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

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Those Ugly Japanese Cards

Everyone's busy answering Fuji's latest question (as written by dayf):

What is the ugliest card set you've ever seen?

But they're all stuck in America, showing American baseball cards, with American baseball players. And while I could look through my US type collection cards to find some ugly designs, I thought I'd take a look at the cards I've found in the past six months here in Japan. So you won't see any Topps, Upper Deck, or gaudy Fleer, Score, or Donruss from the junk wax era.

Finding oddballs isn't easy here. They just disappear into the ether once they're issued. But there's a good bit of BBM, Calbee, and game cards to choose from. Let's take a short look at some of them.
 Game cards just have too much going on with them. There's a ton of data on both the front and back - Japanese game cards these days work with games in arcades or online so the back has even more space for more skill charts and stats. Plus, any particular company's game cards have the same design, with just minor differences between each game (mainly a different logo hidden somewhere on the back). Each series is identical to the ones before it, and several series are released each year for several years. One game is on its 11th or 12th series so far.

As a collectible for baseball fans, they have nothing going from them. I understand they're designed for another purpose, though, so they just receive honorable mention.
 #5: Most BBM flagship (1st and 2nd Version) issues from the past 10 years or so. Looking at the card above, you might say "There's nothing wrong with the design." Well, I suppose not - the text at the bottom doesn't take up much space, and most sets have players' names, positions, teams, and even jersey numbers. Plus I really appreciate the inclusion of set names on the fronts and/or backs of modern BBM and Calbee releases. So what's so bad about BBM? The designs follow the same basic idea: some computer-generated basic color bars of some sort with an action photo. There are no standout designs in regular BBM sets - and most of BBM's other issues follow suit with the base cards. There's a design on this card, but it's almost the same feel every year. What about Calbee? Sure, Calbee has the same design, but Calbee cards have a different feel - photo-focused with no design elements to distract from the picture. I've mentioned before I like sets with minimal or even no design, and I'm glad Japan has one (and it only needs one).
#4 BBM Parallels. When you're the only game in town, you're going to end up on this list several times. Sorry, BBM, you just have so little competition. All the team issues this year have foil parallels that seem to have no extra value over the base cards. Plus, I don't care much for foil parallels like this. Many teams have something going on (the Giants team issue has a giant silver G logo on the gold foil background). I've seen foil signature cards for other BBM issues which I'm happy with. But those are tougher to find, and thus have value over the base version.
 #3 Who put a giant gem on my baseball card? I think this set led to the safe, relatively bland designs I've seen on BBM issues lately. The golden cut stone stuck in icy ivy-like growth inside a cloud of green smoke seems like something inspired by that bad Batman movie and plenty of creativity-enhancing substances. This was BBM's regular issue design for 1999, and as far as BBM goes it's their worst flagship base set design.
 #2 The 1999 design team at BBM must have been hired from the mid-1990s Fleer design team, because both the prior card and this Diamond Heroes issue look like something that would have found its way into a Fleer/SkyBox product. Lots of seizure-inducing silver metallic squares are cluttering up the background. What's up with the random color squares? And was this a rejected design? Perhaps it was scratched out with that red pen, and instead of being discarded, it found its way to the printing presses. Diamond Heroes was BBM's premium issue.
#1 BBM is saved from the most hideous offering I've seen in my short stay. Sure, the scan has promise. It looks like there's a fun comical line drawing of some player on the Yomiuri Giants.

But he has boobs. And he's holding a plunger and apparently wearing rubber gloves. And shin guards (I guess he's a catcher). And he's Godzilla-sized. Plus, I think he has tattoos. He's wearing a cape? Is he the Giants version of a toilet-fixing superhero? Is he Mario from the video game, but if he left plumbing to become a baseball player, but never lost his love of clearing the most stubborn clogs?

I like the cartoon. It's fun. But this little line-art drawing is etched into a little gold foil sticker, so nobody can really see it. Frankly, I'm very surprised it scanned. And that's why I think it's the ugliest Japanese issue. This is a 2008 issue by Lotte (the company that owns the Chiba Marines and sells lots of chocolates and other food goods). The cards/stickers were found inserted into these chocolate cream filled wafer things from 2006-2008. There are stickers still being made somewhat similar to this, most recently seen when I went to Fukuoka:
 This came in a package with a chocolate wafer candy, but doesn't have any manufacturing information (copyright on back is for the Hawks). These are certainly tamer, but fun.

The funny thing is, the cartoons issued by Lotte from 2006-2008 that aren't gold foil-etched are pretty good, even if they're on a foil background too.
 Dragon warrior!
 Barry Bonds if he played for the Buffaloes and batted while wearing sandals.
And some Marines guy who pitches missile baseballs of different colors.

The gold foil stickers just don't look good. Granted, they aren't vomit-inducing, but line art cartoons and foil really shouldn't be mixed. And that's my opinion! There are plenty of boring designs, and some really gaudy inserts too, but I excuse inserts since some of the craziest inserts are also the best. No, parallels aren't inserts.

Hmm, now that I think about it, I might need to try to put together the Lotte stickers sets because of the awesomely wonderful cartoons. Yeah, that'll be easy. Yep.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Funny enough, I like lots of the Japanese non-sport cards especially with Japanese writing.

    I've added you to my blog roll. If you have any other Japanese cards you want to trade, let me know.



  3. Those Diamond Heroes cards were hideous, and are a pain to scan. I somehow managed to pick up a whole box of 2000 Diamond Heroes on eBay a couple of years ago for something like $30 and they just make your eyes hurt after awhile. While I do miss the unbridled creativity of the designs from Pacific and Fleer/Skybox in the late 90s, I don't miss the "any random crap" design ethic that seemed to go along with that.

    Between Konami and Bandai, I think there something like 6 or 7 new series of game cards each year. And Konami also unleashes the parallels.

  4. Wow... I need to find some of these cards. I agree that the game cards just have too much going on and take away from the card's design. But cards #1, #2, & #3 are awesome!

    You know the routine... extra effort on a post = extra credit.

  5. Chuck: Thanks! I'll do the same! As for trading, I have some random Japanese singles that I'll be trying to clear out eventually, plus if you have any specific wants we can probably work something out.

    Jason: I too love the "let's try anything" mentality of Fleer and Pacific cards, though sometimes (especially with Pacific) it was about the gimmick more than the designs.

    Fuji: if you're talking about the all-gold sticker, Diamond Heroes, and '99 BBM gem card, I can certainly find more of those. The sticker is the toughest, but the Diamond Heroes and BBM cards can be found pretty easily. Let me know if that's what you mean, and I'll grab some next time I'm at a shop (which won't be until late-August - I leave for Taiwan Sunday).

  6. Quick question, if you happen to be keeping up with comments on older posts: With reference to certain cards from Konami and Sega Card-Gen, what would "rokete" mean? I keep running across that term and I have to assume it might be some sort of contest prize or something similar, but it is a word that Google just transliterates instead of actually giving a meaning.

  7. Jason: A bit of research seems to indicate it's some form of marketing test, like a beta test. It tends to apply to arcade-style games that might be later sent to home consoles (or, just some limited-time/area test before a full version is released). Given the nature of Konami and Sega's cards, I'm guessing that either it's indicating it's a beta test in case there are problems in the software, or that it's some limited/new version of the game/card.

    Context is very important in Japanese, so if you have a page I can check on I might be able to get more help from a coworker.