November 27, Still Halloween:
Spooky Surprises from Japan!
Halloween Cookie KitOf course Japanese Halloween cookies are more badass than ours. This kit not only includes three miniature, plastic cookie cutters, but a packet of powdered coloring to make both black cookies and white cookies...which we are encouraged to then chop apart and mix back up before baking. Has the Pillsbury Doughboy ever asked that we slice the wings off a bat and give them to a skull? No matter how many gimmicks we come up with in our American junk food, I've always found Japan to be several steps ahead.
Deep Sea Packs of...something?With beautiful shots of abyssal creatures on the packaging, my immediate guess was that these would be gummi candies, possibly due to the illustrations of what also look like gummi candies.
And I was right! Each pack offered an entirely different set of cute, tiny gummi critters, and I must say these are some truly beautiful hunks of gelatin. Far too beautiful to ever open up and eat, which is fine by me. I've already got gummi candies I've been hanging onto as wall decorations for years at a time.
I'm proud to say I don't have trouble identifying most of these animals. That first crab could be any number of deep sea crabs, and that squid could be any number of deep sea squid, but the others are unmistakably a sea pig, a giant isopod, a swimming sea cucumber, a chimaera, a coelecanth, carnivorous tunicates, one of those swell metal-plated snails, a dumbo octopus, a black devil anglerfish, and a bioluminescent jellyfish.
I really never thought I'd be in the presence of a gummi carnivorous tunicate, personally.
Even if I couldn't easily resist eating my new gummis, each pack is also kind enough to include an inedible memento; a randomized deep sea creature trading card! A handy little graph even tells you at a glance just how deep into the sea their respective animals dwell...and there's a lot of these cards out there, if "No.45" is any indication. I'm wondering if these gummis are the only way these cards are actually distributed, because that sure would be a lot of gummis to buy and eat your way through for a full set.
Halloween Kawaii Koala SnacksOne of the Halloween Kawaii foodstuffs that didn't come to our local Japanese grocer, these feature the stitchy-mouthed "zombie" of the monster girl mascots, and even matching slimy-haired ghosts!
Zombie Snacks!These are already adorable from the packaging alone. Blue might be my favorite color scheme for zombies, and I love the little drips off their eyes and mouths!
The snacks themselves are nicely creepy little humanoid puffs of cornmeal, or something, and they positively REEK when opened...but they don't taste all that bad. It's an artificial beef flavor, so you can really feel like you're eating crunchy hunks of old, rancid undead flesh.
"LET'S HALLOWEEN" Vampire RamenSpeaking of blue-skinned undead, look at that absolutely dashing vampire on these garlic-flavored instant noodles. He could not be happier to be handling a big, giant clove of his own kryptonite, either. He is ecstatically masochistic, and he all too eagerly wants you to be a part of it.
A Life Sized Realistic Mole CricketWhat's up with this quality of vending machine toy not catching on anywhere else yet? You would think America would be all over the ability to get museum-caliber replicas of tiny things for just a dollar or two, but we're still mostly limited to sticky hands and Homies.
Child-me would have absolutely FLIPPED for plastic arthropods this photorealistic, and especially something like a mole cricket, an insect common just about everywhere but seldom discussed outside the pest control aisles of a hardware store.
Frankenstein's Monster CandyThis is an adorably tiny little box with a simply beautiful color scheme; look at all that cool, dripping teal slime! These appear to be very small gumballs, or maybe they're some other candy, I don't know because I haven't tried to eat one yet, but they are almost alarmingly green.
Unsurprisingly, these are also one of those candies that stain your tongue weird colors as a gimmick, which I always found kind of gross and unpleasant, but that would be exactly why a big dead guy is hocking them! The opposite face of the box shows us the aftermath, and it's kind of hard to tell if The Monster is impressed, disappointed, or just sort of puzzled by what he's gone and done to himself this time.
Anpanman Valentine's Chocolate!These are one of the foods my friend warned me were probably "expired," but like the deep sea gummis, that's not at all the reason I don't want to eat them. I'm not sure why only Dokinchan is in white chocolate, or what child would ever want to put the visage of Currypanman in their actual mouth, but they're definitely all just too cute to destroy with mine.
I realize this is a Halloween article, but any box of junk food with Baikinman on it is pretty much Peak Spookyocity.
A Gachapon Jenny HaniverSee, mole crickets are one thing, but you're telling me those spoiled rotten kids in Japan can put some money in a metal box and it spits out a plastic replica of a mutilated stingray mummy?!>
DAISO Halloween Hand TowelProbably my biggest Halloween Collecting Regret this year is that we never found time to visit Seattle, a three hour drive away, while their own Daiso dollar store, one of the only ones outside of Japan, was still selling its Halloween stuff. This little towel is a nice compensation, though. It has an interestingly burlap-like texture, a killer font on its cardboard tag and every single ghost on it is wearing a hat. Ghosts seem to wear hats a lot more often in Japan than they do in the states, just another example of the country's technological and scientific superiority over us bumpkins.
