Beauty and the Kaiju Artist Spotlight: Namiko Sonobe

above- Alien Argus by Namiko Sonobe

This project was conceived around the idea that each women artist would take a Max Toy character and without any direction from Me, create their art as they saw fit. Each time an image showed up in my email box I would excitedly open it … Namiko’s take on Alien Argus not only blew me away, but I had to pick my jaw off the floor at her interpretation ! All the elements of Alien Argus’ design are there, and yet she has managed to bring this character and design into her own world and style!

As you will see below, the pin up style is a favorite of her’s but she can also render incredibly cute critters as well !

I do have to say I love her pin up style, and can see her line work is very much like pin up masters like Patrick Nagel and George Petty… however, there is a Japanese influence there as well … but, really it’s all Namiko !

I briefly met Namiko this past October but truth be told was not as familiar with her work as I am now .. shoot, I wished I could have asked her more questions ! Well, the next time I’m in Tokyo ( in April 2011 actually ! ) I will make sure i talk to her more about her techniques and influences. Hope to see more of her work up close, too !

Check out her blog below for custom figures she’s painted on as well.

The following interview was conducted via email and once again thank you to my buddy, Yo Miyamoto for his translations and support of this project !


Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Q1: Can you tell me what kind of artwork you do ?

Answer: It is something I cannot even express but very important and leads me to many wonderful encounters.

Q2: As a child, were you always interested in Art ?

Answer: Because of my mother’s work, I grew up with many picture books. So I loved to look and draw pictures when I was a child.
母親の仕事の関係上たくさんの絵本にかこまれて育ち 、絵をみることも描くことも大好きな子供時代でした。

Q3: Did you go to Art school ?

Answer: After I learned about commercial design, I attended a school for illustration and sketch.

Q4: What kind of toys did you play with when you were growing up ? Any Kaiju ?!!
(子供の頃、どの様なオモチャで遊んでいましたか? 怪獣で遊びましたか?

Answer: I played with Barbie and Licca-chan dolls that my big sister had and also played with Ultraman and Hot Wheels that my big brother had…mixed lol

Q5: Any last words you would like to say to the readers of this blog ?

Answer: I am so glad to be a part of exhibition that is filled with love. Let’s enjoy together!!

I love the cat in this one, the gesture is purrfect 😉

Hello, I am Namiko Sonobe.
I am an illustrator who loves the world of retro, fairy tale, cute and pop!
I draw women and characters with retro-looking, sexy and pop.
I have been participating many group shows and events.
Please check out my web site.
I sell my arts and some goodies there.



This awesome image of Alien Argus will be part of the Beauty and the Kaiju art show at Design Festa , West, Harajuku , Tokyo, Japan – Dec 22nd, 23rd & 24th, 2010.

Giclee prints, signed by Namiko will be available at the show.

After the show, I will make them available for sale via my web store,

And in February 2011, the project moves to Rotofugi in Chicago, with an added bonus we will reveal very soon 😉

I will post more interviews with the Women in the Beauty and the Kaiju project, so keep checking back !!!!

About toykarma

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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