In which I’m inordinately delighted by a magazine for first through third graders.
I’ve been watching a lot of videos from pretty much my favorite YouTuber right now, fromegg, who not only features the coolest Sumikko Gurashi collection ever but also opens a lot of Japanese magazines. It made me a bit nostalgic for the days of Japanese magazine subscriptions and their amazing furoku surprises, and it had been a while since I’d bought some, so I picked up a few things from CD Japan.
I started buying things from CD Japan back when Weiss Kreuz was a major fandom of mine, approximately 3.9 million years ago, and they’ve just been unfailingly great. This order was no exception — I ordered it on the 24th, got told DHL shipping from Tokyo would arrive on the 29th, and received it on the 26th. I still get the same cheerful feeling I did 15 years ago when I get their “We shipped your order today” email. I love that shop.
Furoku refers to the “feelies” — tangible free gifts — that come with many Japanese magazines. Manga magazines, fashion magazines and the like have substantial online substitutes and are easily shareable, so these encourage readers to buy their own to have the items. For this to work, the items have to be fairly unique or desirable, so they can be really awesome and fun to collect.
I also wanted to share just how cool Japanese magazines can be, especially the ones for kids if you’re a fan of character art and goods. This particular magazine is called Pucchigumi, where pucchi is the Japanese way of saying petit (French for small) and gumi is a group of people. It’s published by Shogakukan and advertises itself as being for girls in years 1, 2, and 3 of elementary school.
There are all the usual brands you would expect, such as Sanrio and San-X characters like Rilakkuma and Sumikko Gurashi. The Rilakkuma material is set up as school lessons, with a quiz to determine whether you’re as mellow as Rilakkuma, a finding pictures game, and a test on the silhouettes of the characters.
Also featured are a bunch of series I only know peripherally, like Kiratto Puri-chan, and some I don’t know at all but now want to watch, like Police x Heroine Love Patrina and Secret x Warrior Phantomirage (girly tokusatsu — both of these have manga chapters in the magazine too!). There are also a few series I wasn’t expecting, though the Pikachu-Eevee manga (Pikabui no Hokkori Days, basically Pika + Vee’s Relaxing Days) makes a lot of sense, given their popularity with the demographic, plus probably less Disney and more Licca-chan than I’d have guessed.
The non-character-based topics include hairstyles, pets, and activities like coloring. It’s not so different than what you’d expect from a Western children’s magazine, with a couple of key differences.
One is the much greater mingling between toy promotion and fun or educational stuff you see with Japanese media. While I definitely see the value in making a clear distinction between entertainment and advertising, I think American rules just result in sneakier attempts to influence kids. I grew up in the 1980s when legal changes opened up floodgates to things like the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Power Hour, but I don’t see these “soft sell” Japanese ads for kids as causing some big societal problem that would be prevented by more American-style laws. I just see happy kids with cool stuff.
Another difference is simply general quality. The majority of the magazine is on colored paper, with lots of it glossy; very little of the manga, even, is on newsprint. It’s only about 90 pages long, but with a cover price of about $8.50 that doesn’t seem too bad, especially in terms of furoku and the fact that the magazine includes activities. Not a bad buy at all!
The main furoku here is the “compact brush,” which is a compact mirror doubled up with a brush. I wondered why the dots on the front stuck out until I figured out that’s how you get the bristles to pop out, which is kind of nifty. And it’s scented! I didn’t see that on the box until I started this writeup and it’s actually a scent I wouldn’t mind having on my hair — floral and kiddy, but in a clean way and not too overwhelming.
There’s also Sumikko Gurashi “nose nose cubes,” from noseru, which can mean to carry or let someone ride on something), a paper craft project which would no doubt be easy for its target audience but which I struggled with for more time than is probably natural. It was my fault — the paper is nice and heavy and well-perforated and the tabs are sturdy; I am just not amazing at that type of thing. All in all, though, they look pretty cool, right?
Character goods and figures and plush are expensive, and sometimes between space and money constraints it’s nice to have a certain line or design around without buying a whole lot. Character and kids’ magazines can help with that, or at least I think they can, at least when I’m not spending just as much on everything else…ah well, it’s a process.