It should really go something like this:
LISTEN TO ME MORTAL.
I COME IN THE NAME OF MASTER HEAD
I SEEK THE GO SEI WONDER.
WHO WITH GO SEI GREAT AND THE LANDIC BROTHERS MANIFEST TENSOU SENTAI GOSEIGER
34TH OF THE LINE OF THE SENTAI TOKUSATSU
THEY OF THE ANGELIC AND CARD MOTIF
WE SEEK TO DEFEAT IN BATTLE THE PIRATE SENTAI GOUKAIGER OF THE WARSTAR SYNDICATE,
VILE DESTROYERS OF HEAVEN'S TOWER!!
Instead, I ask the lady at the information kiosk if there's a toy store in this mall.
We are still in KL, and the boy and I are on a mission to fulfil a birthday promise for another Sentai model. Sentai, if you're lucky enough not to know, is the Japanese word for Power Rangers. Remember that five-teenager team of robot fighters that caused a 'violence on TV' fuss in the 90s? Still around, the boy still loves 'em, always has. And has an impressive collection of the toys back home.
In Bangkok there are whole stores in the malls devoted to carrying the latest model or variant of the Super Sentai series- the next $30, $80 or $110 collection of interlocking plastic that attaches (or may not) to the last collection of plastic. Popular throughout most of Asia.
In Malaysia though, not so much.
|You never see anything like this|
in North America
So four degrees off the equator, surrounded by the history of the Opium Trade, exotic flora and fauna, foods born in the wars over the Spice Islands... I scour shopping malls in vain.
It is exactly as exotic as one would think. In other words, not at all.
KL has a hundred malls of all sizes and from all eras. There's the Legends Mall, Bukit Bintang, Sungai Wang, Lot 10, Starhill, One Utama, Sogo, the Berjaya Times Square, Midvalley Mega-Mall, Suria KLCC, Low Yat, Pertama Complex. On and on. We search through 60's style, low ceilinged hallways, dingy with time and smelling of shoe leather, to antiseptic marble-and-chrome neon cathedrals of retail.
Soon you get the knack of the search. Toy stores are run by fanboys, without a lot of money. They're off the beaten retail paths. You find them on the 6th and 7th floors of malls,with the property management offices, dentist's shops and bowling alleys. You find them in the basement, where swarthy men play pool and ignore the 'no smoking' signs pasted prominently on the walls.
To find them you walk. Past hundreds, thousands of clothing stores, offering impossibly small skirts and blouses to teen girls. Past butiks and hall stalls and department stores. Up escalators and down, all the while trying to keep your path out of the building in mind, a mental ball of thread like Theseus in the minotaur's maze.
It's actually the human cost of the mall that gets to you. The shops promise youth, beauty, energy, popularity. But you walk past sleepy men and women, hunched over glass cases displaying watches and rings and broaches, jewels and ivory and plastic trinkets destined one day for the Pacific Gyre. Past sad-eyed young people, watching their peers hustle by, watching their lives drain away in air-conditioning and under fluorescent light. Following the sounds. Toy stores are near arcades, near the roller rinks and karaoke clubs.
The toy stores uniformly disappoint. They have Gundam, Mazinger, Exo-Force, Robotech and Transformers, and knock-offs and rip-offs of endless variety and kind. But Sentai? The clerk looks up from his iPad, shrugs, sometimes with a bit of a sneer. “Not popular here. Try next floor.”
And so it goes. I take what I can out of the hunt.
We see a great deal of the city. From the monorail and commuter lines. Past mosques and parks and centres of government. The design of the city is slowly revealed, in bits and pieces. We learn to negotiate traffic, read direction signs in Malay. We see the way regular people live, play, shop.
|Barely powerful enough to take on the|
We finally find a shop with a single Sentai, on the 6th floor of another anonymous compleks. It's not exactly what the boy was looking for, but it completes this series. We head home, he's satisfied.
I sit on the bed at the hostel while the boy assembles his latest mecha configuration. It has been about as westernized a day as could be. Burger King lunch, video game arcades, Coca-cola and ATMs. I came 12,000 kilometres for this?
Then, from the open grate in the wall above the bed, a plaintive cry, a woodwind instrument blowing mournfully. The isha'a, the final call to prayer in twilight from some nearby mosque. It calls out haunting and mysterious to the faithful.
I have no faith. But I am transported, once again, far away.
Thank you KL.