There Be More Than Eevees

I’ve come a long way since I started my UFO catching adventures about a year ago.

Before, I would wander through game centers taking photos of prizes with no hope of ever winning but mainly just because it was fun to see what was available. Now I wander through taking photos and playing the machines, almost at the same time!

Lately, I’ve been busy trying to win Eevee mascot plush from the most recent I Love Eevee promotion (photos here, recap of prize line-up here), but today was fairly quiet at the time I arrived, not too hot, and I had some time to spare, so I decided to make my usual nonchalant rounds along my usual Game Center route.

The trickiest part of sharing Game Center photos is a lot of places don’t want you taking photos. I guess because they don’t want people studying how the machines are set up to manipulate the system? It just means you sometimes have to be extra sneaky, especially since Japanese phones won’t let you turn off the shutter sound.

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These hamsters are everywhere and are a popular Amuse character. If you see a stuffed animal in three sizes (small, medium, large) that doesn’t seem to come from a popular anime or video game, it’s most likely from Amuse. I love their plush, especially the Fennec Fox line, I just have no room for them!

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This motion sensor lamp caught my eye just because it was so cool and cute at the same time. Of course it’s also one of the harder prizes to win, because if everyone won, it wouldn’t be special.

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Grumpy huge owls, looking grumpy and huge. According to my friends, this is a character from Junketsu no Maria (I don’t really watch anime so I don’t know a lot of the characters in the game centers!)

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I took this picture for two reasons: I thought it was amusing they just went ahead and dumped two characters from completely different anime/game series into one machine because I guess bunnies, and this set-up is not common for Round One. It looks like a typical bridge set-up but… mini?

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Speaking of bridge setups, I’ve been so focused on Eevee prizes that I was surprised to see these new Card Captor Sakura items. Each box has a plate featuring 1 of 5 possible designs. The goal is to get all five plates to combine them to form a sakura blossom out of plates. Ingenious. The illustrations are really cute, and as my luck would have it, the game center already had the Sakura and Tomoyo design out, ready for winning!

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I forgot to take a picture of the actual set-up, but it was a typical bridge setting, similar to the Sailor Moon towel in the photo, except of course smaller scale. Usually, instead of using both claws to lift the item, you want to use one claw to drag the item to the side, until eventually it falls through the space. The last couple of times I attempted winning a smaller item in a similar set-up, I failed because the claw was not strong enough, but I decided to give it a go and the claw ended up being very strong.

Also like typical bridge set-ups, they had two prizes next to each other. This can make it difficult to win the prize you want since in order to get the prize to turn, you need to move the claw to the side, and then the other prize gets in the way. This meant I had to ask for assistance, but once the second box was moved, I was able to easily win within 5 tries.

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Although the plates are made of ceramic, they are surrounded by plastic casing, meaning the plates can drop down the winning chute and still won’t break. The plate was also much lighter than I was expecting.

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My collection of Tomoyo x Sakura prizes grows… very slowly! Now if only Banpresto would make something that was Tomoyo only, I would be so happy.

Pokemon Collaboration – Village Vanguard Ghost Bags

After leaving us in the dark release date wise for a few weeks, the ghost type bag collaboration between Pokemon and Village Vanguard finally started appearing in stores on Monday, April 27th.

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Village Vanguard is a chain of stores located throughout Japan that specializes in strange things. Similar to the American store, Spencers, but with a wider range and variety of items. They have a section devoted to books and magazines, to kitchen items, to toys, and even a small section for imported goods such as American sized Pringles and soda. Their imported snacks sometimes rival actual import stores! Village Vanguard is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs if you want something a little weird, which is why I was surprised they were in cahoots with the Pokemon Company, and of all the designs to feature, ghost type Pokemon at the very beginning of summer.

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I started seeing my friends sharing pictures of Village Vanguard bag displays around noonish or so on Monday, and by 2 pm, reports were circulating that bags had already sold out at the Nagoya location. As of now, bags still seem to be in stock in Tokyo, but ghosts, especially the Litwick line, are very popular and tend to sell out quickly. As we head into Golden Week, a week long period of time where almost everyone in Japan is on vacation, I’m not sure how long they will last. At one location we went to in the same building as the Mega-Tokyo Pokemon Center, they had limits on how many of each design you could buy at one time (2 of each), but the second location did not have any limits.

