Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vintage Boxed Astro Mu Mars Man

Astro Mu is one of those vintage lines that excites and confounds collectors. The legendary toys are important in the history of tokusatsu and other 70s toys, and homages continue to appear in modern indie toys. Finding them loose is difficult enough. One rarely sees them complete. Seeing a boxed example has become a once in a blue moon event. So when I saw one boxed and unused recently, I considered myself lucky. Fortunately I had my camera and was allowed to take detailed photos, which I thought would make a nice viewing and reference for fans and collectors.
The back of the box

The vinyl has turned from blue to green
 More after the jump:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Design Festa 40: Steampunk

In my report on the indie toys of Design Festa 40, I touched on the explosive growth of Steampunk in Japan. Besides people in full-on Steampunk outfits, there were a number of booths selling things like accessories, jewelry, and toys.

With full and upfront admission that I'm not an expert in the area (so apologies in advance if some of the images don't fit exactly in the genre), here's a look at more of the Steampunkery of DF40. (I've carried over a couple of the pics from the indie toy report.)
This company is called Lunago. Website: luna-bear.com

They seem to combine steampunk with other design elements. Pretty cool.
 More after the jump:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Design Festa 40: Indie Toys

Welcome to the Kaiju Korner indie toy report for Design Festa 40. As always, booths will be arranged alphabetically. That's to make it easier for you to find the pics from your favorite toy makers, and it creates a better reference for the future if people want to go back and see who did what at past shows.

One thing I am doing differently is expanding the spectrum by including makers that we don't normally focus on. I feel we tend to get too myopic when looking at indie toys - so 80-90% of the makers are the same at every show, with a couple of debut makers and infrequent exhibitors added for good measure. But that can create a sort of tunnel vision when what you see is too prescripted or limited. It can create a false sense that collectors should only be looking at a narrow range of "seal of approval" makers or toy materials.

So let's see if we can break apart or at least expand that model a bit. Recently I've noticed some fantastic work done with needle felt toys and other materials, so I'm going to work in some unfamiliar names this time. Let's see how it goes.

Black Rabbit

 120 pics after the jump:

Design Festa 60: Preramble

After missing the previous Design Festa, I was interested to see how indie toys were represented at the show. There were a few big trends. First, the booths were spread out around the Big Sight, but mostly in clumps. So on the 1st floor you had the old school crew - Max Toys, Blobpus, Yamomark, Sunguts, and Pico Pico - all together again, and they were in eye shot of Marmit.

Then on the 4th floor, you had the long Jungle table (representing many toy makers) right next to the Rampage booth. And then there were a few other booths like Chima scattered around the Big Sight. Personally, I liked it better when most of the toy makers were together, so we'll see if that might happen again in the future.

Another trend I noticed is how interlinked makers within these groups are. So in the Max Toys + friends group, you had makers customizing one another's toys, accessory makers putting things out for multiple lines across companies, and so on. Over on the Jungle table, although many different makers were there, it had the look and feel of an umbrella brand.

A final note I'd say is it's becoming clearer to me that the separation between Japanese sofubi and American sofubi is becoming stronger all the time. At the Rampage booth, you had a bunch of different Western toy makers represented in some way, by an American toy seller. But for the most part, that was it. Recently at SDCC and NYCC, I got the opposite sense. There were very few Japanese makers there at all (Gargamel was a big exception at SDCC).

My sense is that's because the American indie toy scene has grown so much that there are plenty of makers at US events to fill booths and find customers. At the same time, Japanese makers know what their local customers like, and there's plenty of product put out at shows and through other channels to meet that demand.

Of course it isn't black and white. There is still plenty of interchange, especially with Japanese toys making their way overseas. And there has been a lot of movement with the attention that D-Con is getting for toy makers from all over the place. But in general right now I'd say we're looking at a mature market. It's downright easy for Western designers to get their toys made in sofubi, so all those old channels and gateways have come tumbling down. With sites like Big Cartel, "lottery" sales via e-mail lists, and so on, it's easier than ever for makers to find collectors. So if you can't get a hold of new stuff from one place, there's plenty of other stuff on the other side of the world to catch your attention.

Anyway, that's just my sense, and maybe the longest preramble I've written for a show. Next up, indie toys at DF60.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gundam 35th Anniversary 7-11 Promotion

For decades, Japanese convenience stores have been big players in the kidoverse. They've been the home of exclusive toys and packaging variants, countless shokugan releases for candy, chocolate, and other snacks and drinks, as well as seasonal and anniversary promotions.
7-11 has an ongoing Gundam 35th Anniversary promotion There are toys, a super cool spoon + bowl set, and other Gundammy goods.
From what I can gather, it's pretty straightforward. You take one of these tickets to the register, pay 620 yen, and randomly get one of the things on display, based on the letter you pull. At least that's the way they've handled these types of promotion before.

