Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Super Festival 71 / スーパーフェスティバル 71

At the latest installment of Super Festival, a huge number of toy makers sold figures made from sofubi, resin, and other materials. Many shared booths, maximizing the number of makers who could attend. In addition to new and familiar faces, we saw others who haven't attended the show in a while, as well as some exhibitors from overseas. It was quite a gathering of toy makers!

By and large, most exhibitors had a limited number of things on hand or on display, with exceptions like CCP and Fewture Models. But there was such a variety and so many booths that the total number of releases was substantial.

It was a balmy, drizzly spring morning, and the event's location in central Tokyo was almost pastoral (a word rarely used to describe the city).
To get to the event site, you go up a little hill and through this massive gate, which was once an entrance to an Edo period castle.

Despite the light rain, many of the toy faithful were in line before 7:00 AM.

Here are the toy makers in attendance, arranged in alphabetical order.


 240 photos after the jump:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Star Wars The Force Awakens DVD Release Build-up in Japan

Japan is one of those countries where physical media is still strong. There are lots of DVD rental shops, stores, and even pop-up shops, like the above photo. But it feels like it's been a long time since there has been a film event of note.

Star Wars Episode VII provided lots of buzz last year, with tons of branding tie-ins and a healthy build-up leading to the theatrical release. Now that the DVD release has been nicely timed for Star Wars Day, 5/4 (May the Forth be with you!) we're seeing a lot of posters and displays promoting the day.
This decked out display is in front of a shop that sells DVDs and CDs. They got their craft on with this one..

Past movies on disc.

Finn is bemoaning the fact that The Force Awakens DVD can't be bought anywhere yet.

DVD case mockup

Cool BB-8 promo giveaway.

Here's a poster display at Tsutaya, a very large DVD rental chain.

In front of the shop, Star Wars gets top billing.
One point worth noting is even after 20 years of deflation it is still very expensive (1800 yen) to see a movie at a theater. This could be a key reason why so many rental shops are still in business.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Super rare vintage Bullmark Takkong kaiju spotted!

One of the facts of life in Japan is most homes are small. There aren't cavernous attics or basements where boxes of childhood belongings can be kept after their play value is spent. So by and large, unless you're planning on auditioning for Extreme Hoarders, things like old toys get tossed. In fact, it actually costs money to dispose of large items like furniture and refrigerators. I'll go so far as to say that often before buying something, you think twice about how tough it will be to keep, store, and/or toss it!

Anyway, combine this fact of life with the size of the giant Takkong sofubi figure made by Bullmark in the early 1970s, and you have a recipe for a future rare toy. And rare it is. This Ultraman villain emerges so infrequently that the uber-veteran kaiju aficionado who has it says he has only seen TWO in recent decades.
Takkong appeared in the first two episodes of Return of Ultraman in April, 1971. That was the fourth series in the venerable franchise. Takkong battled another sea monster, Zazahn, who ultimately triumphed. On an interesting side note, a casualty of the Takkong vs. Zazahn battle was Hideki Go. The poor fellow met an untimely end, but he merged with Ultraman Jack (then called New Ultraman) to become the series' hero.

On the far side of side notes, isn't it interesting how macabre these shows were? Consider how many (Ultraman. Kamen Rider, etc.) involved bringing people back from the dead (often in rites laced with deeply religious overtones) to then become the reincarnated hero. I wonder what Joseph Campbell would have to say.

Another note about Takkong - the kaiju (like many others) was designed by Tsubaraya Pro maestro Iketani Senkatsu.

You might be waiting for the punchline - the price. The seller was asking 1,500,000 yen. Quite an ask, but if you just like the look of the figure and don't pine for the original, Bullmark issued a repro (in another color way) in the early 2000s.

And that's a look at Takkong, a rare beast indeed. A big thanks to JP for assisting with the info!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Takashi Murakami Animated Lifesize Sculpture in Nakano, Tokyo

Takashi Murakami, a well known contemporary artist, has a strong presence in Nakano Broadway. Along with a coffee shop, he runs multiple galleries on the 2nd, 3rd, and floors.

One such space, which is used for presentations and other events, was recently transformed. The interior was decked out with Murakami;s signature flower design. And at the entrance was an eerily lifelike statue of the artist with hobbit-like feet and an animated twist. Here are more pics, followed by a video.

 More after the jump:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

1950s-1960s Sci-Fi Tin Toys from Japan

As I've probably written before, I love old Japanese tin toys, especially the sci-fi and space-themed toys from the 50s-60s. You've got cool robots, vehicles, astronauts, and other wild creations dreamed up by some guys who must have had awesome jobs. Anyway, here are some shots of old tin toys I spotted recently.

 More after the jump:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Medicom Store Pics

Fresh pics from Medicom's flagship Project 1/6 store in Shibuya.

 More after the jump:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tokyo Views

Koenji crossroads
Sometimes toy and show reporting gets myopic. You're indoors, in front of a booth or shelf, snapping shots of static objects. So I thought I'd pull the lens back and take some shots of the environment in which all this stuff is made. Let's have a look at daily life in Tokyo.
Pachinko parlor. They're everywhere, and people line up before opening hours to get first pick of their favorite machines.

