In which I know it’s odd to say I’ve found two favorite furoku in a week, but look at this!
I’ve got another kids’ magazine to discuss today — Otomodachi! Otomodachi means friends, and this 90ish-page educational elementary schooler magazine is full of friends like Sumikko Gurashi, Sanrio, and more. At a cover price of less than $8.50 and including furoku that — I don’t want to spoil it, but — makes noise, it’s a no brainer I’m excited to write about!
The Sumikko are well represented here, not just in the aforementioned furoku but also in stickers (more of that in a second) and magazine pages, where the bread theme is prominent and darling:
Unlike some things I’ve run across lately that promised more furoku than I felt like I got, this thing is jam packed! When you open up the magazine, the first thing you see is the double-sided sheet of stickers — beyond what’s used on the furoku and other magazine activities, this is just a bunch of cool stickers, including Mewkledreamy, Healin Good Pretty Cure, Cocotama, Hello Kitty, Kamen Rider Zero One, and more. There are also non-licensed designs of things like bread, strawberries, words and sweets.
I’m really pleased with the amount of Healin Good Pretty Cure here! I’ll write more about magical girl series as this blog goes on, but PreCure is among my favorites (especially the original, Mahou Tsukai Precure, and increasingly this one, as I catch up on it). The features include manga, games, and a “perfect guide” feature in a pull-out booklet.
I spend most of my Japanese study time with Heisig nowadays, but if you’re learning hiragana, that’s another excuse for picking up Otomodachi: tell yourself you’re buying it for the little amount of language learning. In general, the educational materials are both cute and cool throughout. There are drawing lessons, vocabulary exercises, and other types of “IQ training.”
There’s a fair amount of Sanrio here too, although it’s mostly Hello Kitty and My Melody. In the below game, you add ingredients to Melody’s noodles from the included stickers.
As I recently said with Oekaki Hime, it’s nice not to see properties always heavily divided by gender. That is even more evident in Otomodachi, with coverage not only of Kamen Rider Zero One as you see below but also a really sweet Shinkansen toy car setup.
Since bread is such a running theme in this issue, I thought I’d talk a bit about typical types of Japanese breads I’ve enjoyed. Let’s go through the top right image below, left to right (you’re meant to affix stickers to the faded-out images, but I wanted those for other cute purposes).
- Shirokuma bread, croissant, Zassou bread, anpan, Neko bread, Bread shop boss bread
- Penguin? bread, Furoshiki bread, shokupan, osakanapan, Tokage bread
- Cream bread, Aji Furai no Shippo bread, Tonkatsu bread, Ebi Furai no Shippo bread, melon pan
You might notice that most of these end with pan (bread); since this word came to the Japanese through Portuguese, it’s from the same root as the French le pain or the Spanish el pan. One of the biggest misconceptions I found from Americans about Japanese food is the idea that they don’t like bread, or like there’s a choice between rice and bread where you pick one to the exclusion of the other, or that I could travel in Japan and lose weight instead of growing fatter by the day on a steady diet of convenience store deliciousness, beef bowls, and melon pan.
But no, Japanese bread is amazing and everywhere and I thought I’d talk a bit about some of those mentioned.
- Anpan — red bean bread — is kind of the prototypical “yummy sweet from the East.” It’s more or less a cross between a roll and a doughnut (though not that sweet) filled with boiled, mashed, sweetened red beans. The flavor is subtle and rather unlike anything I’d had in the States beforehand: there’s still a legume taste so you know this is beans as opposed to some other filling, but there’s also a mild sweetness that goes from pleasant to yummy.
- Shokupan is basically the default bread in Japan you can find pretty much anywhere. It’s the Platonic ideal of white bread. It’s delicious. I remember as a kid I thought Wonder Bread was the softest, sweetest, best bread, obviously superior to the nutritious whole grain bread my mom favored, but as an adult, all I taste is chemicals. Shokupan is my childhood impression of Wonder Bread.
- Osakanapan — I’m not 100% sure, but I think this “fish bread” is a taiyaki. These are great! I like mine with cream, but these are another treat you’ll find with red bean paste as well.
- Cream pan — Just what it sounds like, bread with a mildly sweet mixture of butter and cream and everything delicious.
- Melon pan — My favorite, although contrary to its name most kinds don’t contain anything melon-related whatsoever. Picture a roll of that soft bread we’ve discussed above surrounded by a crust of sugar cookie dough, all scored to look like a melon. Now picture me eating way, way too many of them. ^^;
Bread aside, there’s some nice material in here for the foreigner to learn a bit more about Japan. There’s a pull-out PreCure booklet on Tanabata and illustrations with the girls from Mewkledreamy at a summer festival. Of course, I didn’t take pictures of this because I got really focused on some of Mewkledreamy’s merchandise…
This isn’t helped by the temptations on the reader giveaway page, either! Pretty much everything here is darling, but my attention was especially drawn by the PreCure and Cocotama items on the right and the plush on the left.
And of course there are the usual amazing reveals of furoku in upcoming issues of this and related publications. Next month, Otomodachi features the Baskin Robbins playset you can see below, with play food and stickers, and on the lower part of the left page you can see two related mooks. From left to right, we first have Otomodachi Pink with its furoku of a Sumikko Gurashi letter set with case, pen and stamp. Then we have Otomodachi Gold with its furoku of a set of LaQ construction toys. Mind you, both mooks retail under ten dollars!
On the left below, we have a PreCure quiz over fairy tales. On the right, there’s the furoku for the August issue of Tanoshii Youchien, which comes with a little gachapon machine and its contents! Fromegg has a great video on this on YouTube, but I might have to track this down for myself too…
But now we finally get to this furoku, the bread shop set with oven and display. It’s incredible! It’s got play value and display value way beyond the price of the entire magazine. This was obvious from the moment I took the components out of the box and inside the magazine and looked over the instructions. Everything is so nice, from the foam-backed main pieces to the quality of the plastic parts!
Once you’ve got the display folded up and put together, it’s just a matter of snapping together the two pieces of the oven, removing the tab to allow the battery connection, and applying a few stickers, and you’ve got an awesome bread shop display, complete with sound-making oven. I had to take the worlds’s worst video to share it:
Even with my poor paper-folding skills, everything comes forward in a very cute way.
Here’s the whole thing all put together!
What more can I say about this one? It’s great, and the furoku is now proudly on display in my cute stuff room. And as if this writing it’s quite a recent release, hitting newsstands on July 1st. If you’re looking for a place to buy it, consider CD Japan — I had a preorder for this one and the package was in my hands on the 2nd!