Here are some of the potential prizes:
 More after the jump:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Furoku - 付録 Part 5: Modern Furoku

In past articles, I've written about the history of furoku, furoku in girls' magazines, a close-up look at furoku manga, and a super close-up on a Henshin Ninja Arashi manga given away with a magazine. Now I'd like to take a look at modern furoku.
Freebies continue to be widely given away with all sorts of magazines, and the bundled gifts have become diverse and extravagant over the years. I've even read that women's magazines are using the tactic of giveaways as a way to boost plummeting sales.
Clearly the strategy has traction, as you're seeing everything from anime to sports card to fashion mags wrapped in shrink wrap with one or more alluring prizes.
Some bookstores even have display areas filled with samples of what you can get in new publications.


More after the jump:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014: Indie Toys

Welcome to Kaiju Korner's NYCC 2014 indie toys report. Once again, most of the indie toy booths were in the corner of the convention center called The Block. That made it nice and compact, and you could jump from booth to booth easily.
One trend this year was booth sharing. Though the number of booths selling indie toys wasn't large, many booths featured toys by more than one maker, so the total number of toy makers represented was pretty decent. This year, though, I noticed the absence of Japanese toy makers. Some of their toys were present (especially at the Kaiju Monster, Lulubell, and Clutter booths), but unlike with previous years, I didn't see any makers manning the booths.

However, there were quite a lot of vinyl, resin, and plush toys by Western makers who were there in person. Some, including Joe Merrill (Splurrt) and James Groman, manned different booths at set times to release their toys.

Here are pics of the indie toy booths, alphabetized by booth name:

481 Universe

 More after the jump:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Interview with James Groman at New York Comic Con 2014

At NYCC 2014, I had a chance to interview James Groman - long-time toy designer and creator of Rotten Rex and other vinyl toys - at the Lulubell booth.


James doing an illustration at the Lulubell booth

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hyperstoic Toy and Print Show with Pushead, Horkey, Usugrow, Benscoter, Lango, Holt

New Pushead toy debuting at Hyperstoic
Yesterday in New York at Toy Tokyo Underground, the Hyperstoic event featured works by Pushead, Aaron Horkey, Usugrow, Benscoter, Lango, and Brandon Holt. There were new toy and print releases, and the artists were on hand. Event pics:

One of several exceptional display only Rebel Captains
 More after the jump:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Batman slot machine


Pachinko parlors are ubiquitous in Japan. They're the one thing you're nearly guaranteed to see near a large train station. These extremely loud places have quite a variety of machines, blending traditional pachinko with slot functions, video, interactive elements, and so on. Previously I've written about the intersection of pachinko machines are pop culture.

The machines I've seen advertised have mostly featured crossovers with Japanese properties like Kamen Rider, Evangelion, pro wrestling, AKB 48, etc. Recently I saw a poster for something that caught my eye - a Batman machine. It's not surprising that out of the thousands of candidates for Western licensed properties, Batman was chosen. There are a good number of fans in Japan, which has a 50-year-plus history of producing some really interesting Batman goods.

Here's a look at a poster with Batman and a bunch of other machines:
 More after the jump:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Super Festival 66 - スーパーフェスティバル 66

 
Today's Super Festival saw quite a nice range of toys, including lots of familiar faces, new toy makers, and figures making their debut. Here's a rundown of the indie toy booths:

Billiken


Blobpus
 Around 130 pics after the jump:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Extremely rare vintage 12" Takara figures

Here's some real vintage lore. I wanted to put these up for general reference, as I've never even seen one of these boxed, and here is a large group. These are 12" tokusatsu figures by Takara, made in the early 70s.

Most of them are priced at $3,000-$4,000 each but are all unsold, so who knows if that's a realistic price. I guess when there are so few of them out there, whoever has them can make up the price.

With apologies in advance for the image quality. It was dark and raining.
Ultraman Ace. This is priced at a cool 1 million yen ($10,000).


 More after the jump:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kamen Rider Big Picture Book 仮面ライダー大図鑑 (+ Ultraman + Super Sentai)

 
Sometimes the coolest things are the ones you spot by chance. Like the line from The Wire goes, you have to have "soft eyes" so you can spot what's out there. Well, technically, in the show a vet teacher was schooling the new cop turned teach about running a classroom....anyway I like the phrase.

On a random shelf scan, I spotted this excellent Kamen Rider book published by ポプラ社 -> Poplar. It's called the 仮面ライダー大図鑑 -> Kamen Rider Big Picture Book  The cover advertises it as an all-in-one guide to Kamen Rider, and from the pictures and content, it's hard to argue.
The book introduces the Kamen Riders + their villains, starting from 1-go.

Gorgeous photos of the heroes, villains, and bikes.
Stronger + baddies in Disco/Rocky/WWE/Come-hither poses.

 More after the jump:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Medicom Store Pics

Be@rbrick Transformers!
Pics I recently shot at the Medicom Project 1/6 shop in Shibuya.

 More after the jump:
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