Entering New York Comic Con yesterday, I found myself greeted by a large assortment of gashapon vending machines. Confirming that I was still in New York and not Akihabara, I marveled at the array of capsule toys on display—featuring figures from anime and video games to Disney and cryptids. Yes, you heard that right. You can get a small model of the Jersey Devil or Bigfoot. And mixed in with them is a, uh, cat, for some reason.
As someone who remembers getting capsule toys at arcades growing up, I figured this marked the perfect chance to relive some of that nostalgia. I also had never gotten an official gashapon before. Bandai has made the capsule toys in Japan since the 1970s. Still, they’re a relatively recent US import.
With the variety of toys on display, a Bandai Namco representative explained that the company goes through a lot of licenses in a short amount of time to keep things fresh. In Japan, gashapon machines themselves get switched up about month to month. In the US, they switch slightly less frequently, since not every brand makes it stateside.
Many of the brands on display at New York Comic Con have proven popular in the US. But surprisingly, the most popular gashapon tend to be the non-licensed ones, especially those featuring animals. This may explain the inclusion of “cats” in the cryptid one. I do like cats. And spending time with two regularly, I suppose they might well be cryptids.
For folks attending New York Comic Con, those who spend $20 or more on tokens (one token costs $2) get a free clear tote bag while supplies last. This both allows you to show off all your gashapon in a rainbow of colorful capsules, and prevents said capsules from falling out of your hands and rolling out into the void. A whimsical video playing overhead, evoking an in-flight instructional guide, stresses this last point.
For the gashapon on offer, check how many tokens each one costs. Premium figures tend to cost four or five tokens, but most cost just two or three. As for myself, I had to go with two different types from Spy x Family. That anime, in particular, has a few different kinds on offer. I opted for the water dome (three tokens) and the acrylic keychain (two tokens).
Each machine lists the capsule figures offered—no secret ones here. This made it easy to choose, seeing that neither of the Spy x Family machines I picked had a bad choice on display. I’m pleased with my water dome of the entire Forger family and my keychain of an excited Anya.
And aside from the animals, I was told the anime ones prove popular. One Piece has proven particularly popular with the recent released of the live-action Netflix show. New gashapon include the 2nd set of Dragon Ball Super and the 9th version of “animal sauna.” The latter is exactly what you would think—various animals enjoying a refreshing steam bath.
In Japan, people from all walks of life and demographics collect gashapon. However, Bandai Namco has found that in the US, they prove surprisingly popular with couples. As I learned this, I watched a couple pose their newly acquired figurines in one of several cubby-style boxes featuring a backdrop.
Still, I saw all kinds of people collecting their gashapon, whether or not they decided to have a mini-photo shoot with them. And for those in the metropolitan area experiencing gashapon FOMO, have no fear. Hop across the Hudson into New Jersey and find around 100 gashapon at the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater. Go a little further into Jersey and find 200 gashapon at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford. Just beware of the Jersey Devil. And cats.
And if you attend New York Comic Con, you don’t have to go to New Jersey or Japan. You can check out the gashapon right by the entrance until the last day of the convention on October 15th.