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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 Best Toy Designs From Japan—Boring


Japan held it's Best Toy Designs competition recently ahead of the International Tokyo Toy Show coming up June 12-15, 2014 at the Tokyo Big Sight facility.

All I can say is boring.

Now, first a caveat… I was not at the show and really only have the photos below to tell me a story. So perhaps I may be over-stepping my bounds.

I don't know about you, but I have come to look at Japan as an innovator in so many things, that I suppose I am completely disappointed by this lackluster effort in new toy tech that seems to be a re-hash of the same old-same old.

And, if these so-called best toy designs are really what constitutes the best of the best to come out from Japan in 2014, then just how crappy were the other efforts.

Mind that I am not saying I could do better—I've never tried to create a toy or entertainment vehicle aside from a few blogs and comic books, so I probably shouldn't be criticizing these toy designers—and in truth I am not criticizing them so much as I am the entire industry.

Here—Check out the photos of the "best of the best", and wonder where the innovative stylings of of Tomodachi or Stretch Armstrong or Silly Putty are.
Transformer hero toys from Takara TOMY.


Hello!Zoomer robot dog from Takara TOMY.

Anatomical model (Human body game) from MEGA House.

Pripasu Idol Link (transmission toy for little girls) from Takara TOMY.




Belt from the TV series “Kamen Rider” from Bandai.


The PROPRICA Moon Stick (Sailor Moon) from Bandai.
Really? Yet another effing Transformer?! I've purchased these transformable offing hero toys and because most of them were too complex for my kid, I spent most of my time transforming the damn thing first into an offing robot and then transforming into some stupid offing vehicle… and even though I have a higher IQ than many matsuri (festivals) (though I don't utilize it all), I struggled mightily to build these stupid toys that never seemed to want to join together and stay together. Give me LEGO any day.   

A robot dog? Another one? I have to admit that the actual technology involved in this new version is pretty good, and it's nice to see such high-tech technology used in such a high-tech toy for kids that can't afford a dog or allergic to a dog or live in a place inhospitable for a dog (Japan)…
Here's a YouTube video of Hello! zoomed - the Japanese really need to work on their marketing skills… they don't, but imagine just how awesome they could really be if they started creating products with profound English names, rather than the moronic-sounding baby talk they usually spew.  I know - tell us what you really think, Andrew.  


It looks cool - don't get me wrong, but it's not like this is a new product! Here's a lister of other  consumer-available robot dogs I found on Wikipedia.
Consumer
    •    AIBO (Sony)
    •    Big Scratch & Little Scratch (Trendmasters)
    •    Build Your Own Robo Pup
    •    Bow-wow
    •    F.I.D.O.
    •    Genibo, a robotic dog produced by the Korean company Dasatech.
    •    I-Cybie (Silverlit Electronics)
    •    iDog (Hasbro) and (Tiger Electronics)
    •    iDog amp'd (Hasbro) and (Tiger Electronics)
    •    iDog Clip (Hasbro) and (Tiger Electronics)
    •    iDog Dance (Hasbro) and (Tiger Electronics)
    •    iDog soft speaker (Hasbro) and (Tiger Electronics)
    •    Lucky the Incredible Wonder Pup (Zizzle)
    •    Mio Pup (Tiger Electronics) An "emoto-tronic" robot pet with over 100 "eye-cons" to show its feelings
    •    Pleo, pet robot with artificial intelligence.
    •    Poo-Chi (Tiger Electronics)
    •    Robopet (WowWee)
    •    Rocket the Wonder Dog (Fisher Price)
    •    Smartpet
    •    Space Dog (KO CO)
    •    Tekno (Manley Toys)
    •    Teksta Popular in the 1990s, this toy was intended to be able to perform card tricks and respond to commands
    •    Wrex the Dawg the robot dog
    •    Zoomer & Friends
    •    I Robot - Available in three different types i.e. DuoDuo, Lele, QiQi
    •    Joinmax Digital Robot Dog JM-DOG-001], offered as a semi-assembled kit (no soldering required) at $331, it offers a 15 servo-based impressive freedom of motion. Control is possible through a serial connection to the included controller board, or through simple commands sequences stored in memory.
    •    Flip over dogs F.I.D.O and Sparky are examples of such robot dogs.

The anatomical model (Human body game) from MEGA House—there's not a lot of data to affectively critique this toy, except that it is creepy looking. It's not a game for kids—not even Japanese kids who are smarter then everyone else on the planet (no, they aren't, actually)—it's too complex-looking… but is it a toy for people to just build the guts out of what appears to be a either a human-like monkey or a small child with poor skin tone?

