November 30, 2015

Purist Ramblings: No Promo Keshi In America?

With Designer Con news and updates, Thanksgiving, and even all the blitzkrieg super sales of the following days afterward, I want to spend a couple moments discussing about a topic I've been wondering about.  I was thinking, 'What happened to promotional minifigures in American products?  Why aren't they as big as they were before, and what really needs to change to see them in the capacity they once where?'  So, let's discuss this, and even worse tremble at a very possible, yet nightmarish, solution.

Before we delve into the minutia of consumer thought patterns in the last thirty years, let's just cover all the basics, or rather, the basics that come readily to mind.  Minifigures as a whole are not a Japan or Asia only thing.  Little rubber or plastic toys have existed all over the globe, ever since toy companies have found a way to shape melted plastic into shapes, but make no mistake, keshi, as we know it, does have a lot of origin there.  The word itself is Japanese, and it more or less created the format, it's nothing that has any sort of exclusivity attached to it.  It's not like saying you won't see a lot of baseball cards in countries without a baseball league, because you'll find trading cards of all sorts, depending the region.  This is also true about American keshi, as well.  As Kinnikuman/ MUSCLE was catching on outside of Japan, America developed and created their own toy lines based on the keshi format, and not really were more popular than Monster In My Pocket.

Monster In My Pocket was indeed popular to see itself in a promotional capacity.  It found itself in cereal boxes, cracker boxes, and hell, even video game boxes.  Yeah, believe it or not, Monster In My Pocket was successful enough to see itself not just a video game named after it, but a children's cartoon and comic book series.  To this day, the exclusives found in these products are some of the most coveted and hard-to-find minifigures among collectors, but when kids were through stuffing monsters in their pockets, monsters stopped showing up in cereal, and then finally store shelves.

Can we blame MIMP's demise for the reason why there are no modern day promotional sets?  I would argue not.  Just look at the countless number of following minifigure toy lines that have been released since.  We're talking about Slug Zombies, Fistful of Power, The Trash Pack, and the hundreds of vending machine sets as well.  What kept them out of the cereal boxes and coffee cans, because as most of us know, promotional stuff with Japan is still huge thing.

There are many stores dedicated to Gachapon vending machines, with a thriving customer base still hungry for small figures, and even just this year we saw Japanese Circle K see a re-release of classic Kinnikuman with their fountain drinks and Georgia Coffee with the Series 2 of the Kinnikuman 'At-Work' series that depicted the characters all forgoing their wrestling poses and doing something handy.  So we're talking about 2015 stuff, with no indication we won't see some 2016 stuff.  So what's the hold up?

Is it solely a cultural thing?  Can we safely assume that for some reason or another only Japanese people have the ability to enjoy keshi figures?  I would only have to point your attention, if not to Monster In My Pocket, to sets like Homies, Lalaloopsy, and Skylanders to a lesser extent.  In fact, some could also argue this new insurgence of blind box toys is something of the latest format for vending machines.  I don't think it's a cultural thing at all, and really, I can't really come up with any reason why keshi can't swing the attention of kids and adults with an awesome promotional frenzy this summer.  Maybe there have been legal changes about this that I am unaware of.  Maybe unbeknown to me, rules have changed about what can go with a box of crackers and or a soda, but if that's not it, I'm not sure.

I am sure, however, of what or who can change this in the minds of Americans and American consumers, and the thought of it makes my skin crawl.

Close friends of mine know I absolutely despise, with every fiber of my being, Minions from the Despicable Me franchise.  Their complete aesthetic, with the basic oval designs and basic coloring, bother me like a rash.  It's amplified more with their brainless gibberish and their happily stupid attitude.  But just to hate these little yellow balls of trash on personal appeal alone wouldn't be touching anything more than the tip of this iceberg.  How these drooling, bug-eyed, idiotic things are used as the modern day Garfield, on everything from inspirational posters to random pictures and quotes throughout social media, bubble the intolerance to Minions to near nuclear levels.  In other words, I wouldn't hesitate to collect any keshi figure from any keshi set from any franchise... except Minions.

But brushing away my rage towards those yellow, disgusting, things, I can't without good conscience see anything else work within a keshi format and be universally accepted in a promotional setting than Minions.  Minion minifigures are already a thing, as far as I can tell, as I have bought absolutely none of them, but tying them into seasonal giveaways with glow-in-the-dark, glittered, and all sorts of variants wouldn't be the craziest stretch in the world.

Minions are huge.  Stupid and repulsive to no end to me, but insanely huge to others.  Their simple designs and little need for color plays right into the keshi format.  They could make the transition almost seamlessly.  I wouldn't necessarily enjoy one crawling out of my box of crackers, but I don't see anything else at this moment kicking this off.

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