I’m back, but still got the jet lag, I guess I’m old ! Anyways was an incredible trip ( how could it not be ? ) actually I was shocked to realize it was my 8th trip to Japan.. and I still can barely mutter a few phrases in Japanese, ugh … but hey Toy Talk is universal and for sure a cool toy transcends language differences. This is the first post of my trip to Japan.. so over the next few days I will post some pics and comments ..I have to say that this trip would not have been made possible without Max Toy’s Japan correspondent, Yo … he worked tirelessly to make sure we were on time and translated non stop, so thank you again Yo ! Also check out a few mentions on these blogs: KAIJU-TARO – http://www.laughnow.tv/myblog/index.php/jimmyhat/ and EROSTIKA – http://erostika.blog65.fc2.com/
After a feverish week of emails and painting toys like a mad man the day to leave was upon me and Carlos to leave for Japan. The flight was smooth as glass until the final 10 minutes ..than all hell broke loose and the landing was the most bumpy I have been on, so much that I got a bit motion sickness and even thought about reaching for that barf bag, thank goodness I did not need too 😉 anyways once we landed and collected our stuff we were on our way. This was late Saturday and after a quick dinner we checked in to our hotel and went to bed, as the next day we had to get going about 5 am for Winter Wonderfest. Wonderfest for those who do not know is like San Diego Comic Con, but actually filled with Otaku made resin kits and such … some very risque and would make the news in a bad way in the US .. but in Japan it is no big deal. Most all of these kits are expertly sculpted and perfect in all details.. well among this are sprinkled soft vinyl toy makers. Max Toy Company for the first time set up a table next to Cronic and Nerdone table …here we are using a cart to bring our stock to our table inside the convention center. It was so cold and windy outside but the real storm was about to be unleashed inside !
actually we set up twice as the first set up we suddenly realized we were at the wrong table ! D-oh !
Once the doors opened the first 15 minutes were crazy as fans ran to whatever booth they want some exclusive from .. needless to say Cronic of course was swamped and he quickly sold out what he brought. In fact, I wanted a get some toys from him, but alas they were sold ;-( I was surprised that a few guys actually ran to my booth as well and quickly bought one of everything and ran off again 😉
After that frenzy the following hours were filled with many, many meetings, greetings and such. I wish i could have looked around but could not. and in true convention confusion some guys would come to my booth to say Hi, but I would be at their booth to say hi.. and repeat .. funny and frustrating ! I think what really surprised me but also touched me was that there are actually Max Toy fans in Japan (!) one in fact traveled from Osaka ( many hours away, even by bullet train ) to attend when he found out Max Toys would be there. Very humbling for sure and nice to know that Max toys are appreciated in the land of it’s inspiration. Another fan struggled to speak to me in English, but i understood what he was saying and really I was so impressed that he wanted to talk to me directly … these moments are what make this all worth doing.. positive Toy Karma for sure ! I met a lot of guys for the first time including Ilanena and his cute Dai Kaiju Card Monsters:
whose sculpt has to be seen in person to be appreciated .. very cool and nice ! His new and first soft vinyl figure called Stereo Bogin ( spell ? ) will be very popular I predict.
and famous Manga artist and Pachi Mon summit guy and his lovely wife stopped by to say hello, Karasawa-san:
Of course many others came by including Gargamel’s Kiyoka-san, Koji Harmon, and Chanmen ( who gave me a clear ultraman !! ), One Up guys, Rumble Monsters Wakahara-san ( was so dumb struck i forgot to ask for a photo with him, d-oh !) and more…. Also met up with DxSxHx – Dark Side Hero Toys, whose got a killer new sculpt and toy coming out, oh ya and some funny guy named Kaiju Taro! he recently had a finger transplant so two of his fingers are Tokyo Towers 😉
Kaiju Taro web site
I apologize to the others I am most likely leaving out of this over view, some images are probably in Carlos’s camera too, but in any case will give you guys a feel for the event ( maybe ? ) as far as vintage toys, since i could not look around I didn’t find any ;-( but in the next post I will talk about the highlight of the Wonderfest event that yes is very geeky but was a once in a lifetime chance for me…
Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador.
In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets.
Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps.
After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting.
“I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says.
Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past.
“Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.”
Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection.
Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world.
In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show.
As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas.
“Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”
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