No seriously… I know it's not just a model or else you wouldn't need such garish images and cards contained with it.

No… this is a toy. When I was a kid I bought and built a model of the human skeleton where I had to stuff in the organs and bones within a see-through plastic male body. It's actually sitting in my dresser drawer right now… I have no idea why I kept it as I completely fudged up its construction back then as I couldn't tell a liver from a kidney as an eight-year-old… both were red in color, but of differing organ shapes… I guess I was either to impatient or IQ doesn't mean sh!t.

Anyways… I don't have enough data on this toy, so perhaps I'll leave it open to further attacks or rejoicing at a later date.

Still… it doesn't LOOK awe-inspiring.      

Pripasu Idol Link (transmission toy for little girls) from Takara TOMY—Okay…. of all the toys that won… this one might have the most going for it. Might. I can't tell what it is, and the Japan Today article on said that it was a transmission toy for little girls.

I knew it was for little girls… there were shiny offing stickers involved. Also the packaging was all in nauseating pink.

You know what… it's offing 2014. When will companies and parents and everyone else stop insisting on genderizing colors? I used to wrap my son up in a pink blanket when he was a baby because that was the only one we had. People assumed he was a she just because of the blanket color even before seeing him.
Have you ever walked into a story store? There's a pink aisle that is just for girls. It's the Mattel Barbie aisle. It makes me want to barf. I like Barbie - it serves a purpose, but how about some colors other than pink (or purple). LEGO also uses lots of pink and purple for bricks related to its FRIENDS line supposedly deemed just for girls… but there are so many cool bricks in this sets that I often buy them to use in dioramas I am building.

Anyhow… Pripasu Idol Link…  that appears to be the Japanese katakana name of the toy. If you look at the photo, you can see on the standing placard that the only English words have it known as Prepass Idol Link… which still tells me nothing about what the hell this gizmo might be about.

Or does it? Pre-pass… could it be that maybe you tap a character sticker against the handheld device and the character appears and does things on the screen? and that maybe it interacts with different characters and objects as you introduce mow stickers onto the device?

Hmmm… not bad, if that is what it is. No idea. I wish the Japan Today article provided some or any information.  

Belt from the TV series “Kamen Rider” from Bandai. Are you offing kidding me? Look… I'm sure that Kamen Rider is a popular show—didn't that show first air between 1971 and 1973? Just how are these toys being made for? Kids as old as me?

Okay, I know that Kamen Rider is still on television in revised forms as of 2014 as Kamen Rider Gaim, so I can see why someone is making toys for the show still… so what do we have here? A belt.

Wow. Does it make noises and flash lights and maybe say something in the hero's voice? Please tell me it does more than that… you know… like maybe it injects you with some sort of juice to turn you into a mutant cyborg like Kamen Rider. 

Whatever… this is a belt based on an established anime and manga franchise. It's hardly anything original considering it was probably lifted from one of those two formats. 

Which brings us to Sailor Moon and the PROPRICA Moon Stick (Sailor Moon) from Bandai.
here… check out the video on this toy prop….


So… did you notice that it was made in China? That in itself is not surprising, but still, it seems disappointing considering this is from an original Japanese anime/manga concept. 

So… you get to build this plastic wand, add a battery and press a button and twist a dial so your Sailor Moon wand can make noises, flash and spew out words taken directly from the manga (I assume—never watched Sailor Moon—Never will).

I would imagine that anyone susceptible to seizures should not play with this 'toy' thanks to the flashing lights… or anyone that isn't under the age of 12 and female… I'm looking at you fat, 40-year-old dude.
So… what is  so effing impressive about this innovative toy? Nothing. It's a plastic toy that makes a total of EIGHT… yes… 8 sound effects and flashes a few lights and spews a few words.

It's also the THIRD such Sailor Moon wand that does pretty much the same as the one that came out in 1999. 

$90 - $100… holy crap.

Wow… best toy designs? No.

Even if I think that maybe the Prepress Idol Link might be the most original toy of the bunch, that's not saying much… even though the physical look of it is similar to a Nintendo handheld game system.

Lack of originality? Sure… Japan was famous back in the 50s-70s of taking a popular product and then shrinking it, like TVs and transistor radios.

These winning entries just seem tame… and unexciting. At least with the PrePress, it;'s digital, which as we all know seems to capture the attention of kids and people more than anything they have to build with their hand (excluding LEGO).

The photos contained here were taken by Sugama Midori (surname first) and appeared in Japan Today on June 10, 2014: HERE

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

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