Secretcode, a news team member at sister site TFW2005, was able to get an awesome interview with a rep at BlueFin Tamashii Nations USA. It’s a fantastic read that touches on everything from how their partnership came about, Power Rangers, S.H. Figuarts, S.H. MonsterArts and more.
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It’s no secret that the offerings that Tamashii Nations provides in the various toylines are a hit, but sometimes the way things are run in comparison between the U.S. side and Japanese side bring up some questions. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to sit down with a BlueFin Representative for an interview.
Secretcode: How did the Bluefin/Tamashii Nations USA thing come about?
BlueFin: Bluefin is a distributor for many Japanese import items. Its main product lines were originally hobby items including plastic models of cars, military vehicles, and of course Gundam models. We started rapidly expanding our line in 2010 when we became the exclusive distributor for Tamashii Nations in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to that, Tamashii Nations had been working with the manufacturer Toynami. Our main goal is to grow the Tamashii Nations brand in N. America.
Our actual Facebook page was started as a pet project of mine in late 2010/early 2011 to help get English info out for the Tamashii lines. It is now a a common page for Tamashii Nations staff to browse on their lunch break for fan input and reaction especially with the polls we run.
Secretcode: There’s two questions I just want to get out of the way right now. First off, with the release of Super Robot Chogokin DaiZyuJin (The Mighty Morphin’ Megazord) and the Figuarts release of Red Hawk in America, what is stopping the rest of the S.H. Figuarts and Super Robot Chogokin Super Sentai toys from being released in the United States?
BlueFin: The Sentai/Power Rangers licensing is very complicated. It’s unfortunately very difficult to predict future releases since there are inconsistencies in the logic and reasoning that have been provided to us. Bandai of America did however grant a sub-license for the Super Robot Chogokin Megazord. We hope other products within the Power Rangers brands will also be allowed since we’re willing to bring the associated products over.
Secretcode: The last obvious question: Any progress on bringing the Tamashii Webshop Exclusives over to America? I know demand is a key factor in whether or not something gets brought over.
BlueFin: It is one of our goals to eventually bring Tamashii Web Exclusives over to N. America. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the time frame for this.
Secretcode: S.H. MonsterArts has surprised me in terms of the general feedback I’ve heard about the line, and the general range of characters the line has hit so far within the Godzilla franchise. Is there anything coming up we should keep an eye on?
BlueFin: Why, yes our exclusive Godzilla Comic-Con Explosion version that will be available at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 this year is something to look forward to.
Secretcode: Any chance of bigger characters like Biolantte or Destoroyah, or moving onward to the Millennium series-era of Godzilla (such as Millennium Series Godzilla, Kiryu, Orga and even Zilla)?
BlueFin: Other Godzilla monsters for the line right now are top secret and I’m unable to comment on them.
Secretcode: Will the toyline ever hit franchises outside of Godzilla? Specifically, characters like Gamera or King Kong.
BlueFin: The MonsterArts line was created for all monsters, it’s not just a Godzilla line. With this in mind Tamashii Nations has a number of properties it’s attempting to pursue to make available for the line, including Western properties. The polls we held recently on our Facebook were meant to provide insight into what other types of monsters consumers would be interested in seeing. A number of them already had prototypes and initial work done, so those polls were a good compass to direct their priorities.
Secretcode: So… D-Arts. How is D-Arts doing in the USA as compared to Japan?
BlueFin: D-Arts is doing very well in the U.S., though unfortunately I can’t comment on how it is doing compared to Japan. The P3 and P4 characters released so far have done very well and we expect Zero Type 2 to also have excellent performance.
Secretcode: Will the Mega Man X D-Arts continue after Vile?
BlueFin: There is something being planned right now for the next character in the mega-man universe though I cannot comment on it.
Secretcode: D-Arts is an expansive line of brands right now, covering Mega Man X, Persona, and even Wild Arms. Are there any brands that you would personally like to see in the line-up?
BlueFin: I and a lot of other people would like to see some Nintendo properties populating the line.
Secretcode: One thing that I’ve constantly seen people complain about recently is the “delay” product releases get through stores like Amazon and Big Bad Toy Store. What exactly causes this?
BlueFin: Well, the products for the month are released approx 1-3 weeks in N. America after Japan release date. We ship to all retailers within days of the container of goods arriving.
Secretcode: Has anything about the U.S. Market so far stood out to Bluefin and Bandai of Japan?
BlueFin: Dragon Ball, Mega Man, Kamen Rider, TIger & Bunny… Well and Gundam Wing, but that’s obvious. Occasionally there are also items that Japan doesn’t think has a following and are pleasantly surprised that there are western fans.
Secretcode: What’s the status of Robot Spirits/Robot Damashii in comparison to the other lines? Fans are happy with the inclusion of Wing Zero and Leo to the robot spirits lineup, but how would we show support for the commercialization of other Gundam Wing toys?
BlueFin: Wing Zero Custom is still the most heavily purchased Gundam product in the U.S. and by extension the most popular. We’re hoping to see if the TV version of it does just as well. The best thing fans can do is to spam, err I mean, comment frequently on our Facebook page for what they want to see released.
Secretcode: Tamashii USA has been very active in the communication with their fans on Facebook, even to the point of holding regular polls seeing what people would want in the various lines. How much of an influence is that on what comes out?
BlueFin: Sometimes it’s not necessarily the winner or top 3 in the poll that matters. There are other things being looked at. How many votes did this character/franchise get in relation to another? Why is this character/franchise doing better/worse compared to this other one? What comments are people saying about the poll options? Who is being heavily suggested that wasn’t on the poll? Where did this poll option come from and why is it doing so well? The poll of course is just one of many data sources that Tamashii Nations uses for market research; it is not the be all end all, but it does contribute a lot.
Occasionally some other things happen such as the D-Arts fighting game poll sending the developers of Skull Girls knocking on Tamashii Nations’ door. They’ve been in contact, but that’s all I can say.
Secretcode: Following up on that, how much influence does the U.S. market have right now on the Tamashii Products as a whole?
BlueFin: A lot, especially for products that do better in the U.S., such as the Dragon Ball franchise. Without U.S. demand, there wouldn’t even be enough to do a Tamashii Web Exclusive for these latest DB releases.’