I-Doll 23 – Recap

I-Doll is one of the larger events for dolls and doll enthusiasts held in cities all over Japan. It features both professional retailers and small home-based hobbyists side-by-side in a close quarters free market area that inspires the likes of Dolly Dolly, Dollybird, and other doll hobby magazine/books, or mooks as they’re called for their wealth of information and collectability. Last Monday marked the 23rd of such events in Tokyo, which was held on a national holiday, swelling the number of participants to near unnavigable heights, and perhaps inspiring the wealth of creativity and care that went into the amazingly intense four hour event.

One of the differences witnessed at this I-Doll was the tendency for owners to dress the part in their elaborate creative themes. Though some dealers usually wear costumes to match their dolls or collaborate with display themes, their number was definitely on the rise. One gentleman, who I’ve witnessed craft his articulately jointed feet and hips over the last year for an original ball joint doll that can both rei (bow) and seiza (sit properly), wore on this festive occasion a colorful women’s yukata, or cotton summer kimono, perhaps to highlight the refined femininity of his creation. As any puppeteer would testify, these two movements are the foundation of any civilized conduct or posturing concerning ningyo, which can mean both puppet and doll, amounting to a lesson one instruction; hence, the marked difference between his product and the many varieties of ball jointed dolls on the market which can’t negotiate such courtesies. If anything, it certainly drew a lot of attention if not business.

Displays, too, tended to tell a more complete story instead of fragments of a fairy tale. Special attention to backgrounds and backdrops along with other props with provided many unique photo opportunities. One dealer used circular cuts of green fabric over a sheer, rippled white lace to represent lily pads floating on the water in a playful fairy-like scene. Another shoe-dealer used a series of elaborate miniaturized shoe racks to present their product. And as always, dealers played away during idle time, and I was able to capture a few images of their dolls in motion. Witnessing these small moments of almost intimate action always brings to mind the passion and dedication that allows for such events, at least four major varieties of which are held in Tokyo alone.

However, another prevalent overtone was the lack of doll carrying owners in the crowd. Usually participants will not only be carrying doll cases, few of which were to be seen, but also carrying around their prized possessions. Perhaps due to the immense crowding, which made such actions dangerous, or perhaps due to the lack of photo space usually available for owners to pose and show off their dolls, only a handful were to be seen.

However, I-Doll 23 yet again showcased the immense creativity and perfection that has been going into dolls and doll related goods, along with the variety of people that take part in doll culture. Both the casual hobbyist that probably won’t break even but enjoys the event and big names like Blue Fairy and Hobby Japan join together for a day, along with miniature furniture makers, weapon smiths, patissiers, tailors, optometrists, and jewelers – all in the name of a passion for dolls.

The Future (of) is Gundam

On the 28th, the Hiroshima Economic Friendship Association’s Biannual Animation Fund announced the formation of academic research group “International Gundam Scientific Association,” based on the popular Gundam anime enterprise. The foundation of the group is in conjunction with the organization’s Robot Anime Expo, being held in Hiroshima from August 7-26. The fruits of the group’s research will be presented the end of this August, and will include their projections regarding the design of future cities.

Composed of university professors recognized as experts in their respective fields, including specialists in architecture and sociology, renowned Japanese architectural historian and Osaka University professor Shinya Hashidume has been appointed chairman of the panel. Among the group’s purposes are the economic and sociological analyses of the “Universal Century” – the age when increasing human population will force immigration into space, and taking its name from the original time line of the Gundam metaseries. During the exhibition of their finished project, a symposium will also be organized to debate both the thematics and feasibility of their future vision.

The Gundam series, which started broadcasting in Japan in 1979, has inspired countless endeavors of both experimental arts and technologies. This most recent delve into the reality of a Gundam universe only further explicates the link between science fact and science fiction in popular imagination, and most certainly trumps the United States’ “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative hype of the 1980s.

Annual Akiba Uchimizukko Splash the Streets

August 2 will mark the 5th annual Akihabara Uchimizukko. The event will involve a variety of costumed girls splashing the street with water, including many representatives from area maid cafes. The opening ceremonies will begin 3:00 at Kanda Myojin Shrine, and then take to the streets at 4:30 to cool the whole town.

Uchimizu actually finds its roots in traditional Japanese custom, and even today you can see men and women alike of all ages splashing outside areas with water. People perform this action to abate dust, or in this case cool the area. The evaporating water feels refreshing to the skin, and offers a temporary ease from the sweltering heat. It is usually performed with a small bucket or other container of used water (like bath water) or rain water, as opposed to fresh tap water, and is disbursed in small quantities using a hand or ladle.

Last year, the uchimizukko undertook the noble task of combating global warming… by spilling a bunch of water on the street. This year, organizers seem to have a more realistic sense of the event, making “moe” costumes rule number one for participants. Spectators will surely be packing zoom lenses. There was also a hilarious video last year detailing the right and wrong way to uchimizu, but this year’s site still encourages people against splashing others.

New Doll Patterns Page

Though I intended to put more personal doll related material in another forum, I’ve decided to add a page for translated doll patterns anyways.  It’s accessible though the pages link on the left, or here.

The first translation is a pattern for making dolls’ yukata.  It’s finally summer in Japan, and even the novice will dawn a light cotton kimono for festivals and fireworks events.  In the spirit of being festive, here’s the start of a long and very technical pattern detailing the construction of unlined kimono, lined kimono, juban undergarments for kimono, and obi.

