Monday, March 23, 2015

Vintage Tin Toy Airship / Blimp Display

Toy collecting is full of all kinds of interesting niches. If you're at an antique store or show, you might spot something (like an old fountain pen) and think "That's cool." But when you see 10 or 20 together in a collection, it adds meaning. You can compare different versions and styles, and there's something about putting a lot of a certain type of thing together that creates a story or identity.

So, the other day at a Mandarake, I spotted a bunch of vintage dirigibles. Let me start by saying I have zero knowledge of this corner of the toy world. But the assembled group looked really neat, and I thought I'd share a look with you guys.
Pretty serious money for these collectibles. But beyond that, how cool is this Shenandoah blimp circling the Eiffel Tower!


I wonder how many kids filled the moats with water back in the day. I'm guessing most of them -or maybe mud...

A familiar sight to sports fans.

This one has a Steampunk vibe.

This zeppelin looks like it has a turn key on the bottom. I wonder what it does. Any time I'm at this shop and I heard mechanical whirring and clanging, I run to the register to see what tin toy they're testing. :)

The sign says this one is from Germany.


Looks like one of those Time Life books. Remember those commercials?
I look at toys like this and am just amazed that they survived the decades with such delicate parts!


I guess the blimp from this Marx set is part of the coastal defense? The attackers are coming! Fire up the blimp!

Beautiful jumbo lenticular card.

Top shelf piece right there.
A more modern battery operated toy by Bandai.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Star Wars Japanese keshi gomu (rubber eraser) figures

 
A bunch of Star Wars keshi gomu figures were made in Japan in the late 70's, after the first Star Wars movie came out. Most were released in gachapon machines or at little candy shops which also sold toys.

The above batch of figures were made by Takara. Here are some up-close pics:
A lot of the early Takara keshi are fairly godawful to look at, but I just darn plum lub em, I do!

 More after the jump:

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Mandarake story: The founder's tale

Mandarake Shibuya
Mandarake is Japan's preeminent source of many pop culture goods. The company, which was founded in 1987, runs shops all over Japan. In Tokyo's Nakano district alone, the Broadway mall contains 26 Mandarake shops (yes, that's 26 with a capital who's your daddy "T"!) A main fixture of these otaku meccas is the "buy back" area where countless streams of people sell things for quick cash. This allows each store to restock shelves regularly - a critical component of the firm's success.
Mandarake Grandchaos, Osaka
In 2000, Mandarake went public, with shares debuting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Stock symbol: 2652.T) Its recent earnings reports reveal just how big the pop culture market has become. In 2014, the firm pulled in 9.5 billion yen in revenues. That's a lot of copies of Gegege no Kitaro!

More after the jump:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oedo Antique Market

The Oedo Antique Market, held regularly in Tokyo near Yurakucho station, is like a lot of other events in Japan. Most booths feel like they're manned by the same people every time, and whereas you can find some neat stuff, finding a deal is another thing. Of course you can bargain, so there's a chance you might walk away with something good for a decent price.
This particular market, held outdoors in front of the Tokyo International Forum, seems to be popular with tourists. The goods are a mix of vintage Japanese and imported items, from all up and down the antique gamut: glassware, knickknacks, curios, clothing, statues, and the like.
There are a few vendors selling toys, but again since most are professional sellers, I don't see much advantage over shopping at stores. Still it's a free event and an easy way to pass an hour or two before heading on to other parts of the city.
More pics from the market, after the jump:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bandai Tamashii Nations Exhibit Feb. 2015

Here's a look at the latest exhibit of current and upcoming Bandai figures. Quite a range of stuff, including Star Wars, One Piece, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, The Avengers, and lots more. Not much I can add with words this time, so I'm just going to let the photos do the talking.


 More after the jump:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #3: Henshin Ninja Arashi Mini Notebook Sets


I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I loved little game books, activity sets with stickers and illustrations and all that fun stuff. Likewise in the 70s in Japan, there was all kinds of cool stationery, from pencil boxes to notebooks of every size to tape rolls, erasers, etc.

Today I came across two really cool Henshin Ninja Arashi mini notebook sets. They're a few inches by a few inches across, and they pack in all kinds of stuff.

Here's the first one:
These sets were made by Banso, an excellent company that made books, stationery, and toys.

Opens as a tri-fold with lots of nice illustrations
 More after the jump:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #2: Condorman book + flexi disc


Condorman book + flexi disc set
In the late 1960s-early 1970s, records for children's movies, TV shows, and anime started to become popular in Japan. The good thing about vinyl records (like the one in my first Vintage Discoveries article) was they were well made. The bad news is they were expensive.

