BlogTV: Rikachan’s Makeover

BlogTV is back on the air, presenting the latest cultural trivialities from Japanese TV news. I apologize for the delay in presenting new videos, but I had some major wiring problems which is the subject of another story at some other time. I’ve improved the signal quality and the online video quality is better, so perhaps the delay was worthwhile.
Today’s subject is the cute little children’s doll Rikachan. This video from FujiTV News is 4 minutes and subtitled in Japanese.

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Rikachan was created in 1967, in reaction to American toys like Barbie. It was believed that the leggy, busty blonde teenage image of Barbie might not be suitable for young Japanese childrens’ self-image. A younger, shorter, darker-haired version of Barbie was created exclusively for the Japanese market, and it’s been widely analyzed as a cultural phenomenon, just as Barbie has. But that is not the subject of this video.

In a fashionable Shibuya art gallery, women and children are delighted with the new exhibition of photographs of Rika. We quickly get a review of the original Rika as she first appeared in 1967, then we see the new photographs. Rika has been given a makeover, dressed up and coiffed by fashion designers, and photographed by a fashion photographer in glamorous settings. This job must have been both a photographers’ dream and his worst nightmare. The model is completely pliable, you can cut her hair in radical designs and if you don’t like it, throw her away and get a new one. But sewing tiny high-fashion dresses and working with tiny polyester hair must have been extremely difficult for the stylists. The photographer obviously knows a few special effects tricks, he’s used “forced perspective” in some photos to make Rika look like a normal size human against a real background scene. We see the photographer shooting Rika against some bushes, he repositions the model and declares that balance is the most important aesthetic element of a picture. Next we see him shooting a row of 4 Rikas standing up on their own, a gust of wind comes along and they fall flat on their face. Yes, balance is definitely the most important element. You can see that working with inanimate models has its ups and downs.

But of course this activity all must have a commercial purpose. A new glamour edition of Rika-chan modeled after the fashion shoot is now on sale, only 7000 Yen ($60). Rika-chan also has released her own perfume, just like any idol that wants to cash in on her fame.

In closing, a newswoman compares two Rika-chan dolls, one is an original 1967 model, the other is the current model. She notes that the new model is blonder, taller, leggier, and with a smaller face. These are all the properties the original Rika-chan doll was designed to avoid, now Rika-chan has come full circle and become just like Barbie.

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