In countries such as Japan, Singapore and Korea you can’t walk through a Mall which doesn’t have a store dedicated to all things anime and manga. The picture is slightly different in America though - all but the largest cities have dedicated Japanese pop-culture stores (such as the mighty Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya, found in a handful of major US cities such as New York City and San Fransisco), a tiny minority of which are actually found in Shopping Malls. However, one pioneer in Iowa, located in the heart of America’s Midwest, has set up his dream store in Southern Hills Mall, Sioux City. This makes it a Mall totally worth checking out.

The exterior of Sioux City's Southern Hills Mall

The simple design makes the Southern Hills a quinessential American Mall

Located in the Morningside neighbourhood of Sioux City, this lovely mid-sized Centre has around 100 stores and restaurants which run over one expansive level. After around twenty years of cogitation, the Mall opened its doors on March 5th, 1980. It’s a simple, hearty American Mall with a classic design - large corridors lined with stores and terminating in one of the four large anchor stores, and pop-up kiosks dotted all over the Mall. The decor is a simple white and the floor tiles are a monochrome beige. The lighting is low and cosy, giving the Mall a very homely feel despite its cavernous size.

It is the kind of Shopping Centre I can really sink my teeth into; I could happily spend a great deal of time in Southern Hills Mall and would be proud if it was my local. All classic store genres and brands are found here, as well as a classic AMC movie theatre and a food court stuffed with staples such as DQ, Chick-Fil-A, Red Lobster and Chuck E. Cheeses. The normalcy of the Mall makes it all the more surprising when you turn a corner and find a store dedicated to manga and anime, including the plethora of merchandise eager fans of certain franchises like to lap up - many Otaku are extremely passionate when it comes to their favourite manga or anime and this store more than meets their needs.

The Anime Corner just before opening at the beginning of November 2017

The man himself: Store owner Travis Pilgrim (image: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal)

Located in the Mall’s JCPenney wing next to Rue21, you will find ‘Anime Corner’, which opened at the beginning of November 2017. The store is the child of Travis Pilgrim, a dedicated fan of Japanese pop culture (especially of the long-running and hugely successful ‘Dragon Ball’ franchise) who used to sell his wares on the anima/manga convention circuit before opening his very own store in Southern Hills, stuffed full of Japanese goodness, much of which is procured directly from the wonderful archipelago of Nihon.

The whole idea was actually borne out of necessity - Pilgrim’s weekend jaunts to conventions across the Midwest not only caused him to burn the candle at both ends, but also lead to him accumulating so many books, DVDs and related merchandise that he didn’t actually need to order much in order to open his own store. All that was left was to figure out where to open - he wanted to have a good flow of foot traffic, so where better than one of the most popular Malls in the state. So he pulled the trigger and is now a part of the glorious Shopping Centre landscape.

The store has a large array of popular manga (image: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal)

Apart from the manga, you will find all sorts of merch from your favourite franchise (image: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal)

The Mall community has welcomed Travis into the fold, with bookstores such as Barnes & Noble sending manga fans over to the Anime Corner if they can’t find what they’re looking for. We’ve seen in many a Mall that regular bookstores’ manga sections, while noble attempts, lack in volume somewhat - they haven't quite caught onto an industry which continues to grow internationally. Because his store is so unique, people come from miles away to browse the great selection, ensuring that things buzz nicely throughout the day. The store has a great selection - not only shelves full of the very best manga, but also DVD’s, Blu-rays, and all sorts of collectables such as statues and even a small but wonderful Japanese snack food selection.

Another shot of the store shortly before opening day

Of course Travis' favourite franchise, Dragon Ball, is well represented! (image: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal)

So whether you’re a Master Keaton fan, a Twentieth Century Boy, a Miyazaki maniac or someone who just wants to check out what Yotsuba is up to, you need to get down to Southern Hills Mall to check out this awesome store! You can also follow the store on Facebook to see what they’ve got in stock and how things are going. The store also takes pre-orders (collectables in Japan are a whole new level - everything has a million variations and special editions, so pre-ordes ar vital!) and requests, so if they don’t have particular item in store they can try to get it for you; but we suggest just rocking up and having a good old browse. Travis, we salute you!

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