Enter flexi discs, the thin, clear plastic records that might be green, blue, or red. These were so cheap that you could pair them with a mini book and still sell them for less than the cost of a vinyl EP. In the late 60s, flexi discs were really thin and floppy, and they were easily damaged. These were known as "sonosheets." Asahi was one of the main companies in the field, and their Asahi Sonorama (朝日 ソノラマ) series included book + sonosheet sets for titles like Ultraman, Mighty Atom (Astro Boy), etc.
Asahi Sonorama Mighty Atom mini book + sonosheet set

sonosheet
Advances in music printing technology came quickly, and in the 1970s, a new series of Asahi book + recording sets was launched: the Sonorama Ace series. The full title is Sonorama Ace Puppy Series (ソノラマエースパピイシリーズ). Note the puppy in the top right corner of the very top pic.

In this series, the paper was thicker for the mini books, though the internal binding wasn't the best, leading to pages easily becoming separated.
Mini books were typically around 6-8 pages long. In this Condorman book, the lyrics to one of the flexi disc's songs are on the right-hand page, and a mini story (not recorded on the disc) starts on the left.
The new flexi discs in the Sonorama Ace series were thicker and sturdier than the discs from the 60s. Called "punch sheets," they were made from a clear red material.
Condorman "punch sheet" containing one song on each side.
It's worth noting that few people will know what a "punch sheet" is, so in Japan the general term used is "sonosheet" for all types of flexis.

More after the jump:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Super Festival 67 - Ultraman Leo Exhibition / スーパーフェスティバル 67 - ウルトラマンレオ展

One of the highlights of Super Festival 67 was an exhibition of Ultraman Leo goods. A single cabinet contained a beautifully curated collection of toys, books, models, scripts, and other items related to the show. Here's a detailed look at the cabinet.

Gorgeous assortment of sofubi toys
 More after the jump:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Super Festival 67 / スーパーフェスティバル 67

Welcome to Kaiju Korner's Super Festival 67 indie toy report. Once again I've tried to go beyond the status quo and introduce several makers we haven't covered before, across different mediums. I hope you'll find something interesting, inspirational, or just plain fun!

So here's our coverage, with pictures and notes. The makers are alphabetized.

Aimo Do
Today was this maker's first appearance at Super Festival.


Blobpus

This and the next two custom sets were 60,000 yen each.


 More after the jump:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Japan Rail (JR) x Ultraman promotion - prizes galore!

I spotted this poster at a JR station advertising an upcoming JR x Ultraman promotion. It's marked JR East, which is primarily the area around Tokyo and heading north towards the edge of Hokkaido.

The Tokyo-centered promotion will run from January 13 - February 27. The little sequential numbers on the bottom of the poster run through the details. From what I can make out (please take this as a rough outline, as I can't claim to be able to translate the guidelines perfectly), it starts with (1) buying a pamphlet, after which (2) you can go around to JR stations and collect 64 different stamps representing heroes and kaiju from four Ultraman series. Here's the full treasure map. For example, here is the kaiju associated with Nakano station:

Then (3) a total of 12 original menkos are available as giveaways. The promotion website says you get 2 menkos by collecting 10 stamps. So I'd guess you can get all 12 menkos by filling up most of the stamp book. Here are a number of them:



*Geeky side note – these are called “maru menkos,” meaning “round menkos.” Paper menkos like this have been around a long time – more than 100 years. During the Meiji and Taisho eras, they often portrayed generals, samurai, etc. During the Showa era, and especially from the 1950s on, menkos featured a much broader range of subjects, including movie stars, cartoon characters, and other pop culture icons. (The other popular menko shape, which seemed to reach a height of popularity in the 1960s, are rectangular.)*

OK, back to Ultraman. Next up (4) there are 10 different Ultraman acrylic stands available. You get one for free after spending 300 yen at one of 10 "goal stores" with a Suica card. There are 1,000 of each type. Here's one of them:
Also, if you  collect all 64 stamps, there's yet another prize available. Now getting that would be a lot of leg work!

Finally (5) there are 78 bonus prizes that are chosen by lottery. Wow, if I've got it right, the top prize is a visit by Ultra Seven to your house! That's pretty wild.

Anyway, click here to visit the promotional website.

This rabbit hole turned out to be a lot deeper than I expected. What started with a simple photograph of a poster turned into a Dantean labyrinth that overmatched the single can of Kirin I had tonight. So, well done.

Once again we learn several key lessons: (1) Ultraman is still insanely popular in Japan. (2) Major public institutions are perfectly comfortable with promotional tie-ins involving nearly 50-year-old tokusatsu heroes. (3) If you're going to do something, make it complicated enough that only the truly devoted will pour the time and effort needed to figure it out and maximize the prize winnings.

I have to say, those menkos and acrylic stands look pretty cool! But what would I serve Ultraman Seven? I wonder if he likes Kirin...
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