Typical izakaya, which is a type of casual restaurant. They're popular with the after-work crowd, and contrary to common notions of Japan as a quiet and peaceful place, izakayas get loud and raucous.
An outlet of Takkyubin, one of Japan's largest courier companies. Sending things by courier is fast, reliable, and affordable. Though the Japanese postal service is phenomenal - legendary even - couriers are still popular.
Multiple story car rental place. Renting cars is also popular, since owning one is expensive with fees, taxes, and parking, not to mention exorbitant highway tolls. Because space is at such a premium, many structures have to rise up instead of going wide - so bike parking places, car parking lots, as well as tons of restaurants and shops are small, narrow, and multi-story.

An older residence. These are becoming rarer sights in Tokyo. One reason is there is a formula by which the value of the building falls year after year, until it hits zero. (I believe this takes 20-30 years.) So homes tend to be built with inferior materials and then torn down after a few decades.
 More after the jump:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Vintage Japanese Lenticular Cards

I'm a big fan of old ephemera from Japan: paper items, menko cards, records, etc. One very fun type is lenticular cards, which were popular back in the day. Here's a video I shot of a number of vintage Japanese lenticulars, including a couple of really unique items.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Star Wars Pachinko Machine in Tokyo

Pachinko parlors are one of the most ubiquitous features of the Tokyo (and many other cities in Japan) landscape. The range of pachinko, slot, and pachislot (combination of the two) machines is impressive, as is the work that goes into the design, graphics, and game play.

Here's a video of a Star Wars pachinko machine:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pocky II - Can you feel the Lovecky tonight?

Recently I wrote about Pocky's line of specially titled snacks. They've just released a new one, with a couple of twists. This time, they've renamed their strawberry-flavored Pocky to Lovecky, which is straightforward enough, and it does sound better than Aicky. ("Ai" (愛) is Japanese for "love.")
The back of the packaging has a heart-shaped space for you to write a message to a special someone. Reminds me of the little Valentine's cards kids used to give each other. Remember those? The super hero ones were cool.
Another twist, showing just how far Glico is going with this promotion, is they've made the cookie part of the snack heart-shaped. Lovecky was released after Valentine's Day, but it could be that they're aiming for White Day, which is on March 14. It's a Japanese holiday when men give gifts to women.

My all-time favorite Valentine's snack? Old school conversation hearts - not the new weird flavors and concoctions that Necco has come up with, but the original Sweethearts that came in little boxes which also had a heart shaped "To/From" space on the back. (The original Lovecky?)

Fortunately, you can get the good stuff on Amazon, usually from no name bulk candy makers. Some Tasti D-Lite franchises in the US have them too. So good...Much lovecky for the conversation hearts...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

JR Ultraman Winter Stamp Rally in Tokyo

Tsuburaya Productions and JR (Japan Rail) have teamed up for another Ultraman stamp rally. In a way it's heart warming to see kids and adults lining up at train stations to stamp their booklets. Common wisdom in some circles may be that traditional arts and physical objects are passe in today's digital world, but such excitement over something as simple as a mono-color impression is proof positive that the "analog is dead" crowd has gotten ahead of itself.
Asagaya Station
So, let's look at this promotion. It starts with a free booklet handed out at Tokyo JR stations.

Stamp Booklet
Beautiful graphics all around for this promotion, including the stamp booklet, posters, and displays.

 More after the jump:

Friday, February 5, 2016

What's in a name? Glico Pockifies the snack world.

Glico is a legendary Japanese snack company, famous for hits like Pretz, Cheeza, and of course, Pocky. For folks who aren't familiar with them, Pocky are boxes of long, thin pretzels individually covered with chocolate, strawberry, or other coatings. According to Glico's website, the idea was basically to cover a Pretz with a layer of chocolate. Simple enough, and it was a smash hit.
"Salad" Pretz
Glico has a knack for coming up with unusual product names. This is, after all, the company that sells a line of snack biscuits called Collon, including variants like (and I'm not making this up) Creamy Collon. Yummy.
Pocky macha + chocolate flavor

"Pocky" is a weird enough name, but recently Glico has topped it with a campaign of new titles for its beloved snack line. The names take all or part of an English or Japanese word and add "cky" (or "cy") to Pockify it.

At first glance, some of them don't make a lot of sense, but there are subtitles explaining what Glico is getting at. Some names are straightforward. Others offer insights into Japanese culture. Let's have a look:
Simple and old timey. Thanky for being a friend!
 More after the jump:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ultraman x Family Mart Winter Festa

Tsubaraya and convenience store chain Family Mart have partnered up on another Ultraman promotion.
Who's your Dada?
Stores across Tokyo (and I'm assuming the rest of Japan) are decked out with Ultraman displays, banners, posters, and other cool stuff. And of course there are exclusive goods, stickers, cards, and more.
Scenes from a store:

 More after the jump:
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