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These cotton bags come in one of three designs. A (more photos in this post) features some of the more popular ghost type Pokemon and Pikachu. B features the Litwick line and Pikachu. C has silhouettes of all ghost type Pokemon, plus Chandelure in color, and no Pikachu. Design C, in my opinion, was the best design, and didn’t include Pikachu (who isn’t a ghost type Pokemon!) but I would have preferred if you could actually see the Pokemon and not just their shadows.

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I ultimately decided to buy design A…(although if I end up going back and the bags are still in stock, I might cave and get C as well). Each bag comes packaged folded up like so.

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Regardless of which design you buy, every bag has the same tag featuring Chandelure. I love Chandelure and wish he had more merch, so this is fine by me!

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Once folded out, the bag turned out to be much bigger than I was expecting. Although the fabric itself is fairly thin, it could very easily hold general items you might take with you to go out for the day (wallet, headphones/music, phone, 3DS, etc.) The downside is there are no side or inside pockets, but again it is fairly spacious, and comfortably fits over your shoulder!

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Ghostie bag – big enough to act as a summer blanket for a sleepy Psychic kitty!

UFO Catcher Adventures – I Love Eevee

The Banpresto I Love Eevee series started last Thursday with the arrival of the first batch of mascot plush (Eevee, Leafeon, Glaceon) as well as towels, which come in one of three designs, all prominently featuring Eevee along with the Eeveelutions.

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Mascot plush are designed to be attached to bags, so while these plush are described as “large size”, which is accurate when you compare them to other similar types of plush, they are still not too big. In my opinion, they are the perfect size!

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Eevees are so popular, and I think game centers realize this. I’ve run into more trouble than usual trying to catch plush, making me think they are setting the difficulty level on the claws fairly high. Also, although not many game centers are enforcing restrictions, a couple have signs up setting limits on how many of one plush or sets of plush you can win at once, or if they remember you, in one day.

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Of course, I went out bright and early on Thursday to win as many Eevees as I could! I stopped at game centers in Nakano, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro. This was my first mascot plush win of the day!

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Although I am not a Leafeon or Glaceon collector, I think they came out pretty cute for smaller plush! Leafeon unfortunately has a lot of painted and felty bits, which is unfortunately common with smaller prize plush, but still adorable.

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I also won a bunch of towels while I was out. I am usually pretty good at catching towels, but game centers were making it almost impossible to win any! I completely lucked out with the machine pictured. Unlike the other machines I tried throughout the day, the setting on the claw was very low, meaning the claw was very strong and I was able to win 1 towel in around 500 yen or 5 tries, sometimes less than that. I won a lot of towels from this machine, but I guess I won too many, because when I came back later in the evening, there was a sign up restricting people from winning more than 2 full sets per day, and the claw strength was very, very weak. (Oops?)

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I am very pleased with this set! The second set, featuring Jolteon, Vaporeon, and Flareon, comes out May 8th, and I can’t wait!

Friday’s Pokemon Announcements – Pokemon Time, Monthly Pikachu, Bandit Ring

This past Friday was not without some exciting news from the Pokemon Center!

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Although not exactly new, next month’s Monthly Pikachu was announced on the main website, along with his little story. I had a feeling we would see a raincoat Pikachu for June, as June in rainy season in Japan, and I am definitely not disappointed with the design! Thankfully, this plush comes out right before I leave for my summer break in America, which means I get to pick the perfect raincoat Pika with the perfect cute face.

My prediction for July’s Monthly Pikachu is “Tanabata Pikachu”. Tanabata (literally “the seventh evening”) is a Chinese originated Japanese festival that falls on the 7th of July and celebrates the reunion between the two deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (Vega and Altair). Legend states these two deities are separated by the Milky Way all year except for one day, when they can meet temporarily. One traditional form of celebration is to write wishes on pieces of paper (tanzaku) and hang them on bamboo. The pieces of paper are often burned or set afloat (or both) after the festival is finished. There are many Tanabata festivals all throughout Japan, offering usual festival goodies, especially delicious festival food.

