Mail Call! December 2004

by Darren Pierce : Widespread Panic : 12.04.04 5:18pm EST


Zinc Panic is cool!

Thanks for all the kind words. A lot of work has been put into Zinc Panic by a lot of people. As the database matures, attention will turn toward article content, giving you more to look forward to.

How do I buy [fill in the blank]?

Start digging through Yahoo Japan Auctions, just like the rest of us!

I'm looking for information on shows and/or pricing ...

Unfortunately, this really isn't the focus of Zinc Panic. We're oriented around the Japanese toy world as a phenomenon, specifically design and cultural evolution. There are tons of excellent sites on the Internet that cover toy pricing and video information.

I'm looking for more news on [fill in the blank]?

These questions are normally focused toward Gundam or Transformers. There are tons of good sites on the Internet that carry timely and extensive news on Japanese Gundam and Transformers affairs in the English language. To duplicate their efforts would be redundant. We'll carry Gundam and TF tidbits on occasion, specifically as they pertain to ZP's mission or if there's something we'd specifically like to highlight; but visit the focused folks for complete news coverage.

Is your information on [fill in the blank] "official"?

We try to present information from first hand sources, usually fact checked against multiple sources. We don't like to rely on information from fan sites or Internet rumors. If we can only check out something as a "rumor", we state it as a rumor.

The word "official" is pretty tricky, and I avoid the word. Even when information comes from first hand sources, data can be wrong, companies can change their minds, and projects can be terminated. Don't count anything as "official" until you have it in your hands!

Your information on [fill in the blank] doesn't match the data on this other website.

See the above remarks. When possible, we target our own data sources for information, rather than fan sites. That doesn't mean we're always right, though! Keep sending in corrections! They're appreciated.

Takara Issues

Questions spawned by our recent articles on Takara

How bad are Takara's financial problems?

Takara isn't in any sort of financial situation today. All companies have their up and down periods. Overall, Takara is stable and profitable, and is often cited as an example of good management and successful business building by Japanese trade publications.

Will Hasbro buy Takara if Takara died?

If Takara magically became unable to sustain business tomorrow, what would happen? First, it's important to understand the ramifications of the question. Takara's major investors/owners (such as Konami) have a stake in keeping the company running if at all possible. The Japanese government has even been known to assist companies in crisis if they feel there's an overall benefit for the nation. If the Japanese economy were so bad that it was impossible for Takara to sell toys in Japan profitably, chances are Takara wouldn't be the only company in trouble. Konami, Bandai, Tomy, and the others would be in no position to invest capital. In the past, companies have made their business dormant, and sat on their properties until the economic winds changed.

As for Hasbro, it's not easy for foreign companies to buy into Japanese companies, and Takara's current owners probably wouldn't care for the idea. More importantly, it's likely not a business mission of Hasbro to go into debt by buying foreign companies, and take on the responsbility of operating some company in Japan. An American company wouldn't have a hope of navigating the Japanese corporate world even if they could raise the capital and pull the deal off -- Japan just doesn't work that way.

But the Transformers perspective is simple. With any partnership, there is some document sitting in some lawyers' desks that describe exactly what happens if one side can't fulfill their obligations to the partnership. Those rules would govern, and we just don't know what they are.

Regarding the above question, would Hasbro take Takara's design staff?

The question raises a few issues. That's a lot of high-end salaries for any toy company to absorb, and I'm sure Hasbro would plow ahead with their own talent. Nonetheless, only a few of Takara's total design resource work on Transformers, and only a few of those are directly employed by Takara. Japanese companies have a long and important history of working with design houses, and this is especially true of Takara, Bandai, and Tomy. If Hasbro judged it important enough, they'd more than likely contract out the same design houses Takara uses to keep their toys in their current "groove".

Why isn't their new character division focusing on the Brave Series?

At some point in the future, they may. When you're trying to launch a new division, it's best to start out with the things that are going to give you the most "bang for the buck". There are legal issues associated with the Brave Series, so it isn't as easy to tackle as some of the other franchises. If this project works out, you may see them go after Brave.

Who has rights to Brave?

As with all things, it's impossible to know the details from the outside. The real answer lies in a contract. According to a Takara beancounter, Sunrise owns the characters, and Takara owns the toys. If Sunrise would like to commission a new line of toys, Takara gets First Right of Refusal. If Takara would like to commission a new line of toys, the paperwork is worded in Takara's favor, but technically Sunrise has to agree. It's unlikely Bandai would create trouble, Japan being as it is.

Why isn't their new character division focusing on Transformers?

The new character division is focused on digging up old lines from Takara's past. Transformers is an active toy line that already has a program of exploiting old characters.

So Takara is doing all the sentai shows from now on?

Takara is launching their own series of sentai shows. This doesn't have anything to do with Toho/Konami's Choseishin sentai series, or Toei/Bandai's Super Sentai series, or anything else that falls under the generic label "sentai".

Won't the new Diaclone toys compete with Transformers?

Sure. So does Microman. The notion of transforming robots isn't unique in Japanese sci-fi culture. It's hard to pick a toy line that isn't immune -- even Beyblade has transforming dragon tops. There are a lot of great designs from the Diaclone years that are close to the hearts of many aging Japanese nostalgists, and Takara wants to tap that market. Whether or not the new toys will be pure reproductions or re-envisioned toys is unknown.