Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
One of the many, many things the Japanese do better than Americans is the crane game. Yes, those carnival games where you put in your quarter and maneuver a grappling device to pick up some kind of prize. While Americans plop in a quarter to try and retrieve some shoddily made plush toy in the lobbies of grocery stores or Chuck E Cheeses, the Japanese have dozens of varieties of games, and incredible number of them (up to several dozen, depending on the size of the arcade—of which there are still plenty in Japan), and incredible prizes, often of exclusive and exquisitely made anime merchandise. Oh, and the Japanese charge 100 yen (pretty much a dollar) so they can afford to make great, quality prizes.
Sega is the undisputed king of the game machines in Japan—so much so that all these skill games are called UFO catchers in Japan, based on one particularly popular Sega crane game. Sega also makes many of the best prizes, including the two figures of Shonen Sunday/Shonen Magazine 50th Anniversary Vol. 1 figure series. You can see the slots on the side of the box where the claw is supposed to hook into to grab the figure—having tried these machines many, many times in the past, it's significantly harder than it looks.
Still, it'd be worth dropping a few thousand yen to get one of Sega's Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine figures, which are quite nice. As you can see, they've uncharacteristically chosen to celebrate the two manga anthologies 50th anniversaries—although they're published by Shogakukan and Kodansha, respectively, the two magazines have decided to celebrate together—by taken the biggest female characters from their biggest series and put them in their school girl outfits (oh, if only more Japanese toymakers would make figures of anime girls in school uniforms). Vol. 1 contains Lu>m and Naru Narusegawa, stars of Shonen Sunday’s ‘80s hit Urusei Yatsura and Shonen Magazine’s Love Hina, respectively. As part of the theme, both figures come with school desks and chairs.
Naru is posed sitting on her chair, elbows resting on her desk. I'm no Love Hina fan, but I can certainly recognized that Naru is exquisitely sculpted: she's made of a great many separate pieces, so there's very little paint on her, and the lines are crisp and clean. Her face is also more representative of Ken Akamatsu's Love Hina manga than Production I.G's anime, suitable to the figure being a celebration of the manga's anthology. Last, but certainly not least, Naru is perfectly positioned to rest her elbows exactly upon her desk—I can't stress enough how impressive this is. Even being half a millimeter off would tip Naru forward or backward, having her raise off her desk or her chair awkwardly. Instead, she looks great.
It might be hard to tell in my pictures, but Naru has a slight look of boredom and a hint of a blush, well-suiting how many tines she's seen naked in Love Hina. Alas, her panties are visible when she's taking off her chair, also appropriate given the Love Hina manga, and which could account for her blush as well. Her specific accessory is a bath bowl with towel, as well as a small figure of Tama-chan the turtle, who fits snugly in the bowl, peeking his little head out. She also has some graphitti on her desktop which I utterly can't read.
If you know anything about me, you likely know that I am a card-carrying member of Lu>m's stormtroopers, and count Urusei Yastura my favorite anime ever. I own many, many Lum figures. The plethora of figures allows me to grade them critically; I just have to own them anyway. At any rate, I'm reasonably pleased to add this one to my collection. Lu>m's in her Tomobiki high school uniform, which is far more modest in its length, and does not allow any view of her presumably tiger-striped briefs. I was hoping her face would be an exact replica of manga-ka Rumiko Takahashi's early manga (which first catapulted her to manga stardom), but instead it kind of looks like Takahashi's fellow Shonen Sunday artist Mitsuru Adachi drew her. At any rate, it's not the later, Ranma ½-esque anime OVA design, which I'm pleased about.
The best part about L>um is her wonderful pose—her hovering gently, with only her fingertips holding her above her school desk—thanks to a nifty bit of clear plastic. It contains a sculpted slot and peg to firmly fit Lum's knees upon, and then slides neatly into the desk. Despite Lum being significantly heavier than the desk, the weight distribution is such so she's steady (although a decent nudge can still knock her over). Her hair is wonderfully sculpted with nice highlights. Her accessory is her tiny, bratty cousin Ten, who flys with the help of his own clear plastic post. His eyes are filled with hearts—I thought this was weird that he had the hots for his cousin, until I realized that he's surely supposed to be staring at Naru or one of the other Shonen Sunday figure girls (like every male in Urusei Yatsura, Ten is a total lecher).
One last note—although the school desks and chairs are identical for each figure, they're also a great example of the figures quality. The desks are made of two separate piece, so there's no runny paint between the brown wood of the desk top and the gray of the “metal” desk frame. The chair is one piece, but the painting is exceptional—the rivets on the chair are perfectly circular. Like their real Japanese counterparts, the desks have hooks on either side, to hold the schoolbags which both figures come with—and which fit perfectly. It's pretty phenomenal, especially when you consider these are toys you get in a crane game.