I’d hit it

Last week I was invited by my friend down at the local hobby shop (we’ll call him by his handle “Shiarobo”) to come with him to the Winter 2005 Wonder Festival, an invitation which I gladly accepted. He would be participating as a dealer along with his friend Open Toper, and had an extra dealer’s badge that would get me in with them. The 20th was the red-letter day. Shiarobo picked me up at 3:40 in the morning, we drove over to Isesaki in Gunma to rendezvous with Open Toper, headed for a train station in Saitama, took a few JR lines and the monorail and by about eight we made it to the Big Sight.

We set up pretty quickly amidst the bustle of the other vendors preparing their wares for the opening of the event at 10:00.

Shiarobo’s circle is called “Futanaya,” but for this event he was participating under the Open Toper name. This created a rather incongruous set of items for sale at the table, as Futanaya’s standard repertoire is (predictably) dickgirls, while Open Toper is into cycling and had a cute US Postal team girl in the offing this time around.

We were set up with plenty of time left over before the event was scheduled to begin, so I wandered around for awhile, checking out the tables of circles that I had noted in the guide book the day before.

The guidebook presented to dealers upon arrival, featuring official images of the event mascots, Wonda and Reset

The regular guidebook, which costs 2000 yen and doubles as a ticket for admittance (a common tactic for events like this; you hold the catalogue over your head as you walk in the door, past screeners who are watching to make sure everyone has them)

The dealer’s badge I wound up with

Barasui’s take on Wonda and Reset scanned from the inside of the guide book, also serving as designs for the 2005 winter WF set of official goods

As ten o’clock neared I made my way back to our table, at the urging of event staff. Such urging was apparently required, as at 9:59, regardless of announcements being made to the contrary over the PA system, dealers started sprinting. And I mean sprinting. A mad dash of desperate consumerism at a speed faster than a businessman running to catch his early morning train. If you put these guys on an olympic 100 meter track with high value resin kits at the finish line they would probably set world records. The disembodied female PA voice counted down to ten o’clock, at which point those not sprinting stood and clapped to usher in the beginning of the day’s festivities. I set out to pick up a few items I had marked down, at a leisurely pace, and was promptly hit by the second wave of the horde as the regular participants were let in the doors. A far more significant flood this time. I meant to take pictures or video of all this, but it slipped my mind in the heat and sleep deprivation of the moment. In the past this initial frenzy wasn’t so cutthroat, apparently; it’s only been since the advent of online auctions that things have really gotten out of hand. I shared a moment of head-shaking with Shiarobo over this; “they don’t know the characters,” he said.

Before I go any further I should probably fill in a few more details about the Wonder Festival itself. It’s an event sponsored by the model company Kaiyodo with the purpose of the sale and exposition of hobby materials, specifically figures and models, with an emphasis on amateur creators. Like Comiket it also boasts and industry hall and cosplay area, but unlike Comiket creators must obtain permission to exhibit and sell their kits from the copyright holders in advance. This is called the “one-day, limited-license system” and is handled by Kaiyodo as part of the application process. It also explains why a wide array of titles weren’t in evidence at the event, and likewise simply can’t be found anywhere – two publishers, Shueisha and Shogakukan, are particularly strict about this. Shueisha’s titles include the Jump properties (Ultra/Shonen/Business/etc.) and Marimite; Shogakukan handles Shonen Sunday and a whole lot more. On the other end of the spectrum are software makers such as Type Moon, who began as doujin circles themselves and thus tend to be more closely connected to the scene.

Avoiding the more unreasonable lines, I made my way through the hall and picked up a few things:

The alternate parts for Milk Tank Teacher Nene

Hobby Japan limited edition standing (!) Ohno (PVC)

GoodSMILE Saber (PVC)

Max Factory Shipon (PVC)

Barasui-designed Wonda and Reset official event figures (PVC)

Win-chan (garage kit based on Mine Yoshizaki designs)

Chiharu-chan (garage kit based on the Eiken character)

After draining my wallet dry, next up was the cosplay area. Unlike Comiket the cosplay at Wonder Festival allows props, a relaxation of the rules which manifested itself with occasionally spectacular results.

I also made it over to the dealer’s room, where several items with upcoming spring and summer releases were being showcased. Unless otherwise mentioned, these are all PVC and should be readily available from HLJ or your online retailer of choice when they come out.

From Kaiyodo:

From Kotobukiya (the Shinobus are resin kits, alas)

From GoodSMILE: (the final picture is of GoodSMILE’s extended production itinerary, and includes a “1/8 scale PVC Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu series,” the first couple of items of which we no doubt see here, a “School Rumble series,” implying we’ll get more than just the Tenma, a Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series, a 1/8 scale PVC Mai Hime series (!), a 1/7 scale PVC Arashi from Gad Guard, “trading figures” and 1/8 scale PVC from Tsukuyomi, trading figures for Last Exile, and a die-cast Tachikoma. A fine year, if they stick to this schedule.)

From Max Factory:

I also took a few pictures of things actually for sale (theoretically, at least for the first few minutes of the event, before they were bought in stacks of ten by Yahoo auction profiteers who deserve to be eviscerated and hung by their spleens).

The event ended at five o’clock with Open Toper and Shiarobo both a few kits lighter, and all three of us exhausted. I somehow managed to keep them from falling asleep at the wheel on the way home, and made it back in the evening with sanity mostly intact. I walked through the door with a good deal more resin than I did before the day began, and have just borrowed a book on assembly and painting from Shiarobo that will hopefully start me on the one true path to garage kit enlightenment. The buying was the easy part, alas. Aside from the increased Socratic knowledge gained in this respect – I certainly know now that I know nothing of this hobby – the winter 2005 Wonder Festival taught me one important thing:

Garnet is hot, hot, hot.