Kore Janai Robo
Review by SpaceRunaway
This is my treasure.
It’s happened to us all as children. We begged and begged our parents for that one toy. Our birthday, or whatever the occasion was would be perfect, if only we could get that one, very specific thing. The big day comes…and it’s not there. It could have been a simple misunderstanding, but it’s a lot to ask a parent to recognize the difference between say, Lion Voltron and Vehicle Voltron. Kore Janai Robo, literally “It’s Not This” Robo, was born out of this common childhood scene.
In a society where people can get just about whatever they desire, KJR creator Taro Mukasa came up with the idea to make a toy for the sole purpose of disappointing people.
I think I got into this hobby around 2004. I don’t remember what exactly it was about toy collecting that I was interested in, aside from a desire to figure out what the weird Japanese toys I had as a kid were and to reacquire them. It was that weird time of life when you try to figure out who, what and why you are, and mostly, I think I was attracted to the community. Toybox DX and the now defunct Zinc Panic were holy texts for me, and I felt something approaching adoration for older members like Sanjeev, Roger, and Yappy; people that I had never met but thought of as role models regardless.
Mukasa, who sells an eclectic variety of original toys and goods under his Taro Shop brand, started making Kore Janai Robo in 2001. Each of the 200 made were built and painted by hand, and sold for around 30 dollars. Each stands about 8.5" tall. This is a pretty amazing price in designer toy terms, but sales were...slow. In trying to figure out the history of Taro Shop and Kore Janai Robo, I didn’t really get the sense that Mukasa is one for self-promotion. Three years later though, Taro Shop would become a label of independent distributor Zarigani Works. Even more importantly, Kore Janai Robo would gain something equivalent to meme-like status. By 2005, the Kore Janai Robo boom had reached full blast. Toy maker Medicom would get involved, making licensed Kore Janai soft vinyl figures, Kore Janai model kits, Kore Janai key chains, and on and on. There was now a backstory for KJR, each robot had a pilot, and there was a soundtrack released with an official theme song sung by Ichiro Mizuki, because of course there was. Somewhere in all of this, the original hand built robots sold out very quickly.
It was in 2005 that Toybox DX published an article on the Kore Janai Robo craze, and like a lot of people into robots and nostalgia, I immediately thought, ‘I need this’. However, I didn’t want Medicom’s version. There was a charm in the crudeness of the original that had been lost in the transition to mass production. The problem was, the originals were nowhere to be found. To this day, I’ve still never seen one of the wooden KJRs on Japanese auction sites like Yahoo Japan, and if they were still available to order through Zarigani at that point, I wouldn’t have known how to do that back then anyway. Actually, save for a single instance, I’ve never seen one for sale anywhere.
However, in spite of its best efforts, it failed at its purpose. I was thrilled.
The last point of note is the tag, which explains the thought process that led to Kore Janai Robo, as well as showing the villainous version, simply named “Kore Janai Robo (Enemy)”.
In February 2010, the news came out the Erik Ando-Yeap, founder and curator of Zinc Panic and known in the community as Yappy, had suddenly passed away. I had never met Yappy personally. I don’t know if we ever even talked more than once or twice. I can’t imagine the grief of those close to him, but even for me this was a huge loss, and it felt like something inside me had suddenly gone missing. When it was later announced that his entire collection was to be auctioned off, I knew that I had to have something from it, both as a way to keep his memory and also to find some sort of closure. As it turned out, there was a Kore Janai Robo in that auction. It couldn’t have been any more perfect. For me, this dumpy wooden robot seemed to bring everything full circle, I couldn’t think of a better way to remember him. I was going to win that auction no matter what the cost.
In the end, I paid barely more than the original retail cost to get Yappy’s Kore Janai Robo. I guess value really does lie in the eye of the beholder. For me though, this is my grail. There is nothing worth more to me in my toy collection. For me, Kore Janai Robo is not only about growing up, but also a very specific moment in my life.
This is my treasure.
|Posted 28 July, 2014 - 16:28 by SpaceRunaway|