Over the years, Japan Foundation have become well known for their hands on approach to showcasing Japanese culture by bring over great guests, providing top notch workshops and curating exciting film festivals. On Wednesday 5th March they had none other than Hackney born Japanese business/blogger sensation (and son of famous shoe maker), Danny Choo, give a talk about what he’s been working on at Culture Japan Night London.
Armed with his mascot Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll, (was her Birthday on the 3rd March too) Danny Choo talked about a variety of different things such as the development of the doll, his website and culture japan show, as well as his insights into japanese culture and a few nuggets of information on how business is conducted in japan. During the talk, Danny mentioned that his current main focus is the smart doll project and to expand the functionality of the doll over the coming years. During its continued development, Danny and his team have wracked their brains to come up with a design that not only accommodates the necessary electronics within the limbs but also to make it cost effective to to help reduce the final cost of the doll to the consumer.
Mr Choo and Mirai doll!
Past models of the smart doll can be moved remotely using the controls on a Bluetooth paired Android Smartphone. Choo wants to go a step forward and make a walking, talking smart doll with artificial AI. As many are getting used to the likes of Siri on the iphone, imagine having a doll version of that which can talk and respond to your speech. The Mirai doll will have its own voice, but Danny hopes to make it possible for users to download and install additional “voice packs” utilizing the vocals of famous seiyuu voices which could really excite the Otaku consumer. An interesting facet of the production process of the dolls is that they are aimed at other countries rather than focusing on japan. When asked about the time delay from the manufacture of the dolls in Japan to when it would be available for overseas customers, he answered this was aimed exclusively for the rest of the world not Japan!
Amongst talk of his latest doll projects he talked about anime and licensing from his experiences in interacting with several anime studios. Even when you’re in contact with the staff at a particular company and everything seems fine, things can sometimes turn sour if said company has a problem with how you may be utilizing their IP. Even things like the company not approving of your fan art of their anime could cause talk of lawsuits to be thrown around with shorter than a week’s notice.
Another difference in how the market for anime differs in Japan is that the average Japanese consumer for anime and manga are content with having to pay as much as £350 for a Blu-Ray set for a series, which most people overseas would call extortionate prices since many fans in the UK would expect to pay around £40-60 max for a full season on blu-ray in their local retailer or online. Therefore the Japanese industry rarely feel they need to bother with considering the western anime market when consumers in their home territory are already prepared to pay much higher prices for anime and than those abroad.
In reference to Danny’s appearances at events, the most noteworthy being the Culture Japan Con created by his company, many people in the audience asked if he had any plans to attend UK conventions. To this, he said he’d happily attend if he were invited and they didn’t clash with his other events. When quizzed further about future Culture Japan events, Danny mentioned that the next event is likely to be in Malaysia, where he held the Culture Japan Con last year. So if you are in demand of Mirai merchandise, it would be a great experience to save up your money and go to the next convention abroad perhaps?
At the end of the Q&A Danny happily chatted to people and insisted we all networked with each other and make at least one new friend. This was easy as there were a variety of people in the audience of all ages, including students, business owners and cosplay fans. After a sprint to take all the Mirai poster off the walls, people queued to get photos with Choo and interviews. We even had a few cosplayers in midst of the crowd to stand with Danny and the Mirai doll in all our group photos. Jade (@woodlandbunny), one of he cosplayers in attendance, even came dressed as Mirai Suenaga, accompanied by her doll companion, also dressed as Mirai.
The Parallax Play team got a short and snappy one with Choo about Games, anime and breasticles. Listen to the audio interview here.
This was a great event, free hosted by Japan Foundation, Danny was in high spirits joking around about how London has changed since his last visit four years ago and how the buses have still not improved since. To keep up with the latest info on Danny’s Culture Japan series, the Mirai smartdoll or his snippets of life in japan, check out his site at www.dannychoo.com
To find more details about future events at Japan Foundation go here: www.jpf.org.uk