Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Actor of the "Digimon Generation" Voices Asuka Torajirou in Appmon

July 6th, 2016. The official Appmon portal site updated with two new character profiles, Asuka Torajirou and his Buddy Appmon, Musimon. Like the previous character profiles, these include bits of commentary by the voice cast about the casting decisions surrounding the characters. Torajirou's actor, Kokido Shiho, explained that she was excited to be working in a series that she watched as a child. No doubt this makes her kindred spirits with Uchiyama Yumi, who voices Appmon's protagonist and is likewise a longtime fan of the series. The character profiles and cast commentary are translated below.

Torajirou is much younger than the previously introduced characters. Shinkai Haru is a first-year middle school student, while Karan Eri is a second-year middle school student; Torajirou is still in elementary school, two years younger than Haru. Eri is actually the same age as Mimi was in Digimon Adventure 02, while Torajirou is as old as her in the original Adventure. These gaps will likely make for an unusual dynamic among the core cast.

Asuka Torajirou
Voice: Kokido Shiho
"You follow? You don't follow? Super-follow!"
An 11-year-old fifth-grade elementary student. Has an infectious Bohemian attitude, and judges everything based on that mood. On the video site "AppTube," his self-published videos make him a pretty popular Apptuber. He publishes under the name "Astra" shortened from his real name. Part of an iemoto family dealing in tea ceremonies, he grew up in a strict home, and so has a feeling of longing for great freedom. His Buddy Appmon is Musimon.

(Iemoto is a traditional hereditary Japanese system of training in the classical arts. In Digimon Adventure, Sora's mother was also an iemoto, but in flower arrangement rather than tea ceremony. "Astra" comes from Asuka Torajirou to create Asutora.)

Cast comments
Asuka Torajirou's voice, Kokido Shiho: "When the casting was decided for Torajirou, I was so happy I got goosebumps. Since I grew up as part of the Digimon generation, performing in a series I watched as a child is like a dream. I think there are many like me, who were looking forward to a new Digimon series. This is a work which a wide variety of generations will watch, and with the power of my partner Musimon I want to go go forward at full strength, so please look forward to it!"

Voice: Tamura Nao
"No Musimon No Life!"
Torajirou's Buddy Appmon, with the power of a music app. Like Torajirou, he has a high-spirited personality.

(Musimon's quote is based on Tower Records' catchphrase, "No Music, No Life." Similar allusions were made in Cyber Sleuth and in -next 0rder-.)

Cast Comments
Musimon's voice, Tamura Nao: "Participating in the world of Appli Monsters as Musimon, I'm full of incredibly happy feelings! I got goosebumps when I saw the movie, and it was moving seeing the staff's passion for this work. So that this series becomes beloved by many, I'll do my best as an Appmon Member!"

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Appmon Plush Toys on Sale in October

The text reads 監修中 kanshuuchu "under revision." Images not final.
July 5th, 2016. Import store AmiAmi added eight new Appmon-themed products to its preorder list, with a release date of October 2016. First up is a line of four small plush toys featuring Gatchmon, Dokamon, Musimon, and Hackmon. Each of these is listed at 1620 yen, but a 20% discount during the preorder period puts them down to 1290 yen. (About $12.68 at the current exchange rate.)

Keychain mockup.
Gatchmon will also be available as a mid-sized plush for 3240 yen. (2590 after the discount) Finally, three keychains featuring Gatchmon, Dokamon, and Hackmon are also available at a list price of 972 yen, 770 after the discount.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tamagotchi m!x Coming in July

Top row: Melody m!x. Bottom row: Spacy m!x.
Back in early April Bandai Japan filed a trademark for Tamagotchi m!x (pronounced "mix"), which was picked up on by an automated trademark bot on Twitter, and quickly spread among hardcore Tamagotchi fans. Official announcements of the new toyline followed in May and June. The Tamagotchi m!x virtual pet will launch on July 16th, 2016, in three colors and two variations, "Melody m!x" and "Spacy m!x."

