You know, there’s only one place where you can get figurines of sushi cats and the Statue of Liberty drinking a nice cold beer, and that place is, of course, Japan.
Gachapons are these toys inside tiny capsules sold randomly in vending machines. Having been around Japan for a long time, they’re already deeply rooted in the culture, like bowing to greet others and Splatoon.
Inspiring core concepts of juggernaut franchises like Dragon Ball and Pokémon (originally called Capsule Monsters), it’s pretty difficult to walk around downtown areas without finding a Gacha machine.
There’s one brand in particular that’s captured the interest of most all Gacha fans, Takara Tomy A.R.T.S.
Of course, you can and should expect weird and creepy toys, but Takara goes full-on grotesque.
Among the unsettling array, we’re talking about melting pink elephants, kangaroos sporting prominent jawlines and Kaikaburi Girls, a product from their sub-brand Panda’s Ana.
The machine that sells them is special in itself. Instead of advertising with crying Shibas, it’s just a plain white background with the text YOU OVERESTIMATE ME TOO MUCH. You can barely see what kind of toys you’re gambling for. After the 200 yen transaction, out pops a tiny statuette of a girl in a white dress, with one of five different types of seashell on her head.
What is this?
We need answers. That just can’t be it. What do seashells have to do with — what?
Why why why why why.
That World Wide Web might have the answer.
After perusing Takara Arts’ website, along with some reviews and opinion of the toys on it, we still get some pretty encrypted information. An official press release offers a video narrated in French with Japanese subtitles (yes) telling us how the tragedy of the Seashell Girls came to pass.
With the help of my good friend Lais Ruon, who translated the video into Portuguese for me (we’re diving into some crazy language layers here), we basically get the story of a multi-talented girl who strives daily to satisfy everyone’s expectations, who one day gets her head snared in a seashell. Afraid, worried and ashamed, she tries to break free from her captor. After time goes on, no one expects anything from the girl any longer, and the seashell becomes her favourite hat.
But why seashells?
It’s a pun, OF COURSE IT IS A PUN.
I always knew the three semesters of Japanese I took would flourish into something beautiful. This is it, time to shine, buckle up for Japanese class:
The name of the toy, 買い 被り, is read as KA – I – KABU – RI and means ‘overestimate.’
However, if we fragment the word, the first part, KAI, translates to the verb ‘buy.’ The first symbol, a kanji, you see, comes from a drawing of a seashell (use your imagination), as it was the main form of currency long ago in the land of the sun that rises.
Moving on, the second part, KABURI, according to the Tanoshi Japanese Dictionary, refers to:
- to wear (on head, usu. one’s own); to put on (over head, usu. one’s own); to crown (one’s self)
- to pour or dash water, dust, etc. (on oneself)
- to bear (e.g. someone’s debts, faults, etc.)
- to overlap
So, bingo, the code’s been cracked, Panda’s Ana and Takara Tomy ain’t got nothin’ on us.
A joke impossible to translate but comprehensive. That should be a thing.
So we can now go deeper; is this toy a commentary on how overestimated and toxic this gambling culture, which drives children and adults alike to blow fat cash, really is? Or maybe a stab at how the multi-million Gachapon industry is a prettified glutton for the malicious plastics choking marine life? Or maybe the brand is taking more credit for their prized collectibles than is due?
How meta can we get?
All that effort for a 200 yen toy with a pun for a name, maybe we are overestimating things too much indeed.
Let’s all go hide inside tiny seashells, it’s probably for the best.