This week, I spent four mornings out and about. I went to store after store. My mission was to locate toys from a popular anime. Boy, did I ever fail.
The anime is Yokai Watch, which is based on the 3DS game. Developed by Level-5 of Professor Layton fame and released last year, the game made the top ten sales chart. But it wasn't until the anime was released earlier this year that its popularity took off.
Yokai Watch follows the adventures of Keita, who can see yokai (or monsters) by using a special watch.
Keita befriends the yokai, who give him medals (or coins), which he can put in his watch and use to fight other yokai. Keita's partner, or version of Pikachu, is called "Whisper" (above). My oldest son described Yokai Watch as being kind of like Pokemon, but without leagues. Oh, and the other children in the show apparently cannot see the yokai. Only Keita can.
The show is popular with kids, because, well, kids like monsters. Pokémon has proved that. Centuries of Japanese yokai tradition have proved that.
There is also an ending theme song, with a dance — or, to be more accurate, calisthenics — that children seem to enjoy doing at home after they watch the show. They also enjoy collecting medals, and in the past, shows like Kamen Rider have used them in their shows and toys.
Every year, there is one toy that parents have to wake up and stand in line for. This year, that toy is Yokai Watch. The watch is incredibly difficult to get, as are the collectible medals.
I don't think this is a child's arm. Call it a hunch. Picture: k_a_n_a_t_a
Here is a photo I took at a large toy store earlier this week. It was completely sold out of Yokai Watch medals.
And last month, the day when the second set of medals was released, Twitter user Kaztsu reports that there were over 120 people in line.
There is also a kiddy Yokai Watch arcade game, which is often surrounded by children waiting to get their chance to play.
Searching "Yokai Watch" and "popular" in Japanese on Twitter brings up a slew of results and comments like: "Yokai Watch sure is popular," wrote @mizu5501; "I just realised that Yokai Watch is popular," wrote @tarano_me; "Don't you think Yokai Watch is too popular? ahahahahahahahahaha," wrote @ZG_YN.
Recently, website Inside Games tried to pinpoint why Yokai Watch was so popular, especially because the game wasn't really a huge hit when it was originally released. It seems like the anime gave it a huge boost in popularity, and it's been instrumental for it becoming a hit. No wonder now Level-5 boss Akihiro Hino is being called a "genius".
The anime brought Yokai Watch to a wide audience. My kids had no idea about the 3DS game — which they now want after the fact. It's like Level-5 studied everything that makes Japanese kids' shows popular and then distilled that into a new game and anime.
What will I be doing next week? Why, trying to get Yokai Watch medals for my middle child. If you know of any stores in the greater Osaka area with them in stock, let me know.