FRI’s eye:Unique capsule toys are constantly being released! They are popular among adults and tourists

Have you ever played with a capsule toy? For the last few years, many unique capsule toys which even adults want to collect are being released here in Japan, and they’re becoming somewhat of a boom. Many companies are now joining the capsule toy business, since they are noticing its potential as a generator of new characters.

■ The adult-aimed gacha boom which started with “Cup no Fuchiko”

“Capsule toys” come from small vending machines into which you insert a coin, turn a handle, and out comes a capsule with a little toy or figurine inside it. These are generally called “gacha”, “gachapon” or “gachagacha” (in the present article we will be calling them “gacha”). It all began when this concept was imported into Japan roughly 50 years ago, from America.

At first, gacha were generally seen as being toys for children or for small groups of enthusiastic collectors. However, in 2012 a series of gacha called “Cup no Fuchiko” were released, and they became a massive hit even among adults. This was what started it all, and since then a great number of cute and weird toys which even adults wanted to collect started appearing on the market one after the other.

■ What is their appeal, which charms adults so much?
The appeal of gacha is probably that they are cheap, and yet their designs are very elaborate; that there are many different varieties; and that you can find them almost anywhere. Generally, each gacha costs as little as 100 to 300 yen, and yet their modeling is very detailed and many of them are high quality items, too. There is also a rich variety of them. In Akihabara’s “Gacha Kaikan” building, there are as many as 500 gacha vending machines lined up, and it has become a very popular spot for tourists from overseas. But of course, even without going to such a spectacular place you can still find gacha almost everywhere. In the past they were usually located in places which would catch the attention of children, such as toy stores or supermarkets, but recently one can even find them in fashion buildings and other trendy places frequented by adults. Even in airports, train stations, aquariums or museums one can find souvenir gacha which are specific to those locations.
I think that in their childhoods, many Japanese people must have collected the kinds of toys which “you need to buy in order to see what’s inside”, such as character seals, trading card games, and so on. Even I, during my primary school days, collected the seals which came attached to sweets. Maybe collecting objects and talking about them with our friends is one of our character traits as Japanese people.

■ New characters which were originally “gacha”
The aforementioned “Cup no Fuchiko” is an original character created specifically as a gacha toy, but due to her becoming so popular a variety of collaborations were later released, for instance together with anime characters, celebrities and movie characters. She earned a much wider popularity which went beyond that of a mere “gacha product”.
However, apart from these kinds of examples, there are other cases such as major companies who have now newly stepped into the gacha manufacturing business (like Kadokawa Corporation), or toy manufacturers who have created entirely new brands of toys just for gacha (Panda no Ana), since they have now seen its potential as a way of generating new characters.

■ Which gacha will be popular next
At the 2016 Toy Show held in Tokyo some days ago, the Bandai Namco booth showcased a variety of gacha which might be the next in line to become popular. These included anime characters, Animal Toys, and more.
“Animal Toys” are products which combine animals with some other component, such as “Animals x Food”. These can be spotted here and there, so it’s possible that their popularity will take root and become the next big thing!
It’s exciting to wonder which kinds of gacha will be released next!

(Writer: Maki Kobayashi)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.

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