Satte Takahashi / profile

the forthcoming interview

The next enthusiast who is going to talk is

Satte Takahashi

 

Satte Takahashi was born in Saitama prefecture on July 17,1966. It’s just the day to start the broadcasting of “Ultraman”. A dealer in secondhand store and a writer.

He has been a close acquaintance with Manga, Anime, and Tokusatsu since childhood.When he was in university, he started working part-time in asecondhand bookstore, and he became deeply involved in the field.
Following this, he became one of the leading members of the Hirayama team by Toru Hirayama( a famous producer with Toei company).he was entrusted with the management of the warehouse.
He then became acquainted with Mr. Tetsuya Tsutsumi at an event and hit it off with him instantly. Placing Mr. Tsutsumi in a representative position, he started   < The fantastic & scientific secondhandstore Empy-ya >, and ran the business.
Using encyclopedic knowledge, he is excellent at understanding the positioning of each article at a glance.When he participated in a project to give commentaries, he successfully took charge of every remaining part that other people were unwilling to handle.With a great insight into the value of articles and his activity, he has an outstanding ability to deal with every obstacle, which has made it possible for him to sometimes work behind the scene as key person.
After Empy-ya was forced closed due to urban development, he has been active mainly as a writer. Besides, He became involved in a manga production, a toy maker and so on, he works underground deeply and quietly.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (1)

 

“Saint Seiya”      Masami Kurumada

 

The model figure toy-line < Saint Cloth Series>was released in 1986 by Bandai and became the toy series for boys that was the biggest hit of 1987.(Wikipedia)

This year,2016,marks the 30th anniversary of the start of comics”Saint Seiya”(in the double issue for Jan./Feb. of”Weekly Shonen Jump”in 1986;released in Dec.of the previous year.)

The exhibition in commemoration of the “Saint Seiya 30th anniversary”was held in Akihabara this June.The life-sized statues of the <Golden Saints>were displayed.In addition,the original color editions of <Pisces Aphrodite>and<Sagittarius Aeolus>of the succeeding series< Saint Cloth Myth EX>were released in a limited number.Some peaple I know lined up for long time to buy them.

On December 31,2016, I would like to start this Monogatari of <Saint Cloth Series >  with Satte Takahashi.

 

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (2)

 

( “Saint Cloth Mythology”   Hobby Japan 2012 )

 

Previously, EMPY-YA (It sounds like “empire”) used to be in Higashi Ikebukuro,Tokyo. While it has since vanished without a trace due to re-development of the area, it was once a store on the 6th floor of one of the numerous multi-tenant buildings over shadowed by the gigantic Sunshine 60 building. Crammed with boxes of toys, figures, soft-vinyl dolls, card-files and more,EMPY-YA was like a gloomy jungle even in daylight.

“Many French people thronged EMPY-YA one after another to buy < Saint cloth > figures, didn’t they?
I asked Mr. Satte, from what limited knowledge I had then.
“A lot of visitors came from Hong-Kong too.They felt < Saint cloth > was auspicious somehow, for being glittering, I guess.” Mr.Satte said.
“Oh, indeed, a Pegasus may resemble a KIRIN (a spiritual animal in Chinese legends).”
“A Phoenix resembles HO-OH (a Chinese phoenix), doesn’t it?” he added.
I imagined an auspicious scene of a glittering metallic Saint Cloth figure in line along with glittering gold tortoise or crane model figures.

But, Mr.Satte’s opinion of the metallic glitter was different.
Sometime after, while rummaging through piles of toys in the garage,Mr.Satte said to me:
“The metallic plating is indispensable for children’s toys,isn’t it?”
“Indispensable?”
I repeated, thinking it a slightly odd opinion.
“Yes, yes, indispensable.”
His tone sounded very conclusive, which stayed with me in some strange way.

