Dil calmly cleans his apartment to the light sounds of classical music coming from his speakers. His father calls, asking about what his weekend plans were. With his extended weekend, he finally was looking forward to getting around to reading books and doing normal people things. Dusting off a photo frame, he kisses the family photo and proudly displays it on the countertop.

As the late morning clouds roll through and a cool breeze greet the patio, Dil sips on some tea and flips the pages of his new book. There is the distant sound of tumbling clothes from the laundry room connected to the patio. Suddenly, a large Range Rover pulls into the parking spot adjacent to his own vehicle. A man in a blue polo and glasses approaches the stairs to his second floor apartment. Closing the book with a sigh, Dil goes to his door to greet the man, now knocking on his door.

“Hello Dillon.”

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“Hello Ryan.”

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah.”

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The man took off his shoes and sat down at the kitchen counter.

“Caffè?” Dil asked unnecessarily in Italian.

“Thank you.” Ryan replied.

Hesitantly, Dil plugged in an electric kettle and poured water into it. Every few moments, he looked over his shoulder at the serious statured man.

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“You know why I’m here, Dillon.” Ryan sighs.

“D-d-do you like my bar stools? I built them from a starter set at Walmart.” Dil struggles out, spilling hot water everywhere.

“I need your...” Ryan reached into his pocket and placed a gold coin on the counter. “Expertise.”

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“I can’t. I quit doing that.” Dil shook his head.

“You must,” Ryan replied. “It is the rules.”

“I retired from that life,” Dil frantically sets a glass of tea in front of the coin.

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“It doesn’t work like that,” Ryan slid the coin around the tea. “You made a blood oath.”

“I’m sorry,” Dil stared down at the bloody fingerprint on the coin’s face. “You’re not going to be able to get much use out of me anymore.”

“Must I remind you of the impossible task I helped you complete?” Ryan stared his former co-worker down.

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“Please,” Dil began to beg.

“What was her name? That girl you didn’t want the others in the office to know about when we were Seoul...” Ryan twiddled his thumbs.

“No,” Dil begged harder.

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“C-C-Canti? No,” Ryan began listing. “K-Karen? No...”

“Stop,” Dil became quiet.

“Kanb-”

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“You have to leave!” Dil darted for the door.

“Very well,” Ryan walked to the doorway. “Oh, I wonder what Julie would think of your friend you snuck out of Seoul.”

“What do you need?” Dil sighed defeated.

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“I am looking to acquire a model Gundam,” Ryan explained. “And I know you are the man to go to for these....matters.”

“Amazon.” Dil coughed bluntly.

“No,” Ryan laughed. “I need this one this weekend.”

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The duo walked down to the Range Rover, with Dil glancing back to his apartment one last time to pay goodbyes to the ordinary weekend.

“I am sorry Dillon,” Ryan said. “I didn’t need Dillon. I needed Dil. I needed DilKokoro. I needed...”

“Please, don’t say it.” Dil murmured.

“I needed the Weebman.”

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—-

All kidding aside, earlier this week I got in contact with a friend who I was really close with over in Korea. Turns out him and I are both living in the same part of Florida for work, and we were looking to explore the otaku culture around the area. After looking through some...less than high quality locations, we found some really high rated stores not too far from where I lived (about twenty five minutes at most). My friend is a massive Gundam fan, and he hasn’t been able to collect or build due to the nature of our work for quite some time. Knowing I knew a thing or two about the series that were popular at the time (really just IBO) he wanted me to help him pick out a really nice one to work on. It was really challenging, but we found places that sold the tool kits and everything before we tried to find his perfect project.

For the sake of not throwing names out there, I will just leave it to it that we ended up going to that high rated store and were very unsure about what we were going to find inside. Most of the ratings were older, and the photos on Google were circa 2014. Numerous posters from shows ranging from Love Live! to Macross covered every bit of the exterior windows. We playfully tried to recognize as many as we could as we got our things out of the car.

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I should probably say that I only have ever been in one hobby/anime store in my entire life, and it was the one that most of the AniTAY writers know as the place I (in)famously purchased what has become my computer desk’s mascot. Despite this, I knew enough about merchandise to be a pretty decent guide into a place that someone a little out of touch with the otaku culture could rely on sorting through what was good and what was trash.

Right away, I was very impressed with how well organized the entire place was. Every square foot of the small shop was being used, and there was still plenty of walking room for people to move around despite the entire space having the same area as a typical Smoothie King. Figma figures properly ordered beautifully took up one shelf by the door, and two entire wide shelves of manga took up the interior sides of the shop. I was surprised to see how recent their inventory was, with new English manga and even this season shows’ merchandise available for purchase.

The PVC selection, however, was incredibly random and scattered throughout the store. With as much care that went into stocking the shelves properly at the entrance, I was really hoping for some form of organization with the PVCs (my personal favorite anime merchandise). The Good Smile branded ones shocked me with their incredible detail, placed high on the top shelves for people with only the most serious interest in mind (or maybe just to make sure someone didn’t grab one and dart out the door). Amidst all of them, I found a random Monogatari PVC of Shinobu sitting behind a really tall Evangelion pilot. While I had no interest in buying it, the PVC was a whopping $120! I was always aware these were pricy, but for one so small I expected at least double digit price range.

My curiosity led me to start pulling up random figures and selection on Amazon while my friend looked around. I ended up deducting they upped the prices on most of the merchandise anywhere from $20 to a whole 25%, depending on the item. More than likely just a “convenience” fee, it wasn’t worth complaining over to my friend. All in all, it was really fun to see so many different series represented and really enthusiastic fans shopping for volumes of manga, DVDs, and figures. While I’m still keeping my ways secret to a lot of my friends in real life, it is nice to have an involved conversation with strangers at a store similar to the feeling I get communicating with our readers on here.

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After trying to make heads or tails of what series of Gundam was what (recognition from box art), I found the latest Barbatos model from the most recent Gundam series, Iron Blooded Orphans. As lame as this sounds, it was really satisfying to go on a hunt all day across western Florida to find something for someone you sacrificed a lot of your time and went through hardships with (even more so that it was someone you got through those times with by laughing to slice of life anime or sharing light novels with). While it wasn’t really part of my original plan to spend anything, I had saved quite a bit by packing lunch this week, so I decided to treat myself with a new PVC for the desk...

“You said you wanted me back,” Dil cried. “Well, I’m back!”