The main feature of the m!x is that when two Tamagotchi get married, the resulting offspring now inherits the visual traits of its parents. The offspring resembles a fusion of its parents, not unlike the latest Digimon's App Fusions. Tamagotchi characters on the m!x can inherit traits from their parents from as far back as 20 generations, resulting in many unique combinations of characters with different visual traits. Unlike in the case of Digimon, the overall reception to "combining" characters by fans has been positive--but this feature is also not old hat to them.

A m!x family tree. The Papa and Mama characters on top and bottom m!x to create the next character in the sequence.
According to a Bandai press release on the m!x, it incorporates a 128x128 color dot matrix screen, 32 bit RISC microcomputer for its CPU, and is targeted at elementary school girls. (Like Digimon's Appli Drive, the toy is listed as suitable for ages 6 and up.) Mysteriously, Bandai opted not to assign an MSRP to the new product. The m!x is instead being sold at an "open price," meaning the price is being left up to the individual retailers. This may be in reaction to the lukewarm reception of the Tamagotchi 4U and 4U+, which had an MSRP of 5980 yen at launch.

The links given below are eBay affiliate links, which redirect the reader to products on eBay. If a reader accesses one of these listings through one of the links below, and/or purchases the item listed, the editor is provided a referral fee and/or commission fee.

On eBay, web shops have listed listed the Melody m!x and the Spacy m!x at no lower than $69.66, with some going as high as $83.46. Accounting for the increased shipping cost and proxy markup, the Tamas are probably being acquired from retailers for 4500~6000 yen depending on the location.

Bandai is promoting the m!x via a crossover with the LINE messaging app, making Tamagotchi-themed stickers available to LINE users. (Eagle-eyed Digimon fans will note two Oyajitchi stickers--the Tamagotchi secret character who's the basis for our own Nanimon.)

Traditionally Digimon and Tamagotchi have made up a brother-and-sister pair for Bandai, targeting different genders within the same demographic group since 1997. While Tamagotchi sparked the initial boom, from '98 until 2003 Digimon was the more table of the two properties--until a string of Digimon-related financial crises forced Bandai and Toei to downscale operations, restricting Digimon to just its trading card and virtual pet properties. In 2004 Tamagotchi revitalized under the Connection brand, and has remained one of Bandai's most consistent properties ever since, while Digimon has been something of a problem child for the company up to the present day.

Recent problems with the Tamagotchi 4U and 4U+ toys underperforming compared to projected sales may have reversed this relationship once more, as the six-years-running Tamagotchi anime was abruptly canceled in 2015. The 4U was poorly received by the public due to its over-reliance on NFC, and lack of past models' features--among them infrared communication and built-in content, as the device needed to be used with real-world download points for its NFC features. The m!x is designed as a return to form, reintroducing the infrared popularized by the Connection.

The m!x will have its own set of dedicated Tamagotchi stations in toy stores, like the 4U before it. However, the NFC support seems to have been dropped. The first commercial for the m!x is currently available on Twitter.

Appmon's Target Demographic is "10~12 Years Old," Digivice Specs

To accompany their main announcement and toy trailer, Bandai distributed a press release on June 9th via their official website on the upcoming Appli Monsters series. Intended for Bandai's business partners rather than the general public, it reveals some key information about the toys including their dimensions, battery requirements, target audience and some of the technology being implemented. According to Bandai, the "main targets are boys 10~12 years old, and the route of distribution will be toy stores nationwide, department stores, consumer electronics and volume sellers [...] among others."

The Appli Drive's specifications are as follows;
Launch date: First ten days of October 2016
MSRP: 4860 yen with 8% sales tax/4500 yen without tax ($47.40 with tax/$43.89 without)
Suitable for: Ages 6+
Dimensions: 70mm x 135mm x 43mm (Width x Height x Depth)
Batteries: 3 AAA batteries (sold separately)
Screen: 16x48 pixel monochrome 2-tone screen, 3-color LED backlight
Set includes: 1x Appli Drive, 2x Appmon Chip (Gatchmon, Navimon)
Distribution route: Toy stores nationwide, department stores, consumer electronics and volume sellers, internet mail order among others.
The LCD screen is two-tone, but the backlight LED displays in red, blue, or green.
It should be noted that the screen dimensions are exactly the right size to display three 16x16 sprites shoulder-to-shoulder. Digimon's traditional LCD sprites are 16x16, with shot sizes being 8x8. A 16x48 screen could display two 16x16 sprites with two 8x8 sprites between them, one traveling on the upper 8-pixel register and the other traveling below it.

