Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Idols of the Week

I've been quite busy lately, so there haven't been too many posts. I've managed to get some projects done, and waste a good bit of time doing nothing too. My Monday excursions have been quite lengthy lately, as I've spent more time exploring some of the shops of Akihabara. I recently returned to the Akiba Cultures building to check out the new shops; K-Books had moved out a few months ago and a couple other stores took its place. One shop that's been in there for a while has a ton of J-Pop and K-Pop goods, especially paper goods like posters and books. There's a small trading card corner, which had several very cheap relic and autograph cards.
Now 26, Mai Endo is best known for her role in the pop group Idoling!!!, which I've discussed before. She was the lead member of the group after the two senior members left in 2009. Mai "graduated" to a solo career in 2013, though I'm not sure how successful she has become.
 In 2011, though, she was fairly important in the J-Pop idol hierarchy, important enough to receive her own card set. I picked up this autographed card, and I have a small desire to pick up the other premium cards from the release.
Ai Okawa is a fellow former member of Idoling!!!; the now-22-year-old joined the group in 2009. She must have been pretty popular in a hurry, because she got a card set, seen below, in 2010.
The card set featured the usual costume cards, and I picked up this one with a piece of a fancy party dress.

The 2015 Idoling!!! card set came out last week, so I'll have that for you in the near future. If I can keep myself in line and post every day!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Release: 2014 Frontier Hiroshima Toyo Carp Mizuno

The name Mizuno is familiar to anyone remotely into sports. The Japanese company surely has a strong presence in its home country's sporting goods market, and can be found on many baseball players.

I'm not sure how the arrangement was made, but Mizuno's name has appeared on a team-based trading card set issued recently.
The small base set of 15 cards features a single player on each, in an action photo of some sort. There's a fancy black crown design at the bottom with the player's name, jersey number, and position, along with the set name along the bottom. One of the top corners has both the Carp and Mizuno logos.

The backs have the player's name in Japanese characters; the card number is in the top-right corner. Beneath that is basic stats. The photo from the front is cropped and has a red box highlighting a piece of Mizuno equipment. In the case of Takahashi's card above, the bat is noted. Statistics about the equipment is actually found at the bottom of the photo, above the copyright details.

One thousand total sets were produced; each box contains 17 cards. Only seven players appear on the 15 base cards; each player has two cards (Maeda gets three). One full set is in each box, along with either two jersey cards, or one jersey card and an autograph.
 There are three "levels" of jersey cards that can be found in the boxes. "Level 1" is just a basic jersey swatch, though the piece itself is quite large. These seem to have a print run around 255-265 copies each. I understand that only four players have jersey cards: Dohbayashi, Kuri, Maeda, and Soyogi.
 Level 1 has a patch version, numbered to around 48 copies each. These are generally pieces of very large patches, similar to the patch you see in the Level 3 card below. I'm not sure where this NPB patch came from, as it looks like it might be better as Level 2. But it seems that many Level 1 patches use smaller logos.
Level 2 patches all appear to be vertically aligned. These are pretty low-numbered, and use name letter patches or the script word "Hiroshima" from the jersey sleeve.
Level 3 jersey cards have autographs as well, and I think are numbered to around 6 copies each. These are all patch cards, again using the large team logo patches, though I saw at least one example where the "Hiroshima" sleeve patch was used here.
 As for autographs, there are eight players who signed for the set; rookie Aren Kuri has only autographs in the product. The autograph series is actually quite complicated, and appears to have two variations with three colors of signatures. The black autograph above is Authentic Signatures, while the blue version is Authentic Signatures Red, named by the background. It seems that both versions come with blue and black signatures. I can't find a full list, but it appears that quantities range from 20-45 copies each.
 Red versions are parallels, found for both Authentic Signatures and Authentic Signatures Red. I found an image of the back of the Maeda signature, to show the serial numbering.

At first this set didn't really interest me. There are just so many team sets this year. I don't generally care much for team sets, but the focus on equipment is giving me more interest. I might end up with a set in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Thoughts on the Oldies Collection

Interestingly, this is post 1111. I just thought that was pretty funny.

The last couple days, I brought information about two fairly simple new box sets, from the Oldies Collection, also titled (subtitled?) Achievement.
I'm guessing and hoping that the Oldies Collection will be a longer, ongoing series that uses multiple designs, while the Achievement set will hopefully maintain the same design, similar to the Legends series. BBM can really use a quality throwback series (other than Classic, which is a set that reuses BBM designs), and I think this might be it.
 The basic design idea for the Achievement series comes from menko cards, especially the tobacco ones with simple designs and moderate text on the front, and of course monochrome backs. (Note that the front and back images above come from different cards.)
There are a lot of great old sets to pay homage to. I suppose the most iconic is Calbee, but that's an ongoing issue which really shouldn't be copied.
 There are somewhat-modern sets like ID Card (above) and the Takara series. Takara would be a good choice.
 Some of the earliest cards are not menko, however, they're bromides. These are even simpler than menko, basically photos with a line or two of text, and usually blank backs. This could be great as an oversized box-topper.
 The basic tobacco menko I showed above is a great start, but I'd love to see a return to the colorful drawings found on 1950s menko sets. I don't think I've ever seen a full art set other than the Players Collection series issued in 2003 without team logos. Additionally, the backs with game characters, random digits or even other subjects (fruits, anyone?) were a nice addition.
  Round and die-cut menko could be great inserts as well.
 While menko cards are generally the most beautiful Japanese cards I've seen, karuta designs and plenty of issues by other manufacturers are also great sources of inspiration.

Actually, a great one-off addition to the Oldies Collection would be a nice 144 card set grabbing a few of these ideas. The base set could have the players on menko designs - perhaps one menko design per team. A parallel could have various menko backs instead of the standard backs, and original-sized menkos are possible one-per-pack parallels here.

Inserts have a lot to pull from. Large-format bromides and oversized die-cut menkos would be awesome box loaders (something BBM has never done, as far as I know), Perhaps one of each per box. A cartoon menko insert set would be great, as would an additional insert set or two using another retro card design.

BBM has never done a Allen & Ginter/Golden Age style throwback set. What do you think about this?