Friday, February 4, 2011

Real x Head Not! Dead

Its been a few months now since we started this little experiment called Real x Head U.S.A. The Real x Head brand has been active since 2003 - coming up on 7 years now - and while a few months may seem like a blink in time to the seasoned collector it must feel like an eon to the more fevered mindset of newer collectors. Our intention has always been to have a centralized information source about the activities of the Real x Head brand and to occasionally bring some exclusive goodies to the international fans. RxH being based in Japan and having a shop on the outskirts of Tokyo - this means that a majority of this coverage of activities and figure releases would be Japan-centric - but we thought having an inside perspective on these activities would be of interest to the international fan-base. And while reception of the site has generally been positive - we are well aware of a rise in the level of “desire” for what can be perceived as ‘unattainable’ releases.

The indie soft vinyl figure market has been through a lot in these past seven years. When Mori first started, one factor that loomed large was Obitsu 100 figure minimum rule. With his first figure the Oni Head - he made 100 - and sold 2. Obviously this was not a winning strategy - so he went back to the drawing board. With his second figure - the Mutant Head - he still made 100 but took delivery of the figures unpainted. Since his hometown of Katsushika is ground zero for the old school Japanese toy-making industry, he knew there were a lot of cottage industry  craftsman around that supported the larger companies like Obitsu. Approaching one of them directly he found a way to have his figures painted 10 at a time. And while still not selling out at the toy shows he was stuck with a lot less stock. In the early days of this scene, sales happened almost exclusively at toys shows - the circuit was pretty strong - there was usually an event every month. The market demanded makers release something new at every show - and while they would put out their back stock - the pressure was on to continually come up with novel releases. Real x Head was quite innovative with colors, inserts and new head sculpts that worked on the existing Mutant Zone body. The pressure was always on to maintain the fine balance between outlay costs and the demand for novelty to still turn a profit. While many of the indies makers were just hobbyist, Mori was determined to do it as a business.

A big break for the international scene came in late 2005 when Brian Flynn of Super7 purchased a batch of Mori’s back stock at a Toy show here in Tokyo. (you can see a pic of that legendary lot of figures at the top of this post.) Combined with the new burgeoning online community over at skullbrain.org and a surge in popularity here in Japan - 2006 thru 2008 were boom years for both the indie soft vinyl movement and Real x Head. Many collectors discovered Real x Head during these glory years when release runs were fairly large and there was usually a good mix of  easier to obtain releases as well as a nice smattering of secrets and chases. But for every boom there is a bust. As the global economy slowed down so did the demand for expensive Japanese vinyl toys. Mori again has shown his ingenuity by diversifying his product line up, making smaller “nice price” items, cultivating new customer bases and more recently honing a more on-demand style micro-release work-flow. deja vu all over again!

Enough with history lesson - what does the future hold? While the volume and variety of product to the States has an ebb and flow, Lulubell Toys, Rotofugi and other fine retailers continue to carry new product. Mori always strives to keep prices down even with the strong yen, so these retailers have been able to offer lower prices on new RxH figures and have even marked down their back stock to be in line with the newer recession-style pricing.

We also  have been brainstorming on ways to bring new RxH goodness to you all through this website and we have another experiment we are about to reveal. Thanks for your support and stay tuned!
Real x Head Not! Dead

1 comment:

zodiac said...

Hi, I live in the UK. Where can I buy the Real x Head figures?
email: stephengrealey@gmail.com