 

Though it is already well-known, I would like to explain <The Saint Cloth series > a little.In the comics “Saint Seiya” by Masami Kurumada, armors put on by Saints (sanctified warriors), including the main character Seiya, are usually just objects shaped like the constellation symbols. But once they are disassembled, they change into a < Cloth > (an armor for a Saint ) and arouses the < cosmo >(a microcosm) in the person wearing it, giving him great fighting power.
<The Saint cloth series > is so-called a < dress-up doll for boys >  as it is a character figure doll with assembly-parts both to take the form of an object and an armor.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (3)

In those days, many visitors wanting to buy the < Saint Cloth Series> figures successively crowded into EMPY-YA. It was about 20 years ago.

“But why did visitors for <Saint Cloth> come to EMPY-YA? ” I asked.

That was something of a mystery to me.

I heard that in France, there was even a guidebook recommending EMPY-YA for buying <SaintCloth> figures. When speaking of France, the Versailles Palace comes to mind.When speaking of France, the Louvre also comes to mind.Those French people, rushing into the “jungle” of Higashi Ikebukuro…just imagining this scene made me a bit dizzy.  Why was this shop standing out so much for this toy?

Mr.Satte answered my question with ease.”That was because EMPY-YA was the only one that had decent <SaintCloth> figures.”

“What?”

”You see, this toy has many small parts, so figures bought in other stores were often lacking some. It was basically only our shop that sold them without any missing parts.”

I felt thoroughly let down.With the popularity of < Saint Cloth Series>, I expected that many secondhand stores surely had competed among themselves, but reality was different from how I expected it to be. What were other stores doing in the face of such abundant demands!

”You sold them at a premium, I heard. How much did you sell them for?” ”About 10,000 yen for a brand-new < Libra >.” < Saint Cloth Series > were originally sold for 2,400 yen.To charge a little over four times the original price is usual on the secondhand market, so I thought that the articles would have been steadily bought up by the wave of visitors.

”They went completely unsold in the early days.”  Mr.Satte said.

”Unsold?”

”Yes. It was at least five years before they began to sell well.I was trashed by everyone to set such a high price for such valueless articles.”

I didn’t know at all.From the beginning of the 1990s, the secondhand <Saint Cloth Series> was not yet considered valuable. They were too recent of an article to be sold at a premium.Their parts were very small and complicated, and it was too troublesome to collect a full, complete set of them.

In the brand-new toy market, the turn-over period for goods is rapid.When some collectors intended to go back and collect them, there was only Mr. Satte who had dealt with <Saint Cloth > thoroughly from early on.He had been serious in assembling complete sets from the messy mixes of the sold ones, and had been setting a high price for them. Everyone thought he was a fool.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (4)

That day, Mr.Satte and I were rummaging through the garage.This is one of the crazy paradises that remains on the earth’s surface,which reminds me of EMPY-YA of past days.

 

“Now, let’s take some shots of these cool figures.”Mr.Satte said.

For sure, they have awfully tiny parts for a children’s toy.There must have been many children who lost one or two parts, I think.

 

This “Saint-Cloth Series” is said to be epoch-making from the point that they brought “plamodel” aspects into the figure genre.I remember that “The King of Plamodel” Chimatsuri Daimajin once said, “I love building plamodels. And I love taking them apart to pieces, so that I can build it again.”

 

In The Saint Cloth series, we can put it together in both the form of an armor and a constellation object.  Mr. Satte said, too.”After all, it is a super-alloy, and it’s a character figure, and it’s even a Gattai (a “combined” robot)! As soon as I saw it, I felt that it was marvelous.”

 

I understand. It can be assembled, and it is also glittering.

 

I understand, Mr. Satte.

 

May I put in a small word here?

 

・・・Gosh, guys!”

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (5)

On that day, Mr.Satte brought me a book.
It’s an absolutely trashy mook with respect to both the loud color painting on the cover and the large gaudy title.

“Figure Teikoku 2″(literly meaning: The Empire of the Figure 2 )( the publisher; Byakuya-Shobou  1998)

 

”I suppose your husband must have this book.”Mr.Satte said.

”No, I have not seen this.”

(Later, I found out that there was indeed a copy of the book in my house. Moreover, quite a few copies!)

