Here’s part 5 about my recent trip to Japan, for my 2 person art show with artist Konatsu and Max Toy stuff.
It’s only been a few weeks since my trip and already my mind has pushed a few details out of my brain ! The projects at Max Toys have been keeping me so busy ;-P
So back to my trip … The show with Konatus is over and I have to say I’m glad it went well but finally done ! Over my last two remaining days ( monday – tuesday ) I have what I call “fun” things to do 😉
High on my list was to see the brand new Ultraman movie .. I’d only previously seen a Godzilla movie many, many trips back in Japan … one thing that is cool is all the seats are reserved .. and check out this arm chair attachment … perfect for all your snacks ;-P
Since I don’t understand Japanese, I could not get the details of what was happening, but in broad strokes i think I understood ;-P I knew the characters from past Ultraman series and of course they had cameos by the old school guys .. but for the most part it I didn’t really care for it too much ( > < ) haha .. oh well the fight scenes were Ok .. just not enough of them !
A nice touch was each person got a mini sized Ultraman manga for free 😉 Oh and the kids seemed to like it though there was some heavy emotional stuff towards the end and all the kids got real quite ;-P
Another interesting aspect was the theater had a gift store in it .. that had movie related items for sale for the various movies playing in it. I told Yo-san that in the US they don’t have this .. he was kinda shocked. Actually I think it would be cool to have something like this in theaters .. I remember growing up and thinking I want that poster !
A quick lunch of yummy udon ….
and back on the subway! We made our way to the Ahkihabara district .. aka Otaku central ! I was to have a autograph session later on at the new OneUp store .. in the meantime we could walk around …
I don’t know why, but this crate of useless remotes caught my eye .. what do you think are the odds of finding that one remote you’re looking for ??
Sorry for the lack of pictures but I was at this point tired and just trying to take in the sights and sounds around me. We checked out the Mandarake store and I was very good and left without buying anything … but we made our way back and I could not resist buying these Time of the Apes figures and Blazer robot figures ! So yes, I did buy some vintage Bullmark figures !!
The new Akiba Zone building is our next destination … and as Yo-san pointed out to me, right by the OneUp store logo outside .. yes, thats a Max Toy logo 😉 !!!
…and along the outside, too ;-P
Inside there are several floors each with various stores catering to Manga, Cosplay etc … in the basement is a Kaiyodo store/ display area and cafe …
We made our way up to see the new OneUp shop, meet up with Ken ( the owner ) and my autograph session … now to be honest, I have no idea why someone would want my autograph let alone show up to this .. so I’m not expecting much. Below, Ken had asked if I could draw something and sign this Shikishi board, as he would display it in his new shop …
I was surprised that loyal Max Toy fans did stop by and kept me busy signing and drawing away the full hour. I was happy to see that they were happy and glad they took the time to stop by.
The final drawing for Ken and OneUp 😉 and yes, Ken was in a good mood.. can’t you tell from this picture ? Haha … seriously Ken was in a good mood and we all went to what was termed the “Meat” building !! for dinner …
With a giant Cow head above it, the Meat building featured restaurants that, well, served up all kinds of meat !
I chose steak, salisbury hamburger, with an egg. I have to say it was much better grade of meat than back home and the proportions were perfect for me. By American standards, lets just say a guy like Matt Walker would take one look at this and say, this is my appetizer … where’s the meal ! ;-P
I had been bypassing desserts while watching my weight but heck decided to try this melon soda drink with what i thought was whip creme … turns out it was ice cream ! It was so yummy … but for some reason mine kept foaming up and flowing onto the table .. so i had to keep eating and sipping to prevent it. We of course discussed toy stuff .. and several deals were struck and we needed to call it for the night. made my way back to the hotel and fell asleep so fast …
It’s Tuesday and I wake up at a fairly normal time of 7 am having slept almost thru the night…. this is good and bad .. bad cause I’m leaving the day day ! Today was something I was looking forward to almost more than the art show ;-P and that was a tour of the paint factory we were now using. Plus I asked to see the paint masks that I had been ordering for some of the figures .. especially the Lady Maxx and Lady Darkness ones .. lets just say they cost thousands of dollars to make .. much to my dismay ;-P
Arriving at the paint factory we are greeted by the two brothers who own and run the place..the Maruyama brothers. They’ve been painting for over 30 years and of course have and continue to work for many of the companies you know and buy, including the big ones like Bandai.
