Staff writer

The company that launched Print Club stickers, which had armies of schoolgirls everywhere collecting and swapping mini-photo stickers of themselves, believes it has got its hands on another hit.

Atlus Co. in Tokyo has produced a machine that does your nails.

More entertainment concept than beauty product, the NailMore computerized device offers users the chance to decorate their nails with tiny designs for 150 yen a finger.

First you manually paint your nails with a base coat — niftily provided at the front of the machine — then finger by finger you proffer your nails to a small plastic arm that drags your hand into the machine’s innards. Three minutes later a precision ink jet has adorned your finger with the chosen design.

Nail art aficionados can choose from over 100 designs in eight categories — from cutesy cartoon characters and pop art flower motifs to a favorite brand name or Japanese phrase. One phrase — “I want a girlfriend” — is evidence that Atlus isn’t limiting itself to targeting girls but aims to tap the seemingly bottomless pockets of all Japanese youth.

Seji Horibe, oversees sales manager, said, “We think where something is popular with girls, boys will follow. Boys will use this machine — particularly snowboarders.”

Atlus, mainly a video game maker, is well aware that it is vital to keep ahead of teenage trends in order to maintain the loyalty of its young customers. With this machine, it has caught the obsession with nail art sweeping Japan. Pam Adkins, principal of Tokyo beauty school Shaw College International, said, “Nails are suddenly very big in Japan. Even girls of 12 or 13 are into nail art. Nail bars are cropping up in every department store, in salons and where you previously just bought cosmetics.”

She isn’t surprised by Atlus’ conviction that nail art will also be big with the boys. Adkins says, “More and more men in Japan are using makeup, plucking their eyebrows and wearing headbands — nails could very well be next.”

Atlus is currently honing the NailMore, but it aims to have it on the market before the summer. It has already promised it will update designs every season. Also planned is a pencil that will allow determined individualists to create his or her own design.

The trend for long, decorated talons in Japan has followed the fashion of the United States. However, Atlus has taken it one step further and now plans to sell this idea, perhaps ironically, in the U.S.

The daily operating turnover of Print Club machines in the U.S. could turn out to be 35 percent higher than in Japan. And Horibe is obviously keen to see NailMore succeed as effectively.

He doesn’t believe salons will see NailMore as a threat because “it is a combination of fashion and a playful feeling — nail fun rather than nail art.”

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