konnichiwa zenaku

Fantastical, anime-inspired nightclub dances into downtown this month

Fantastical, anime-inspired nightclub dances into downtown this month

Zenaku digital mapping
Digital mapping technology displays moving images on both floors. Courtesy of Zenaku
Zenaku cocktails
The bar serves anime-themed cocktails. Courtesy of Zenaku
Zenaku lounge seating
Six lounges are available upstairs. Courtesy of Zenaku
Zenaku digital mapping
Zenaku cocktails
Zenaku lounge seating

A transportive new nightclub opens downtown next week. Zenaku will replace The Commoner and Boulevardier (410 Main St.) beginning Friday, November 12.

Zenaku joins ’80s-themed nightclub Cherry as the second downtown concept from local entrepreneur Carson Hager’s Hospitable Viking group. Hager tells CultureMap that, having found success in building a nightclub around a story with Cherry, he wanted to go even farther with Zenaku. The basic concept is a high energy dance club downstairs and an intimate, semi-exclusive lounge upstairs.

“The idea is you live in this anime version of San Francisco, some west coast city,” he says. “You hear about this new nightclub that’s opened up near Japantown.”

Patrons will find that basic theme incorporated into all of Zenaku’s design elements. Primarily, they’re expressed as anime-style graphics that are projected onto the walls using sophisticated digital mapping technology that uses a system of cameras and computers to match the each image to the walls shapes perfectly. See this trailer for a sneak peek:

ZENAKU Trailer from Zenaku on Vimeo.

“The technology is amazing,” Hager says. “Once people see this, a lot of folks will want to run with it.”

Some of the graphics are static or will run on a loop throughout the night. Others are interactive; for example, Hager can use his phone to prompt characters in paintings to wink at people who are looking at them. They can even change at different times, which Hager hints could happen after midnight in the upstairs lounge.

“We love anime as a visual style,” Hager says. “It’s perfect for bars. It’s colorful, wild, dramatic. It’s motion, and frankly it’s hyper-sexualized. Those are fantastic for nightclubs.”

The graphics extend to the cocktails. Animated characters holding drinks will be displayed on the glossy black bar top.

For now, Zenaku will be open Friday and Saturday nights from 9 pm-2 am. Reservations and bottle service are available for the six semi-private lounges upstairs. In time, Hager says the club might add a Thursday night promotion focused on EDM as well as opening 18-plus on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the details, Zenaku certainly won’t look or feel like any other spot in Houston. That’s entirely intentional.

“What we’re doing here is risky. It is anime, which is a small subculture. It is very risqué upstairs,” Hager says. “I don’t like the idea of playing it safe.

“I think customers are craving a little bit more. At least, I hope they are.”