They brought out a box that had the paint masks for Lady Darkness. I have ot say this was the first time I was able to hold and see for myself Max Toy paint masks .. and I was thrilled ! The one that caught my eye was this 3 jointed mask for the hair. It’s hard to see but basically once the figure is popped into one part of the mask, the other 2 parts clamp into place as well. The end result is a nearly air tight fit, that leaves only the hair exposed to be painted.
I was told that after each painting session all the masks are cleaned of paint. I could tell they do a really good job of this as none of them looked like they were ever used ;-P
above is an example of a face shield or mask, these are simpler in that you lay it over the part you want to spray.
above and below, the mask for the boots and garter belts .. again once you clamp them they are perfectly aligned with no wiggle room !
below, another mask, this one for the hair of the “mask” version .. what was interesting was the odd wire arm that holds the top head portion in place. Since it actually touches the hair, after you spray the hair, you have to pop out this piece and hand spray the small dot that is created to cover it up.
Out of respect for their privacy I did not take any pictures of them or their actual painting stations.
They did show me how they use the paint masks while painting and what i did see that I had no idea they did was the figures are gently heated before they pop them into the paint masks .. this allows for a tighter and more accurate fit. Right after they painted the figure they handed it to me and it was of course perfect and warm 😉
Like Shimizu-san pouring vinyl like a cook or chef, or like the skills of Nakadai-san and his iron molds factory and the skills of Goto-san and his painting factory, the Maruyama brothers are part of this line of craftsmen, who are at the top of their games.
All of them contribute, directly or even indirectly, to the Max Toy you hold in your hands.
Made In Japan … these craftsmen are the Umami
ingrediant …. the secret sauce if you will, that elusive flavor that simply can not be replicated any where else. If you’ve held a toy Made in Japan you know the feeling I’m talking about.
So yes, I can make my toys elsewhere but simply after seeing their artistic abilities in person, why would i ? 😉
The Future – We also took a quick side trip to see a new trainee learning how to pour and cast soft vinyl from a now retired craftsman. So, yes there is hope that there will be a new generation of vinyl craftsmen in Japan. In fact by this writing he should be working at the Maruyama’s new vinyl casting factory which is located right inside their painting factory. 😉
We were honored to be treated to lunch at what I call, a Japanese style Denny’s , this one called Jonathan’s. But like all the food i had, much more tasty and fresher all around. With that we part ways and hopped back onto the subway …
making a detour to see the new Sky Tree .. which will be open very soon !
I don’t mind taking the trains when it’s not commute time ;-P
Finally we stopped by the famous Nakano Sunshine Mall and visited the OneUp store there as well as the many Mandarake stores within….
A last minute sushi diner with Yo-san .. while we discussed the way too many projects and opportunities that had presented themselves during this trip … I’m still reeling at all the work we must do in the next few months ! All good fun stuff .. but a lot of work !!
The final day, I made my way to the airport via bus. Yes, I could have had Japanese food, but somehow the McDonalds was calling to me .. it’s true the Big Macs taste better here in Japan 😉
Back on the plane home … I never seem to have enough time.. but what time i do spend in Japan is always fun and exciting !
Next up is Design Festa in Japan, Summer Wonderfest ( I won’t be there but Yo-san will ) and San Diego Comic Con ( I will be there on Thursday only, but look for Max Toys at the Rotofugi and Dragatomi booths ) .
.. followed by a very exciting event that will take me around the world once again to uncharted lands … to bring Kaiju to a new and excited audience ! Where is that you may ask ? I’ll announce it very soon !!! 😉
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.”