Maid Crime Prevention Seminar

In order to prevent crime and encourage precautionary action, another Maid Crime Prevention Seminar has been organized by the Manseibashi Police Station in Akihabara. The seminar will be held tomorrow at Maid Cafe Filles; contents will include instruction on women’s self defense and dialing 110, the emergency hotline in Japan. Though entrance is free, only 30 seats will be available and attendants should reserve in advance.

The first Maid Crime Prevention Seminar was held last summer in response to the influx of organized crime and other incidents involving the assault of maids in the area. Held at the Manseibashi Police Station, it mainly consisted of a distributing a prospectus designed to raise awareness of crime prevention, including the formation of volunteer patrol groups, and cooperation with the police. Representatives from three maid cafes attended to disseminate information.

Though maidblog’s recap of last year’s event is rather, well, lackluster to say the least – highlighting the giant stack of paperwork handed to each participant – perhaps awareness is greatest preventative measure in this situation. Many of the assaults that happened at the time included girls following or leading strangers into secluded areas; things most people would consider to be foolish lapses in judgment. At the time of employment, many maid cafes now educate staff by contractually prohibiting them from doing things that compromise personal safety, to avoid both incidents and accountability.
Source: Hagemaru

Source: Maidblog.net

Asuka and Rei: Dream Come True?

According to the July issue of Volks News, special limited edition Dollfie Dream (DD) makes of Ayanami Rei and Soryu Asuka Langely will be available at the Home Town Dolls Party 5 in Osaka. They mark the newest additions to Volks Evangelion Complimentary Design Project.

The spherical joint dolls, which stand 27cm high, will be clothed in popular maid-inspired costumes. The costumes first appeared as part of a pachinko promotion, featuring the two Evangelion characters on special limited edition member cards in summer of 2007. Last winter, the same characters graced limited edition cans of UCC coffee. The costume includes: a one piece dress, apron, petticoat, underwear, choker, decorative cuffs, head piece, white thigh-high socks, and school issue brown loafers.

In addition to costumes, the dolls will have custom made heads, eyes, and wigs on a DD Base Body II with white colored skin and medium sized bust. Each will be priced at 54,000 yen. A “Tokyo 3 First JHS School Uniform,” including a shirt, blue jumper, red ribbon, white undergarments, black socks, white indoor shoes, and black satchel bag, will be available separately at a price of 16,000 yen. Both dolls and the school uniform will available in limited quantities and only at the upcoming Osaka Dolls Party.

Volks Home Town Dolls Party Osaka 5 will be August 23 – 24 at Intex Osaka, Building 3. Admission is 1,500 yen, which includes an official guide book.

Volks has made quite a few anime inspired figures for their DD line, which like Super Dollfie, are designed to be highly customizable. Though I seldom buy, I’m always impressed at the level of detail and craftsmanship that go into their products. Now I just have to find a way to Osaka…

…What?  To buy a chance at buying a doll?  I think I’m not the customer base Volks aims for when organizing “customer appreciation” packages, but their stuff is cool.

Zero Points of Articulation – A Moving Prospect

Kaiyudo has finally announced the new Ena Ayase figure to be released as part of their Revoltech Yostuba&! series. The youngest of three sisters living next door to Yotsuba in the the Yostuba&! manga, her decidedly “moe” characteristics are the topic of a few 2ch discussion threads. Along with the Fuka bikini edition figure, it will be available September 1. Accessories include a towel, stuffed bear Juliette, and an alternate body – giving the virtual illusion of having two figures at the price of one.

The most interesting prospect of both new figure releases is that they will have no joints: zero points of articulation. Essentially, they can’t move at all; stuck forever in static pose. Though the term figure can refer to everything from the super poseable to the statuesque, this is a surprising turn of event for the Revoltech series, designed to showcase a joint technology of the same name.

So, then… why? Well, I’m not sure exactly. It’s possible that both figures will sell out based on pure infatuation as opposed to any special features, as did the first Fuka figure, and Kaiyodo doesn’t feel like going the extra mile. It’s also possible that the lack of joints is supposed to give some particular characteristic to the figure or the creation of scenes with Yotsuba, who is easily the most animated between the three.  Unfortunately, none these explanations will aide my creativity in recreating scenes with a string telephone, cake mix, sketch pad, or most any props. Basically, they’re going to have to stand around in exclusion and watch Yotsuba do stuff.

USB Flash Memory – “Always at your side”

In late June, technology firm Buffalo released a new series of USB flash memory drives called “Swattears,” consisting of a 2GB capacity drive built into a 7cm cubric figure. The memory resides in the legs of the figure and becomes accessible through a port that folds down from the back when the figure is in a seated position. Each Swattears comes with a “sofa,” or external USB docking port upon which the character can rest when not sitting on your computer. As a bonus to Windows OS users, the drive will be represented by a corresponding character icon on the desktop while mounted. The total package, which includes a USB extension cable, is priced at 2,980 yen.

So far, both Ultraman and Puchi Eva Ayamami Rei versions have been created. However, as both were priced reasonably and limited to only 3,000 pieces they sold out quickly. According to an Akihabara Keizai Shinbun article, Buffalo said that no plans for any character re-releases are underway, and that they are still considering which characters to employ for future releases. Some crafty individuals are already reselling theirs at Amazon.jp for over four times the price. However, this may be what it takes to have these all-time-favorite characters “always at your side,” as Buffalo’s inspiration for the Swattears series suggests.