Shit My Japanese Elementary School Students are Into: Disney Tsum Tsum
The Japanese branch of Disney is it’s own unique animal. More than one original character or product line has started here in Japan and moved back overseas after experiencing wild success. Duffy the Disney bear is one many will know. Duffy started off in the Tokyo Disney theme parks as a Japan-exclusive toy. His accompanying story book was also very Japanese. In his origin story, Duffy is made by Minnie to keep sailor/fisherman Mickey company at sea. Duffy was so effective at showing Minnie’s love for Mickey that, in the story, she ended up making one for everyone she loves. Hence, millions of Duffys in the park for sale to show Minnie’s love for you. And, while you’re at it, purchase some Disney costumes for him why don’t you! The anime spin off of Lilo and Stitch also brought us new siblings for Stitch in different cute colors. You couldn’t enter an arcade for years without seeing Stitch’s original Japanese companions.
Now, the progenitor is the Disney Store instead of Disneyland. Meet Disney Tsum Tsum: A series of plush toys with an accompanying smartphone game. The title likely comes from the two verbs “Tsumu”, one meaning to pile up and the other meaning to gather. The adorable little hamster like Disney characters pile up and you must gather them by drawing lines between like-character faces in a manner similar to games like Tetris/Jewels/Candy Crush.
You start with Mickey as your hero character and can unlock other characters with earned game money as you play. Currently most of the main characters of the old Disney line up are available including Mickey, Minnie, Goofie, much of the cast of Bambi and most of Winnie the Pooh. Also, Perry the platypus. Because Perry has captured the hearts and minds of every little girl in my 6th grade class, somehow. Lines of five or more characters earn “bombs” that eliminate the characters around them for extra points. Get enough of your hero characters in a round and you can use their “skill”. Mickey’s skill is his hand. Anywhere the hand touches, points. After one minute, the game is over. Perfect time for a kid’s attention span.
The obscene cute and short time frame of each round would make one think this is the shit with elementary school kids. And it is. But weirdly enough I’ve seen equal numbers of junior high and high school kids on the bus and train playing this on their smartphones as well. The reason is likely due to the account creation process. While most games ask for an email or Facebook login stateside, here in Japan the smartphone based social networking app “Line” is where it’s at. You need a Line account to play. Teenagers all have Line accounts as if they didn’t it would be social suicide. The end. I’d been resisting Line for ages. The last thing I thought I needed was another social networking app that I wouldn’t use. But, the Tsum Tsum toys at the Disney store were too cute to pass up. I caved. Well played Disney.
There have been three waves of characters in the past six months or so, but there are still more characters in the game than on store shelves. Slowly but surely they’re taking over all the Disney stores in the Tokyo area. I can’t wait until Olaf gets added! My Pooh is the cutest cute that ever cuted. The small size toys are about $5 in yen and thy go up from there.
Watch out America. If this comes stateside, you will be lost to the cute.