A Tiny MIGI!Parasyte is one of the best manga and subsequently one of the best anime I've ever known, and I'm glad it's enjoyed as much recognition as it has over the years, though surprisingly enough, this marks the first and only piece of Parasyte merchandise I've ever owned up to this point!
He looks just great on that moss, too, doesn't he? The sheer mossiness of this region is one of my favorite things about it.
Ultramonster Candy Boxes!These boxes contain nothing but ordinary Milky brand candies, which are basically small balls of white, sugary cream, but that's fine. If they were shaped like Ultraman kaiju or otherwise thematic I'd never want to eat them. The box art is what matters here, depicting two of Ultraman's most famous and popular opponents!
On the left we have Gomora, basically the all-purpose dinosaur-like Kaiju of the Ultra franchise, and on the right we have Baltan, the maniacal "space ninja" often recognized as Ultraman's archest of all nemeses, which isn't too shabby for a last-minute costume the studio originally modified off their cicada man.
One inner flap of each box also hides another monster, and here's Kanegon, a beloved weirdo based on a clamshell purse who can somehow only eat Japanese yen to survive. Kanegon was first featured in an episode of the original Ultra Q, a series which was basically Japan's answer to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits and didn't have an "Ultraman" or any other reoccuring hero at all!
Kanegon would only make a few cameo appearances in actual Ultraman series since then, but it's still treated as one of the franchise's go-to mascots.
A Precarious JAMILASpeaking of Ultraman, this is a figure of the monster Jamila, which from this angle looks embarrassed to realize he isn't wearing pants, but he's actually sculpted to hang off the rim of a drinking glass! This is an intentional joke on the poor guy, because his weakness is nothing but ordinary water, which burns him like acid.
If you think that sounds like a pretty sad monster to be rampaging around on Earth, that's basically the whole idea; Jamila is also a tragically mutated human astronaut.
That is one delightfully grim sense of humor poured into this sliver of plastic.
This Amazing Mystery PacketThere's a few other cool things in the box, but I think I've highlighted the most seasonally appropriate and then some, so we'll end on what I personally think is one of the coolest and most novel things I have ever held in my hands, given how stupidly simple it really is.
This flat, flimsy envelope reminds me a lot of a trading card packet, and it's certainly something spiritually similar; it even contains a square of gum!
...But, instead of trading cards, the packet contains only this folded, sealed piece of paper, covered in ominous writing. I knew almost immediately that what I was holding here was probably a ghost story, and I was right, since my spouse is able to read quite a bit of Japanese and was even able to translate the entire thing. The text on the outside of the slip reads as follows:
A Super-Scary Story
I was at home one night, when suddenly I heard the sounds of a crowd bustling outside. That was unusual, so wondering what was up I headed out, not thinking too much of it. There were so many people I couldn't really see what was going on, so I stretched my arm up to take some photos and video with my phone, then went back home.
It looked like there had been an accident. I checked my phone when I got back, but I couldn't make out anything past all the heads in the crowd.
The next day, my phone's screen started acting weird. Even when I turned it off, a misty green pattern remained in the center of the screen. Inspecting the screen to see if it was broken, I noticed that the pattern was getting larger. Despite that, it was working normally, so I shrugged it off as a minor inconvenience and just used it like that.
That night, I was setting it on my nightstand when I heard some noises. Straining my ears, I could just hear a girl's faint whispers.
...BUT WAIT!...I mentioned this piece of paper is sealed shut. That means you can only get the "shock ending" to this story by ripping it open along a perforated line, LIKE SO:
As I screamed, she turned her head in my direction and began to pound at the screen, staring at me with a terrifying expression.
I deleted all the photos and videos of the incident from my phone. At the scene of the accident, I left an offering of flowers."
...So, not the most original of ghost stories, but what do you expect from a tiny, children's ghost story packed like a collectible card? It's such an elegantly novel little concept, and I love to death that it still goes the extra mile to hide its ending and a single, disturbing illustration on the inside.
I can tell you that, when I was a kid, I would have been genuinely horrified out of my skull by this image, assuming I could even get past the sheer petrification of NOT KNOWING what image was in store for me. Throw in the fact that most kids still don't feel completely sure this stuff is all fake, and that Japanese kids are especially superstitious about ghosts, and this simple, secretive scrap of paper becomes one of the most beautiful and elegant mediums I have ever seen paired with the horror genre.