Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Seriously Weird Gashapon

I found these in a magazine today and had to scan them for my blog (sorry for the dodgy picture quality). The first one is a gashapon set called 'Hip Parade'. Euphemistic title aside, it's basically a set of crotches. (Reminds me of Theresa's beer mats!) The second set shows 'Unchis' which translates into 'turds'. These are surprisingly common in japanese pop culture, and crop up in manga, anime, toys and clothing. The sheer absurdity of collecting multi-coloured piles of poop to put on your fingers is so strange it's almost enticing. It seems like it's going to be slightly more difficult to subvert gashapon... considering that such sets actually exist within an entirely mainstream context!

Monday, 12 March 2007

Modelling Options

After extensive research I feel it's unfeasible to have items manufactured out of plastic since injection moulding procedures require a minimum of 5000 units. Considering that each vending unit can hold 50 balls which must form a collectable set, I will end up with less than 10 replicas of a single toy or item. The easiest way would be to make them by hand, or commission someone to do so. I'm looking into alternative materials that mimic the appearance of PVC plastic...two good options seem to be polymer clay (Fimo) and cold pottery. Examples of models made with these substances are shown below. There's also the possibility of graphical (maps, booklets, stickers), soft ('plushys', crochet, felt) toys, or altered versions of existing items.

Japanese Character Design

The Real Deal ;)

When going through some gashapon imagery I collected from the internet I noticed that these japanese machines are actually identical to the one I've bought (Bandai Capsule Station)! This is a pleasant discovery since I assumed that the Bandai machines were 'packaged' for a western market...as is often the case with oriental exports.

Machine Delivered!

It's substantially bigger than I had expected, though I'm pleased since that'll make a nicer impact. The two components are manageable heavy (44kg each) and on wheels so I should hopefully be able to do most of the setting up myself. I also have to familiarise myself with the manual which outlines all the technical details...there's a sort of bizarre excitement in being able to unlock the front of a vending machine using a special key!

Monday, 5 March 2007

Machine Ordered

Just been on the phone with Vending World and I've ordered a second-hand Bandai machine. It'll have 4 compartments for gashapon plus a domed display top. After explaining my project, the man in charge was very nice and offered everything for £200! I won't be paying VAT since I'm not planning to make any commercial profit from this. The machine will be delivered to my flat next week, so I can rest easy throughout the holidays!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Giant gashapon balls, now THERE'S a thought...

Adult Gashapon

A large proportion of the capsule 'toy' industry is dominated by collectable figures aimed at adults. Even in European countries where gashapon is an extremely niche market, the import demand for adult toys equal or sometimes even exceed that of 'PG' toys. In Japan, there are also special gashapon machines which dispense adult items like finger vibrators or underwear, in the trademark pastel bubbles.

Toy Cards

Each machine contains a label (toy card) on the outside advertising the sets of gashapon you can find within. In usual japanese style they are designed to the motto of 'more is more'...each toy card is a small explosion of colour and imagery that demand attention. An entire wall of gashapon machines can be quite a psychedelic experience because your eyes get completely overloaded with visuals.

And while we're feeling the giant toy vibe:

Balls and Labels

Gashapon balls are fairly similar to Kinder Surprise, only more expensive and containing better quality items. The distinct transparent bubble packaging makes gashapons visually enticing because you can glimpse layers of colour, graphics and toys.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Gashapon machines found

This is the machine that I will be using for the show, available from a UK supplier fitted for pound coins. I'm working with a London based company Tokyotoys who will supply me with empty gashapon balls that I can fill with my own designs. They're also willing to buy the machine from me after the degree show, making it a worthwhile investment. The next technical hurdle is finding manufactures willing to produce very small runs for the contents. I'm doing some research in China, and enlisting various family members to help.

Received some valuable feedback from Andy Stevens today, regarding the 2D design elements. Because the machine and gashapon balls sufficiently project the impression of 'japanese', it would be interesting to play around with the advert design so they subvert what you expect to see. He also suggested that if I had real difficulties finding a manufacturer for the toys I could consider getting ready-made items that could be effectively altered in some way.

Project Brief

  • Introduce ‘gashapon machines’ into UK vocabulary and culture.
  • Highlight the increasing influence of Japanese culture in western countries and the novelty or alienation it entails.
  • Outline the functionality of gashapon machines (collectable item sets for children and adults).
  • Explore the notion of collecting objects in order to create a sense of purpose and belonging.
  • Design and make sets of gashapon which reinforce personal identity within cultural (or graphic?) contexts.

My FMP is based upon the gashapon machine. These Japanese vending machines have suddenly emerged in many European cities within the past few years, creating a highly visible icon of global culture. In Japan, gashapon machines enjoy a cult status because they dispense collectable sets of toys or novelty items which are extremely popular with all age groups (not just children). My aim is to explore the human obsession for collecting things and how this creates a sense of purpose and identity.

The location, content and functionality of a gashapon machine make these urges particularly acute, thus I plan to place several in the degree show to tempt visitors into collecting a slice (or more) of Chelsea! The exact contents are yet to be decided though I'm leaning towards themes of culture and/or graphics. In Japan, gashapon machines always contain things relevant to their environment (machines in a red-light district will actually dispense vibrators and thongs), so it seems appropriate, albeit slightly obvious, to link one in a degree show with design.