The Appli Drive may have an additional mode that has yet to be made public, as previews show it being able to connect to the 7code Pad in its "7code Refill" configuration via a special connector. This connector was also observed at the 2016 Tokyo Toy Show. (see below) It appears that it fits into the thin space between the Pair Ring cover and the Appli Drive's surface, locking in over where an Appmon Chip would normally go, so that the 7code Pad reads to the Appli Drive as if it's a chip.

This does open up the possibility of the Appli Drive being able to connect to other devices. Close examination of the 3D model shown in the initial trailer reveals that the Appli Drive has no visible pronged connectors, and the only room for another connector seems to be a slot on the front of its white grip parts--which would likely be a space for an infrared port, rather than traditional prongs.

However, Bandai has recently been using NFC technology in their Tamagotchi toys, and some past Digivices like the D-3 and D-Ark have included additional connectors covered by side doors. Taking into account the 16x48 LCD screen, the connectivity with the 7code Pad, and the Drive's ability to store information about different chips' power scores, the Appli Drive may have a battle mode.

The press release also addressed the Applink Mode, Ranking Mode, and information on the Appmon Chips:

Applink Mode
A mode where by reading two Appmon Chips, two Appmon can be connected to "Applink" and borrow the powers of their partners, or fuse them to evolve into a new Appmon via "App Fusion." Players can figure out various combinations of Appmon Chips.
Ranking Mode
Continuously updates to display the top 5 highest power levels on the LCD screen from the Appliarise and Applink Modes, with the LCD screen's animations changing in proportion to the rankings.
Appmon Chip ver. 1.0: Awaken! Application Lifeform!
MSRP: 259 yen with tax/240 yen without ($2.53 with tax/$2.34 without)
Release date: First 10 days of October
Suitable for: Ages 6+
Dimensions: 38mm x 38 mm (Width x Height)
Batteries: Not needed
Set includes: 1 pack of 2 chips (28 types in total)
Distribution route: Toy stores nationwide, department stores, consumer electronics and volume sellers, internet mail order among others.
The links given below are eBay affiliate links. These are hyperlinks which redirect the reader to products on eBay; if a reader accesses one of these listings through one of the links below, and/or purchases the item listed, the editor is provided a referral fee and/or commission fee.

Tamers can preorder Appli Drive SP Set--comprising the Appli Drive, Appmon Band, three R-rarity chips and a Premium Rare Scopemon--for $83.98, and a set of three Appli Drive Pair Ring covers together for $44.98.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bandai Introduces Newest Digivice: the Appli Drive

07/02/16 Update: Some of the specs for the Appli Drive were found in Bandai's press release.

To coincide with their introductory video to the Appmon TV anime, Bandai uploaded a movie detailing several upcoming products that will accompany the series. Among these are the newest Digivice, the Appli Drive, and the complementary Appmon Chips that allow Digimon tamers to Appliarise their Appmon, link them to share powers, and fuse them into a higher-level Appmon.

According to a simultaneous press release by Bandai, Appmon products are being distributed nation-wide in "toy stores, department stores, consumer electronics stores [...] among others." This is the first time that Digimon will be available in traditional brick-and-mortar shops since the Xros Wars era toys ended in late 2011-early 2012. While not stated outright, one of the most obvious points in the trailer is how clearly Appmon's merchandising takes after that of Yo-kai Watch. Bandai produces the entire line of Yo-kai Watch DX watches and accompanying medal sets in Japan, and appears to be implementing the same model they used in Yo-Kai Watch; the retail prices and set sizes for medals are very close, and the company has good reason for wanting to reuse its past strategies. Back in 2014 Bandai's production lines were unable to keep up with the demand for Yo-kai Watch DX toys.