And now that I have my prediction written down, watch me be completely wrong!

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The next expansion pack for the official Pokemon card game was announced. Bandit Ring comes in the usual single pack containing 5 cards and goes on sale June 20th. Although the official listing of cards included in the expansion pack will most likely leak closer to release, we know for sure that Hoopa will be included. At this moment, there are no deck sleeves or other related merchandise listed on the website, but this might also change over the next month or so.

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Finally, the most exciting (or stressful!) news of the day – the next Pokemon Time series is coming out June 6th, and this year, the focus is on Eeveelutions. I am both elated and annoyed. Last year’s Pokemon Time was semi boring for me as I didn’t really collect any of the plush and I don’t even think I bought anything. This year, I figured I would be safe to go back to the States for the summer to escape the Tokyo heat and humidity as the last year’s movie related merchandise was boring, and I have no interest in this year’s movie. The Pokemon Center must have found out and decided to punish me for escaping by bringing out Eevees. At least I have friends in Japan who can get me the things that I want, but I would have preferred to be here myself!

More information on merchandise will be announced closer to the end of May, so stay tuned! I am sure everything will be adorable.

Pokemon Center Report – Pikachu Focus

The Pikachu Focus promotion was released in Pokemon Centers across Japan on Saturday, along with several surprises.

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This display features some of the more popular items from each design style. Based on the requests I got, the Pikachu in the Farm series was the most popular out of the three. I personally loved both In the Farm and the black and white cartoony Pikachuuuuu!! style.

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Two of the cutest items from the entire promotion: the In the Farm glasses set and plates set. Perfect for a snack with friends and super adorable!

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Along with the main Pikachu Focus merchandise, the Pokemon Center also gave us a 28 inch tall Pikachu plush…

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…and a 40 inch version!

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In general, when it comes to giant plush, they tend not to sell out as quickly, but the 28 inch plush were selling like hot cakes. The crowd was full of girls carrying these Pikachus around that were half as tall as they were!

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Each 28 inch plush came with this special Pikachu bag, but even if you didn’t buy a plush, you could still buy the bag just by itself (which I didn’t find out until I had already left the Center – oops).

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As mentioned, we also got two unannounced pieces of merch. Number one is the Pikachu secret base doll. Not exactly a Pokedoll, but close enough? Maybe. Also, your eyes are not deceiving you; these plush do not have noses!

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Second surprise: cosplay Pikachu charm sets! Buy a set and share the charms you don’t want with your friends, or buy a set and keep it all for yourself because all the chus are cute!

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Just when you thought the surprises couldn’t end, the Center also brought back the previously released giant Wailord plush…

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…and some of the more popular petits, including Wailords and Altarias. Not pictured but also available once again, the large sleeping Pikachu cushions.

This weekend was a great weekend for Pikachu collectors, but not for their wallets. Stay tuned for next week’s coverage of the Pikazard re-release!

Friday’s Pokemon Announcements – Monthly Pikachu, New Pokemon Center, Trainer Series

Friday’s announcements were both exciting and not so exciting.

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Mentioned through Twitter but not on the official site was the announcement for the next Monthly Pikachu. June Pikachu is wearing a raincoat and carrying a tiny umbrella since June is typically rainy season in Japan. These Pikachus will come out in Pokemon Centers from May 16th.

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Next up, a new promotion centering on the XY female protagonist and the Battle Maison battle leaders will also be coming out on May 16th. So far, we don’t know anything about what sort of merchandise will be included, but we have some great promotional art for it.

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Last but not least, a brand new Pokemon Center will be opening in Hiroshima sometime over the summer of 2015. Looking forward to shiny Gyarados merchandise, considering he is part of the logo!

Pokemon Center Report – April 11

The first weekend of April Merch Madness at the Pokemon Center has come and gone.

