Anime-lover’s arcade and hangout Otaku Cafe debuts in larger location


Saturday June 26, Otaku Cafe, the central destination for San Antonio anime nerds and a Japanese-inspired arcade, reopened after closing in March 2020 – this time to a bigger, more ambitious location.

The new space in Bandera Road eclipses the charms of the old one, with almost double the area and 25 new games in its catalog. Although similar storefronts exist in the city, Otaku is the largest and the only one to offer a lounge atmosphere. To the uninitiated, an Otaku, descriptive of a trapped, is a derogatory remark in Japan, but according to Otaku Cafe co-owner Rick Polendo, he has come here to conjure up an affable mega-nerd, with an affinity. particular. for the anime and the desire to “have fun and be part of the community”.

Now co-owners of Otaku Cafe, Rick Polendo and Richard Giron met in first grade while they were students at Central Catholic High School. Otakus themselves, they stayed close and began attending anime conventions while studying business at UTSA.


It was during these events that the gears began to turn. For 10 years before opening their first brick and mortar, the duo developed as expert salespeople at conventions across Texas. In 2015, they planted roots at their old location and, due to demand, drafted expansion plans in 2019. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, everything went into the storage units.

Ideally, a move was already underway. After another year of approval and relocation, the new Otaku Cafe has reopened with great fanfare.

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“I can’t stress how the community came together just to get us to reopen, and because of that, the grand opening was a huge success,” Polendo told MySA.

“I didn’t expect a line of people to wait to enter the store, and we were very touched by it, to see the love that the community still has for us, and that they don’t have not forgotten. ”

When it opened, the store was packed and they held a raffle featuring artwork from local artists, store merchandise and Cane’s gift cards.

However, during a typical afternoon at Otaku Cafe, one can browse the colorful wares while munching on Japanese snacks like takoyaki, also known as octopus balls, and then play a part of “Dance Dance Revolution. “or” Mai Mai “, a rhythm game featuring two giant washing machine images and an archive of popular anime and J-Pop songs.

Tournament nights, a tradition at the old location, are expected to resume in a few weeks. On Thursdays and Fridays, you can join other players for a competitive “Super Smash Brothers” match. On Wednesday evening, you will meet the fighting game community through a “Street Fighter” session.

The popularity of Polendo and Giron’s niche institution proves that lasting friendship, a healthy business acumen, and a deep love for anime can ultimately be the recipe for success. One need only glance at the homepage of any contemporary streaming service to see the growing popularity of Japanese anime among the American mainstream. The growth of Otaku Cafe, a haven for die-hard fanatics and perhaps a curiosity for the casual consumer, seems to be another sign of this.

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“If you haven’t heard from us, give us a chance. Everyone has their own opinion on everything, but if you love anime culture and are looking for a place just to be yourself and meet other people sharing the same ideas, so give us a try, come hang out, ”Polendo said, closing our discussion.

“I hope we can live up to your expectations.”

Visit the Otaku Cafe at 7022 Bandera Road.

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