The Appli Drive will retail for 4500 yen, comparable to their previous Yo-kai Watch Dream toy. (4400 yen.) Appmon Chips will go for 240 yen per pack, which is exactly the same as Yo-kai Watch's latest medal sets. We don't yet know what bulk prices will look like for Appmon, but boxes of 20 Yo-kai Watch packs retail for 4200 yen before tax, so expect something similar.

Whether or not the Appli Drive and its accompanying products will see a western release is unclear. In the past, Bandai has usually produced watered-down versions of their Digivice toys for foreign markets. (See the Xros Loader versus the Asian Fusion Loader and the American Fusion Loader.) In the United States their Yo-kai Watch toys are licensed out to Hasbro, and seeing as a proper 1-to-1 localization of a Digimon toy hasn't taken place since the Digital Monster pets 1997, we may never see the Appli Drive overseas without outside intervention.

The links given below are eBay affiliate links. These are hyperlinks which redirect the reader to products on eBay; if a reader accesses one of these listings through one of the links below, and/or purchases the item listed, the editor is provided a referral fee and/or commission fee.
Already, the first international web listings for the toys have gone up on eBay. Taiwanese seller matrix-king is taking preorders for the Appli Drive SP Set--comprising the Appli Drive, Appmon Band, three R-rarity chips and a Premium Rare Scopemon--for $83.98. This is approximately a $25 markup from the base value of the set (6000 yen = ~$58.52) but accounting for Japan's staggering 8% sales tax and the increased cost of EMS shipping beginning June 1st, this increase is closer to $20. That's par for the course for a proxy purchase service; the only way to get lower prices is to buy from a Japanese toy shop that can do international orders, as they order straight from wholesale distributors to get their stock for less.
The same seller is also selling a set of three Appli Drive Pair Ring covers together for $44.98, another $20 markup. (2400 yen = ~$23.41) These include the blue Dokamon ring, orange Musimon ring, and black Hackmon ring. Introduced in lieu of alternate Digivice designs, the covers allow tamers to add a degree of personalization to their Drives, and come with additional Appmon Chips.

The first booster set, Appmon Chip ver.1.0: Awaken! Application Lifeform! will contain 28 Appmon Chips, comprising a total of 15 Commons, 6 Rares, 3 Super Rares, 2 Premium Rares, and 7codes. Note that while all of the other rarities have a star rating denoting their rarity, 7code chips have no associated stars. A full list of set 1 chips gleaned from the 2016 Tokyo Toy Show is given below.

Commons: 15
Dougamon (Virus)
Messemon (Virus)

Rares: 6

Super Rares: 3

Premium Rare: 2

7codes: 2
Roleplaymon (B01-016)

Tamer Union Going Ad-free for July, Here's How

Tamer Union will experimentally be going ad-free for the month of July.

There are three primary reasons for doing this. The first and most important is that in this age it is an increasingly common hazard for ads to be compromised with malware, a complaint that has been levied against both smaller independent sites like Union, and large ones like Gematsu. I have no means of screening ads for malware; this is supposed to be handled by the Google AdSense team, but serving literally thousands of companies per day it seems they're unable to nip every instance of this in the bud.

The second reason is that the ads generally do not mesh well with the web design of the site, moreso on mobile than on desktop. Third and finally, the return on these ads is actually quite low per impression, especially when taking into account the amount of space that has to be dedicated to them. They don’t earn their keep relative to the compromises they force to justify keeping.

Naturally, there is a catch. Money has to come from somewhere. I am replacing Union's prior AdSense system with daily affiliate link plugs. Previously I experimented with affiliate link integration in our first Digivice buyer's guide, and the results were very compelling.

I've been cautioned that affiliate links can at times appear more intrusive than standard advertising, and veer into advertorial territory, but they are safer than running banner advertisements that are potentially infected with malware. Running daily affiliate links also provides an angle to keep better track of the Digimon collectibles market from, and publicly documenting different prices over time can contribute to a stabler market with less wildly fluctuating prices.

As always, we are open to Patreon donations. These help pay for things like our domain costs, NicoDouga membership for reporting on live events, and acquiring copies of interviews.