express has been gaining popularity as well as a great deal of success.
“Our first year we were very conservative on how much we would make.but we blew all that out of the water,” Newton said. “We’ve done well, and every year there’s been an increase.”
The increase comes at a time when anime’s popularity in America continues to grow.
“The public is starting to realize Japanese animation is not just for children. So we have adults, the elderly, the young, and everyone involved in these items,” Newton said.
As for the future, the Newtons will continue to expand wherever they can.
“I think the Central Coast is like any other place; wide open and ready for new experiences,” Newton said.