KOBE – A craftsman’s plastic processing business in western Japan has finally begun to take off as the exquisite toy weapons he produces become popular with the legion of costume-wearing manga fans known as “cosplayers.”
Takumi Orii, an enthusiast of the “Gundam” animation series about giant robots, began making items like plastic swords for cosplay fans several years after establishing his Takumi Kogei workshop in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture, in 2008.
After the business struggled to win publicity, Orii, a 37-year-old Hyogo native, began visiting cosplay events to find out what he could do to link his business with young people.
His exchanges with the cosplayers eventually inspired him to launch a new business specializing in plastic toy weapons.
Orii realized that cosplayers wore nearly perfect costumes to events but often carried items like swords made of corrugated cardboard.
At one cosplay event, a female participant told him, “I can make my own costume using a sewing machine, but not a sword, although I want to have a realistic one.”
After several months of brainstorming, Orii took his plastic weapons to another cosplay event and showed them off. He said the participants seemed very impressed with his creations, which is when he realized: “This is it.”
Using a precision manufacturing machine and a 3-D printer, the newly inspired Orii can produce basically any item without a precise drawing if a manga illustration of it is available.
“Our ideas can be put into shape, whatever they are,” said Orii, who produces items to order.
Orii is also promoting joint projects with other companies.
Among them is a glittering sword made in collaboration with an electronics maker based in Kyoto, and a heart-shaped kitchen knife for fans of Lolita fashion made with a smith in Miki, also in Hyogo. Lolita is a Japanese street fashion inspired by Victorian and Edwardian dress.