Star Wars is a big deal. Everyone knows that. The film series, which started in 1977 with Episode IV: A New Hope and continued through 1980 and 1983 with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi has endured over the decades, despite the nightmare of the ‘prequels’ that George Lucas realized in the late from 1999-2005. We’ll just pretend those didn’t happen.
Well, part of the reason Star Wars has remained so popular for so long is the ridiculous amount of merchandising and licensing that Lucas and his cronies have carried out over the years.
Through the power of the Internet, you can easily find Star Wars tissue boxes, action figures, pillow covers, soaps (I assume), pencil toppers, coffee mugs, sticker sheets, video games, board games, iPod covers, etc etc. The list could go on for milions of parsecs (haha).
I’ve always been especially fascinated by all the random goodies I’d see with Star Wars characters’ faces etched on them. Like this:
Star Wars fans have had no problem lining Lucas’ pockets over the years with cash, and with good reason. The characters and events of Star Wars are loved by millions worldwide due to the complex on-screen and in-story world.
Thousands of books have been written about minor characters hardly anyone remembers from the movies, and they do well among the hardcore fanbase.
Comic-Con was held a few weeks ago in San Diego, and apparently there were some new Star Wars items on display to make the Jedi-cape clad masses swoon and hyperventilate. Some of these are Japanese in origin, demonstrating how the popularity of the franchise is not limited to the United States. On the contrary, Japan is a HUGE market for Star Wars and has its own quirky and culturally-significant goods on the market. Observe:
This is….interesting. Hello Kitty is EVERYWHERE, of course, from the crowded streets of Tokyo to malls in Connecticut (I’ve seen it), and has been a merchandising empire for what seems a lifetime. It was only a matter of time before someone merged it with Star Wars.
I’m not sure who exactly would be interested in a pink Stormtrooper with a Hello Kitty head, but it’s an intriguing concept. This was in some display case at Comic-Con, and I’m sure some people reacted with exclamations of excitement and a sense of OMG I NEED THAT.
On the more practical side, there are new Star Wars chop sticks that also made their debut at Comic-Con.
This is much more my kind of item. I’m too clumsy to be able to master the fine art of using chop sticks (as I’m the guy who asks for a fork at a Sushi restaurant), but these would almost make me want to try to learn.
Modeled after the lightsabers that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader use to duel in the films, these chop sticks are very appealing. Apparently at Comic-Con people could test them out and ‘battle’ to see who was the king (or queen) of chop stick lightaber challenges.
ActionFigureInsider says these won’t be on the market until sometime in 2010, and I’m sure when they are, Star Wars fans and/or sushi fans alike will buy these. It’s a pretty neat idea.
Outside the realm of cross-marketed novelty items, there also exists in Japan a healthy amount of Star Wars-themed manga. Considering how popular manga and anime are in the country, it makes perfect sense. Here are some examples found on starwars.com for your enjoyment.
This is obviously the scene from A New Hope when Luke and C-3PO waltz into the Cantina only to get yelled at by the fat bartender because “we don’t serve their type here”, referring to droids.
This one is a bit more intense. Chewbacca has been altered from a goofy Bigfoot-type creature into this crazed Yeti-looking thing, and in this scene he’s either creating a diversion or helping Obi-Wan and the droids escape the clutches of some hapless Stormtroopers. This manga interpretation is slightly more varied than the previous one, with tons of dramatic lines to emphasize an action sequence.
Here’s the famous scene where Darth Vader Force-chokes Admiral Motti due to his lack of faith in the Dark Side. A bit less flashy than the previous one, but still interesting.
As some of these pictures have shown, Star Wars has remained huge in the area of marketing and brand name appeal throughout the entire world. There are undoubtedly countless other examples of this same type of cross-marketing and culturally-themed Star Wars hybrid items on the market.
What started out as an American movie series has morphed through the last 32 years into a billion-dollar franchising and licensing empire. The ability of Star Wars to resonate with Japanese culture is evident through these and other examples. I think it’s pretty cool.
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