The Second of the three Mark Batty books I have to review (the first being Vending Machines; Coined Consumerism) is a great little book by Ed and John Harrison, of What What fame (one of my Flickr faves, for sure). Ed and John are twins that are obsessed with Japanese mascots and while John lives in London, Ed’s lucky enoughto live in the Japanese character nucleus known as Tokyo (lucky bugger!).
So, having a healthy obsession of Japanese mascots while living in Tokyo with a camera is bound to end up being a fruitful affair. Luckily for us, the photographic fruit didn’t just end up on What Whats’ computers but has been graced inside the pages of Idle Idol. The introduction of Idle Idol explains the rich history of Japanese mascots, which stretch back to way before I would have imagined; the 1800s) where mascots were used as lucky charms. However, it didn’t take long to get where they are today; extensions of brands. In simple terms, they are most commonly seen outside shops but, interestingly, they don’t always give any clues to what’s inside. There may be cultural clues but they are lost on me (maybe the food based characters are an exception I guess). They seem completely arbitrary, which is fine. In fact, I try not to look too deeply for a connection as I like it this way. I also love the fact that it’s a very Japanese thing. Sure, you see the occasional mascot outside shops all over the place but it seems like it’s very much part of the Japanese culture that they’ve truly embraced.
Idle Idol does have structure with chapters that include TV & film, computer games, toys, mythical and traditional etc. but, for all intents and purposes, they could just as easily be mixed up and enjoyed the same. And for each and every mascot there’s some information about them. For instance, Tetsujin 28-Go above (gotta love his name!) – there’s a full size 59 foot version at Kobe’s Wakamatsu Park and that it has evolved to symbolise Kobe’s revival ofter the 1995 earthquake as well as celebrate its original creator.
One of the things I love most about Idle Idol is that it’s a book that my little 4 year old and I can enjoy together. We sit for ages looking at the photos and I read her the info about each character. And because the characters are so colourful, diverse and unique, she often asks me to kind this character or that character so that I can tell her about it again. I have a feeling that my little Nina will end sharing the same obsession that Ed and John have! The hard-covered 144 pages of Idle Idol is available from all the usual places including Amazon UK. You can also take a look inside over at the Idle Idol website. Now, where do I keep it… on my bookcase or Nina’s?