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Two out of four of the main releases for today were unannounced on the official Japanese Pokemon website, which usually never happens. Raichu, Mega Latias, and Mega Latios were mentioned in an email given to Pokemon Daisuki members, and we only found out about the petit plush through their listing on the official Pokemon Amazon store.

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One of the main releases was the latest Monthly Pikachu. He is a perfect Pikachu size, although be careful with the kabuto horns on his hat, as it is persnickity and easily bent, much like the glasses from the original April Monthy Pikachu.

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Raichu plush came out perfectly. Sometimes the photo preview looks better than the item when you see it in real life, but not in this case. This plush is a must buy for Raichu fans.

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Mega Latios and Mega Latias look almost identical, so I was glad the Pokemon Center decided to put the two plush in completely different sections to make it easier to tell them apart.

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I wish they had chosen different colors, besides eye color, but I do like purple, so I can’t complain too much.

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Surprise petit plush! I would have preferred surprise pokedolls, but beggars can’t be choosers. Although I don’t collect any of these Pokemon, they are all very adorable. My favorite is Milotic, who looks really grumpy head on.

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So grump, so adorb.

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The Dot Sprite Pikachu and Pokeball promo was kind of boring design wise, but it features some neat stuff. I’m sure if you are a Pikachu fan or collector, this series would still be exciting to you.

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The most exciting part of my trip was playing the Pokemon Shuffle raffle and winning not one, but two of the Prize B cups! They only had one design left of the original two, but I’m just happy to win at all. I was kind of hoping to be able to own at least one of the cups, and now with two, I might keep both and use one for drinking coffee. (I am undecided!)

Friday’s Pokemon Announcements – Pikazard Restock

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After teasing us for months with promises of a “Mid to Late April” release, the Pokemon Center finally announced Pikazard plush will go back in stock April 25th.

Along with the normal and growling Pikazard plush and the mascot plush, a brand new 55 cm “Mega Size” Pikazard will also go on sale.

As with the original release, the growling Pikazards will only be available at the Mega-Tokyo Center.

To quote a man who saw things and never lived to tell the tale: “Hold on to your butts.”

I Love Eevee – Spring and Summer Merch Overview

After a prolonged period of silence, new merchandise is finally getting released through the Banpresto Prize “I Love Eevee” series.

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Although the main focus in most of these prizes is Eevee, there will be several sets of mascot plush coming out, from April to June, featuring all of the Eeveelutions, and includes the very first Sylveon plush in the I Love Eevee line-up.

April 23rd

I Love Eevee – Mascot Plush (Batch 1)
Height: 10 cm / 4 in (not including the strap)

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I Love Eevee – Bath Towels
Size: 120 cm x 60 cm / 4 ft x 2 ft

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May 8th

I Love Eevee – Mascot Plush (Batch 2)
Height: 10 cm / 4 in (not including the strap)

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May 12th

I Love Eevee – Mugs (2 versions)
Height: 9 cm / 3.5 in

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May 19th

Large Size Eevee Plush
Height: 25 cm / 10 in

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June 4th

I Love Eevee – Mascot Plush (Batch 3)
Height: 10 cm / 4 in (not including the strap)

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June 18th

I Love Eevee – Plush Eevee Pass Case (2 versions)
Height: 11 cm / 4 in

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All of these items are crane game prizes and can’t be bought first hand from stores. However, as Eevee and the Eeveelutions are very popular, I’m sure everything listed will be easy to find second hand once they are released.

[Japanese] I Love Eevee prize overview
Banpresto Official Site

Gloomy Bears on a Gloomy Sunday

Today was a rainy and cloudy day in Tokyo.

So perfect for playing some games at the game centers!

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I love Gloomy Bear. I don’t have a lot of the plushies because I don’t have enough room, but when I saw this plush, I knew I had to have it.

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Round 1, unlike Adores, Sega, and Taito, usually set up larger plush in machines that require you to use one of the claws to push down on the plush until it falls. Depending on the strength of the claw and the popularity of the item, this can sometimes be difficult to impossible, or time consuming. Luckily for us, we were able to get this guy in under 1500 yen and only needed to ask for help from the staff one time.

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