The new-school ‘indie’ Japanese toys are all super-expensive, super-post-modern and I don’t trust them one bit. It used to be that toys would be cheap, made for kids who would, like, actually PLAY with them and love them. Then the toys would become obsolete for 10 years, and during that time they would aquire some kind of kitch value, and THEN collector nerds would step in and pay outrageous prices for the few remaining toys. But they’ve done away with the 10 year waiting period, AND the part about having a naive and genuine love for the toys. Now, they’re only selling totally expensive toys directly to the collectors. And instead of nostalgia , they’re selling pre-packaged, smug, self-aware hipness instead. Which is all the more irritating because 90% of the ‘indie’ ‘artistic’ toys are just as uncreative and copycat as the old, ‘mainstream’ toys were. So how can they feel so hip? "well, YOUR toys are like an ironic kitchy version of Dr. Zaius as a BEAR, but he’s all hip-hop too. . . . , and MY toys are like an ironic kitchy version of Dr. Zaius as , like, a DOG. but with a RAVE outfit on. i’m so new school and artistic! please pay $400 for this now and , like, support my art. oh, and never play with it either. just wrap it in plastic.’
It’s pretty lame, but some interesting things are happening in this scene. For one, that onion article about ‘we’ve run out of past to be nostalgic about’ has TOTALLY COME TRUE. Every kitch genre has already been turned into a toy. So the ingenious solution that Japanese toymakers have found is. . . now they’re doing versions of each other’s CURRENT toys, but in their own style. Like Picasso doing a Magritte just for yuks.
The other interesting thing is the Kubrick company’s odd sense of humor. Kubrick started out a few years ago, making these little Playmobil-looking people whose heads kind of barely tried to look like heads of popular movie characters. The joke seemed to be that, the characters all looked alike ANYWAY.
But now Kubrick has basically gone insane. Like they’re now selling these TOTALLY FEATURELESS dolls in different colors, with the Pan-Tone color number of the doll stamped on the chest. So instead of the doll ‘being’ Dr. Zaius or Luke Skywalker, for instance, the doll ‘IS’ Pantone #104384585. the idea of a doll being an abstraction is really wonderful. Also there’s a series of Kubrick dolls based on the guys who work at the factory that casts and molds the dolls!
But as hard as the ‘new school’ toys try to be weird and ‘arty’ . .. the mainstream will always be just as weird, but much cheaper. For instance, there are stores now in shopping malls. . . they’re called CAPSULE STORES. these stores consist of NOTHING but gumball-style vending Machines. Like a Laundromat, there’s machines stacked floor-to ceiling. . . all selling little toys in plastic capsules. You put in 500 yen, and hope that the toy which pops out is a toy you don’t already have.