You might have never heard of Yokai Watch. Maybe you have. It's a 3DS game and anime with hard-to-get toys. In Japan, it's extremely popular at the moment. But sales numbers aside, what is a good way to tell? Merchandise, that's how. Endless merchandise.
For years now, Pokémon has appeared all over kiddy merch in Japan. Ditto for the latest Super Sentai (aka Power Rangers series) and the latest Kamen Rider. Of course, anime like One Piece have been popular too. But recently, there's a new entry in this popularity contest: Yokai Watch.
Like this Yokai Watch thermos. (Note that the picture shows the front and the back of the thermos. It's also worth noting that this thermos, like many products aimed at children, is made in Japan, as parents might be concerned about plastics made abroad.)
Picture: Toys R Us
And a chopstick set to use at school. My middle son has this set.
This is an oshibori set so kids can wipe off their hands while eating at school.
A bento box.
Which means lunch time at school might look like this for some little kids.
Then, there are the plush toys, pencils, erasers, folders, files, clothes, PJs, bedsheets, towels, toothbrushes, and whatnot.
But this isn't all. Truly popular games and anime carpet bomb Japanese retail with even more stuff.
This is Yokai Watch shampoo.
Cereal. Well, slapped on cereal boxes.
Everybody wants a piece of this, no?
Then, there's the Yokai Watch bread. This is actually a very good barometer of popularity.
Because it can sell out by the end of the day at the supermarket.
Why is this a good barometer? My oldest son, who is eleven, grew up eating Pokémon bread. For years, Pocket Monsters had the kiddy bread market cornered.
Things are different now.
You can eat Yokai Watch curry, if you like. The old favourites, of course, were Pokémon curry or Kamen Rider curry.
Just serve it in a Yokai Watch bowl with Whisper-shaped rice.
Yokai Watch furikake. My middle son, who is five, used to eat his rice with Pokémon furikake. Now, he's trying to finish all the packets of Pokémon furikake, so he can eat the Yokai Watch furikake and get the sticker that comes with it.
If you've never had furikake, you can see how it's sprinkled on the rice in this photo. This is "salmon" furikake.
Fried noodles with "Nyapolitan sauce." (GEDDIT?)
This is Yokai Watch kamaboko. Kamaboko is a type of processed seafood.
There is already Pikachu kamaboko, so even in the processed seafood market, Yokai Watch is giving Pokémon a run for its... processed seafood? Or something.
See how this game has become more than a game? How it's more than software sales? It's become part of the culture and part of people's lives. Now, whether this is a passing fad, or whether Yokai Watch is in for the long haul like Pokémon remains to be seen.