Back in the mid-80’s and up to about 1994 or so, I was OBSESSED with Gasahpon and Shogukan figures thanks to a few shops in Chinatown that stocked them and the prices being so inexpensive. I partially blame Cracker Jacks for exposing me to fun toys in a box of candy when I was a kid, then over time getting rid of those toys in favor of lousy paper goodies far less expensive to produce. I guess I was unconsciously looking for a substitute one fine summer day when, while waiting at a checkout line at a large Asian market I saw that colorful anime art on those small boxes and picked up four or five of them at under a dollar each.
Soon thereafter, a friend told me about a shop in the area that had what seemed like hundreds of figures for sale from too many manga and anime and I was introduced to higher end, higher quality figures from Bandai and Banpresto. The combination of low to reasonably acceptable price points and the variety of different types of figures lured me in deeper and soon, I was snapping up anywhere between five to ten Shogukan figures a week or every other week.
The difference between the two figures were sizes of the figures and their pricing. Shogukan coming with candy of some sort while Gashapon didn’t. The shops I got them from usually had them stocked by the cash registers as impulse items to get kids to shake a few extra bucks from their parents’ pockets. Sometimes I saw kids come into these stores to spend some of their allowance and I’d usually get a strange look from a few of them. It was as if they were wondering why some guy a few too many years older than they were was happily stuffing a bunch of toys they wanted to buy into a basket.
It got so bad that two stores tried to ban me from buying them before just limiting how many I could buy to two a visit per day. That ticked me off because my money is as good as anyone’s, but I soon realized I was possibly making more regular customers in the neighborhood spend less money at those shops. Ah, the selfish me at work back then! In retrospect, it was actually pretty amusing to see the faces of the checkout gals in one shop when I walked in and started picking through the figures near the registers. I’d gotten good at choosing the best ones because a bit of trial and error in my earlier purchases revealed it was better to stick to certain anime figures while ignoring others.
During my time collecting, I started off not saving the boxes, then flattening them and storing them away in a bigger mailing box. At one point, I ran out of room to store new figures and ended up with a bunch of unopened ones which took up a few boxes in the bottom of a closet. While the desire to collect was still strong, I’d also been building a video game library that was becoming more of something I wanted to expand for a few reasons. A mental coin flip helped me choose gaming over figure collecting and a few months or so of selling off or giving away Gashapon and Shogukan figures followed. Ladies and gentlemen, I was cured!
Well, until this year’s Toy Fair, that is. Among other awesome things I need to write about, Bandai’s collector’s event had a nice surprise at the end with the announcement that the company would officially be bringing figures in the Gashapon and Shogukan line to the US market. This is a great thing, although collectors outside Japan won’t be getting the candy here (no big loss), nor need to pump dollar after dollar into a vending machine or UFO catcher to hopefully nab that one wanted figure winking from its plastic packaging. That said, the quality of these figure lines has increased as has the price points.
Amusingly enough, Although I’m feeling the flame burning hot to start again, most of my currently available space is taken up by games. I suppose one figure a month might be possible (and I believe thats exactly what the release window is for these), but we’ll see what happens, I suppose. Heck, if anything, it’ll make a great ongoing feature and possibly get a few of you out there wanting to check these out. As always, we shall see…