On the cover, there was a hero that looks like a fake Mazinger-Z in an odd red color, slashing a monster with a sword in his raised hand. The monster was bending over backwards.
On the right, it said “VINTAGE TOY focusing power Absolutely flawless Completion” (Saint Cloth, Cybercop, Machine Robo, Arashi the Transforming Ninja cards and others).
On the left, in jumbo sized font, it said “Saint Cloth & Cloth figures”(Complete collection, ultra-super-big feature!).
At that time, I noticed. I see, the main point of this book is ”complete”!

 

A lot of people will know this book.  Although I was too ignorant to know this, it is said that most secondhand stores had this book on hand, of course, as the best material to examine the worth of articles.For your information, let me show you the table of contents:

< Figure Teikoku 2 contents   You will be moved by 100 pages filled with toys!>

・<The Saint-Cloth Series >complete collection・< Cloth Toy >masterpieces selection・Deluxe Toei Sentai Toys grand assembly !・Hero series toy ・Metal heros’ toy world ・Cyber Cop completion ・Takatoku,Augus,others collection ・Henshin Ninja Arashi ( Arashi  the Transforming Ninja) cards complete 84 peaces ・Complete 54 Machine Robots ・Robot&Hero toys・The flavorful low-grade toys ・Special feature  for only mini&middle soft vinyl dolls over 12 pages ・Featuring soft-vinyl figures & cards

In the last feature article ”Let’s ask the two big producers of Peepro and To-ei about some nostalgic episodes”,  a dialogue between Tohru Hirayama and Tomio Sagisu (=Sohji Ushio: the comic artist of <Kaiketsu Lion-maru>) was shown. ( Intervewer: Mr. Tetsuya Tsutsumi).  How gorgeous this line-up is !

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (6)

In those days, EMPY-YA participated in the project of editing books ”Figure Teikoku”, ”Figure Teikoku 2”, ”Manga Teikoku” and ”Vintage Japan”, one after another, under a distinguished chief-editor Mr.Tamura of Byakuya-Shobou.
”Figure Teikoku” was said to have adopted a retrospective line because other magazines ”Figure Ou” and “Hyper-Hobby” mainly featured brand-new articles in them.

I was encapsulated in a mysterious, deep emotion while turning the pages of the book, which was full of photographs of toys .Here, persistence to cover everything can be seen.

It seems that EMPY-YA provided most of these numerous toys and materials, as well as taking photos and giving commentaries.”That’s why this book is named “○○ Teikoku(= means “empire”)” Mr.Satte said.

“Whoa!? This title came from < EMPY-YA >?”

“Well, we participated from the middle of the creation of < Figure Teikoku 1>. As for the book, it seems that there was a different title thought about at first, but when I noticed, it had become this title. ”

“Oh, dear!”  I was at a loss for words.

“By the way, this is Mr. Tamura’s taste.”Mr. Satte pointed at the fake red Mazinger-Z  on the cover. With an eerie and primitive look somewhat folk customs-like, the Fake-Mazinger looks as if it would attack a person in a Shinto shrine at night. ” Mr. Tamura’s attempt to create an original character for the book was good, but the idea was slightly too early. In the < Manga Teikoku >, he also created an original character, < Mangaah-Mask >.”
“Mangaah-mask?”
“Yes,yes~. He overdid it, and it was a flop.“
“…Ohh!”

Anyway, this “Figure Teikoku 2” was the first to give an overall picture of the < Saint Cloth Series >. Including the influence on succeeding toys, the power and the position of < Cloth > was made visual.
It was 1998 then.  Though < Saint Seiya > was a long-standing popular work, it had already been more than 10 years from its release, and the boom itself had calmed down.
But this book set alight the secondhand market of <the Saint Cloth >.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series ( 9 )

Looking at the photos of < Saint Cloth > in “Figure Teikoku 2”, I asked Mr. Satte:

“Satte-san, if you were to choose the best one of these < Cloth >, which would it be?”

