Monday, May 12, 2014

Furoku - 付録 Part 1: History

The world of Japanese pop culture is made up of many types of wonderful things, some of which are familiar to collectors everywhere. Categories like tin toys, chogokin, sofubi, manga, anime cells, and the like are known even to casual collectors. But there's another category of item that predates just about all of these: furoku (付録).

The name roughly translates to "supplement," as in a manga that continues a story that started elsewhere. But the term can refer to any type of freebie given out with a magazine. And that's where our story begins.
early furoku
Furoku have been traced back to 1927, or the second year of the Showa era. Back then, you could start to see the growth of modern Japanese pop culture with monthly magazines like Shonen. Interestingly, just three years later in 1930, Golden Bat - sometimes called Japan's first superhero - debuted in kamishibai shows. Anyway, with a magazine like Shonen, you'd get one or more freebies bundled with the main publication.
A rare example of an unused magazine + furoku set. Everything was bound together.
Click to read the rest of the story:

This set contains a couple of manga along with a box that has a mask, roulette game, menko, and other fun stuff.

Clearly successful, the furoku concept grew in the first half of the 20th century, as did the appetite and market for youth-focused publications. Furoku were given out with monthly magazines such as...

Manga O (Manga King)

The list of furoku is prominently placed on the front cover. This publication came with TEN freebies.
 Shonen Gaho (Youth Illustrated Publication)

 Boken O (Adventure King)
Shonen Club (Youth Club or Juvenile Club)
...and of course Shonen (Youth or Juvenile Boys)
Now let's take a look at what a bundle of furoku manga looked like:
A bundle was typically surrounded with a strip of paper (called an obi) which listed the contents.

This bundle, from the March 1966 issue of Boken O, contains 5 manga.

Manga furoku came in many sizes, but this size was quite common. These are about 12 cm x 18 cm (4.7" x 7.1")

Earlier I mentioned that the original meaning of furoku is supplement. That's true in a literal sense. The magazine (Shonen, Boken O, etc.) would contain lots of different manga stories. The final panel of many of them would contain the words "つづく" (to be continued). So, you'd carry on with the story by reading the appropriate furoko that came with the issue.

But the story didn't end there. To hook readers, the furoku would often end with a cliff hanger or unfinished story, and once again つづく. To continue further, you'd have to buy the following month's magazine, and so on and so on.

So a story arc would progress in a sequence like this: Magazine --> Furoku --> Magazine --> Furoku....and so on, sometimes for quite a long time.

By the 1950s, furoku were a well established part of monthly magazines, and there was something of a competition to outdo one another.
This February 1951 issue of Shonen contained 15 furoku!

And here is something that is simply glorious: a complete Shonen Book magazine + furoku set from January 1962. It's remarkable enough that this set has been preserved. Just as amazing is the largesse dolled out to the lucky kid whose folks picked it up. The issue came with no fewer than 18 extra goodies!

The magazine may have included a jumbo furoku bonanza because it was the new year's issue. The entire right side of the cover is dedicated to listing the furoku.

Look at this stash. You've got your manga, spinner game, airplane game, paper Colt gun, and more. Yowsa.
Quite a few famous manga were published not only in magazines but also in furoku, and they're very collectible today. Two of the kings were Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) and Tetsujin 28, both of which appeared in Shonen.
The first Mighty Atom furoku appeared in August 1953. Here are a number of Atom furoku from over the years.
 Some examples of Osamu Tezuka's stunning cover art:

And here is a pic of a valuable Tetsujin 28 furoku:
Priced at 120,000 yen.
A number of furoku can fetch high prices. I heard of one holy grail piece valued at 900,000 yen.

The good news for kids over the decades was the furoku tradition carried on...
Boken O from December 1976
Boken O from November 1981
These excellent giveaways are such an established part of the collecting world (especially with manga collectors) that there's even an entire book about the furoku from Shonen magazine:
And that concludes our brief history of what I find to be a fascinating corner of Japanese collecting culture. It's really interesting that items which were originally given away with a magazine are now just as (if not more) desirable as the magazines themselves.

Coming up in future posts, I'm planning a closeup look at several individual furoku manga from past decades, as well as a look at contemporary magazines + giveaways seen in today's bookstores. Some of the freebies are really spectacular!


Mike said...

Never heard much about furoku before, thanks for the really interesting read Andy, keep it up!

andy b said...

Thanks for the positive feedback!

Anonymous said...

such a great article, I learned a lot! thank you!

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