YouKai Watch: is this the new Pokémon?

“The Japanese monster franchise is set to take the world by storm”

Already caught all the Pokémon you want? Then keep an eye out for the latest craze to hit Japanese kids, Yo-Kai Watch.

A franchise consisting of comic books, video games, cartoons and toys, Yo-Kai Watch is centred around a schoolboy, Keita Amano, who owns a wristwatch that can summon monsters, or Yo-Kai.

Keita must defeat the monster
s that threaten humanity, then – with a parent-pleasing lack of violence – befriend them. The Yo-Kai Watch video game thus allows children to “collect” monsters, similar to the way in which Pokémon are captured and collected in the popular Ninetendo game.

While the name is unfamiliar in the West, Yo-Kai Watch toys and games are already big business in Japan.

Toy replicas of Keita’s watch are in such short supply that their price has rocketed on online auction sites, while the Yo-Kai Watch 2 game, developed by Level-5 for the Nintendo 3DS handheld console, has sold more that 2.3 million units since its release last July.The first version of the game, released last year, has sold over 1.2 million copies.

Matt Alt, a pop culture commentator who co-authored Yokai Attack!, a book detailing the monsters and supernatural creatures of Japanese popular culture, told AFP that the series draws heavily on traditional Japanes folklore.

“These have been around for hundreds of years as folktales. And now this series has woven them together to make a new sort of content out of them,” he said.

Alt added: “The big difference between Yo-Kai Watch and Pokemon, however, is that Pokemon is set in a pure fantasy world, whereas Yo-Kai Watch is definitely set in at least a version of Japan. Events take place in Japanese streets, with children living in Japanese houses and eating Japanese food. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular with kids here, because it makes you feel like these monsters could be just around the corner.”

In Tokyo, families are stocking up at Yo-Kai Watch Town, a temporary pop-up store opened to cater to the craze,

“We bought a lot – about 20 items – as we can rarely buy them,” Shoji Takayama Told AFP he came out of a store with his wife, two children and a big plastic bag full of toys.

“It’s fun to catch Yokai and become friends,” nine-year-old Naoya said of the video games. “The characters are cute,” added his sister, Sae, 11.

The family spent about 30,000 yen ($280) at the store.

The demand for the toys is so high, that tickets to get into the store were distributed in online lotteries, allowing up to 432 people to visit every day.

Level-5, who developed the Ninetendo Yo-Kai Watch game, have confirmed plans to bring the product to foreign markets.

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