I'm SpiderEarth, keshi collector, and I feel I must be the last one to do be doing this, whether that's the last blog to be created on the net or last person to join the toy collecting scene. In fact, this sort of feels late in my experience as a new collector of minifigures. I've been doing this for the last nine month heavily, with pretty much the new year being an accidental new beginning of an old obsession. Since then, I've amassed what I would believe is a serious collection, but keep in mind, I'm the last person in line. I've only been doing this for nine months. There are others that would eclipse my collection and their wide knowledge of obscure keshi information is astounding. However, I've helped a person or two on a forum identifying a mysterious keshi, but let me explain what keshi is first.
Keshi are generally small, one inch to two tall, monochromatic, rubber minifigures. They originated in Japan in the late 70's/ early 80's. The name keshi is actually a Japanese word that described what they were generally made out of. Keshi for short, keshigomu were "rubber gum" figures and also referred as "eraser gum"figures, however they were rarely soft to be used like that. They were random gumball prize, or pachi overseas, and were made of a variety of colors and polymers.
Japan's most popular keshi franchise is Kinnikuman, or M.U.S.C.L.E. to the states. They were small pink wrestling figures with the flair of strange, out of this world, fantasy and humor. They, along with bootlegs, started to appear in gumball machines in the states in the mid to late 80's, however it wasn't completely successful. Keep in mind, this was during giant toy booms like He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the like. Kinnikuman felt strange, maybe too strange, having swam across the sea with very little information. Japan had anime shows, conventions, a full line of merch, and more to help understand the line, where the states barely had the figures alone.
It wasn't until the 90's where Monster In My Pocket started hitting toy shelves. MIMP was an American product, sold by Mattel, and they looked to replicate Kinnikuman's boom in Japan here at home. They made neon monsters and mythical beasts out of softer material than in other lines. As far as keshi toys lines in America was concerned, Monster In My Pocket was a success, however only putting out a handful of sets. Despite that, their figures are sometimes the most coveted among American collectors.
In the states at least, the fad died off for a very long time. I'm uncertain about it's presence in Japan during the last twenty years or so, but it felt to me, all of sudden the fad was back. All the kids that collected all these strange little rubber figures were adults, hitting ebay and looking to feed their nostalgia. Some even became talented enough to create their own lines from their own creativity. The southern California art toy scene is one of the most interesting ones in the states, followed by the artists in New York, but like I discovered last January, the hobby is back with a vengeance.
There are many different keshi toy lines out there, and more and more amazing artists are breaking through the scene, both American and Japanese. I've only been here for a short time so far, but I may be looking at +500 minifigures in my collection so far, with no stop anytime soon. The new minifigure scene is live and well, maybe better than it was in the 80's and 90's, and I look forward to record my thoughts along the way.