Special FeatureThe Cute World of Kawaii
Happiness is owning your favorite characters from pop culture
Small figurines inspired by characters in animé and video games are attracting even adult eyes in Japan. The most popular ones, snapped up by young and old alike, are the "capsule toys" no bigger than your thumb. Put a little money in the vending machine and they drop down, ready to be taken out of their tiny capsules.
The manager of the figurine store Akizumu owns about 500 capsule toys himself. When asked about the fad's special attraction, the explanation was simple: "The figurines are small but the design is still faithful to the original character. That's the main reason for their success. And they are colorful, nice to look at, and small enough to fit into a Japanese home. They are more than a toy, and priced cheap enough for kids to buy with their allowance. They are perfect in many ways, and that's why even adults go crazy over them."
The store has a wide selection of small figurines, characters from animé movies and other elements of pop culture. Customers range in age from around 10 to 60. One new addition, Pretty Young Maid from the maid café fad, is a hit among wide-eyed young men.
And then there are what are known as garage kits. These are expensive models for enthusiasts finicky enough to assemble a figurine with plenty of detail. Yuka (26), interviewed by Nipponia, owns 35 kits and says the attraction lies mainly in the detail. "I began collecting them after I saw how real, how alive they look. They bewitched me. It was as if one of the female characters in my favorite animé jumped down from the screen into my hands.
"They're quite expensive — about 10,000 yen each — but they are all so refreshingly mesmerizing. The arms and legs seem ready to move on their own."
Yuka avoids ones lacking realism, no matter how much she likes the character. "The more the detail, the cuter they are, the more I want them in my real world. I'm that fond of them. They bring peace to the soul. When I'm home among them, I forget the stress of work and the mundane side of life.