Oh, wow, where does the time go? Has it really been two weeks since I posted last?
To be honest, I haven’t really found much in postworthy news lately — things have gotten licensed, more things are streaming online, and Kinokuniya had another nerd day that I couldn’t attend. Good news mostly in the otaku world, but I’ve talked about all these things before. Convention season is quieting as it gets colder, so there’s no longer that constant barage of news that came in the summer months. Meanwhile, Wall Street committed seppuku, only to kind of survive and turn into a zombie, and everyone is scrambling around trying to fix things before the election in two weeks. Oh, and crude oil has absolutely plummeted. After the election, I think everyone will just be wondering whether this holiday season will make or break businesses.
So I guess on these slow news days, it’s up to me to come up with original content and to ramble on about questionably relevant things, like the fact that Japanese toys are so much cooler than anything we’ve got. Seriously. There are hundreds of potential comparisons I could make, but for one, their UFO catcher (known overseas as those annoying crane grabby games) prizes are incredibly well-made and sought-after collectors’ items; meanwhile, ours are cheap and shoddily made toys that disappear into the recesses of children’s closets until they inadvertently show up in yard sales years later to be sold for a quarter.
I always wonder how the Japanese managed to develop this huge, huge collectors’ mindset as a whole. Just about every kind of toy they make is highly detailed, finely sculpted, finely crafted, and otherwise just screaming to be made a collectors’ item. Are there really any toys that are made just for kids? For the sole purpose of being tossed around in a sandbox? I only bought one item from the Dealers’ Room at AWA — it was a UFO Catcher plush of Knuckles. The dealer I bought it from actually had two different kinds of Knuckles plush — one was a Japanese release, the one I bought, and one was an American release. I don’t have a picture of the latter, but trust me when I say that the craftsmanship was hardly comparable. The fabric was the main difference in quality, but American release also had those cheap plastic eyes and sloppy stitching.
While I imagine there are plenty of little Japanese kids that have the same plush I do and that they’re off tossing it around and treating it roughly, I also imagine that some hardcore Sonic merch collector out there keeps it in a glass box. The quality is there for the collector, but it can still function as a kid’s toy. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any toys in the United States that also double as collectors’ items. Action figures and lunchboxes from various franchises in the 80’s and 90’s will fetch a pretty penny in the right markets, and really, some of the toys from that period are much more impressive than some toys these days, but the quality of American action figures can never really compare to Japanese action figures. Why is that? If toys in both countries can fullfill roles as play things and prized collectibles, why aren’t toys here as awesome?
Maybe it’s because there just aren’t that many crazy, obsessive collectors in the States. I don’t have anything resembling scientific statistics, but I would guess that there are many more Japanese collectors of things than there are American collectors. A Hello Kitty made of diamonds has a place in Japan. A Mickey Mouse made out of diamonds in the United States? …Maybe not so much. (Ironically, as big an icon as the Mouse is in the US, I would think that Japan would be more eager to commission a diamond Mickey than we would.) Are there are collectors in Japan because there are more things to collect, or are there more things to collect because there are more collectors in Japan?
Pokemon was a big hit all across the world, but no country loves them as much as Japan still does. There’s been a bit of resurgent interest in the franchise after the release of Diamond/Pearl, but no other country produces a line of super-detailed, 1/40 size models of various evolution lines (zukan models), distributed via gashapon machines of all things! (The difference between Japanese gashapon machines and American machines of the same sort is even more stark than the comparison between UFO catches and crane machines.) No other country has produced a line of items (kid figures) where you can get one depicting every single Pokemon, which as of the current count, is almost 500. It’s crazy.
What’s the most extensive line of American collectibles? For some reason, the first thing that came to mind is the American Girl dolls, but I really have no idea. It’s hard to imagine anything that’s comparable to the Pokemania in Japan. Items of collectible quality are everywhere in Japan — in their crane games, in their gashapon machines, in their vending machines. You’d have to look further and harder for similar things here, if they even exist. Where else but your super-obscure, specialty comic store can you find high-quality models of X-men? I have no idea.