“Well, I would choose this one.”  What Mr. Satte indicated without any hesitation was < Kanon / the twin brother of Saga of the constellation Gemini > in <Sea-dragon scale>, one of the <Marine scale cloth> in the Sea-King Poseidon section.

“I see. But how come this one?”

“Firstly, this can be transformed into two types, either a vertical version or a horizontal one.”

I didn’t notice until he told me. Of course. The vertical version is the usual sea-dragon style, but the horizontal one looks like a dragon swimming with fearless leg-strokes. It’s extremely cool!

“Wow! Very enjoyable!” I was excited.

 

“Usually, everyone regard this <Kraken >as more interesting.”

Mr. Satte pointed at the < legendary brave man Isaac of the northern iceberg-dotted sea, Kraken scale> below it. Indeed, it was captioned < Kraken, famous as a highly rare article. >

Mr. Satte said, “This is because Kraken has the last serial number, but, if that is so, Kanon’s release was at the same time as Kraken’s. Because <Cloth> was always put on the market in twos, the lot of Kanon and Kraken is simultaneous.”

“Really !?  Then the last serial number is only just a number.”

“Yes, yes. As for Kanon, the object transforms this way, and it is an important character, for he was previously an enemy general, but  he survived to the end and became an ally…”

 

 

Kanon, the younger brother of Saga, the Gemini. In many stories,twins often have made dramas with mingled light and shadow. In addition, the bitter emotional turmoil to become an ally  though he was a godless enemy.

As Mr. Satte said, it seems that the leading role on the last lot was not Kraken. Kanon is the very article that the toy-maker favored and put their last passion in, I suppose.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (10)

< Saint Cloth Series > was released throughout the world. A lot of pirated edition were sold, too.

      ( Hong  Kong edition )

 


Whether it be mainstream-toy history or counterfeit-toy history behind the scenes, the success of < Saint-Cloth > exerted influence on future toys.I heard that one of them is the creation of a genre called the < Cloth-toy >.

In “Figure Teikoku 2”, Mr. Satte gathered these succeeding < Cloth  toys> together and comments on each. Here, let me show the page of < Yoroi-den Samurai Trooper>(Ronin Warriors) as an example.

 

Anime “The Samurai Trooper” began broadcasting in 1988. As for the toy, they are articles which toy-maker Takara made to enter the < Cloth > market following the popularity of <Saint Cloth> by Bandai, but their sales were disappointing.

“The animated cartoon in itself was reasonably popular, but the toy’s sales went clean broke.”  Even though he himself featured the toy on the magazine, Mr. Satte was merciless.

“・・Hmm, why did it go so unsold? ”

“It was just sorry-looking, because it’s not glittering.” He said dismissively.

As expected from Mr. Satte who said “plating is a must”.This is a remark that surely comes from someone suffering from plating-love down to the bone marrow, isn’t it?

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (11)

I wanted to ask Mr. Satte one question by all means.

“Why did you support < Saint-Cloth > from such an early stage?”

As a result of “Figure Teikoku 2 ” being accepted, it turned out all right, but Mr. Satte who sold < Saint Cloth > at a premium from early on was spoken ill of at first, and later, when the <Saint Cloth> actually did rise in price , he was criticized of having skimmed the cream off the milk.

“Hmm, I knew that they were fine articles, and I thought there was no way that they would not be appreciated.” he said.

” But if they went unsold?”

“There is no way that my favorite articles cannot be appreciated.  If they’re unsold, then I will die with them. that’s all. ” Mr.Satte, always gentle, used more violent words than I had expected.

In those days, < the Saint Cloth Series > didn’t attract the interest of the secondhand-toy market. If they were articles from far past, it would be all right,but because they were left stuck in mid-air, in an ambiguous state. The articles were sold for 1000 yen at most in other stores. With small parts missing, and the runner tying parts together breaking, < the Saint Cloth series > were sold carelessly and indifferently . Moreover, the attention towards a perfect condition had not yet been established.

Mr. Satte collected them one after another. He found and completed the missing parts and strictly examined the breaking of the runner. Then, he put a high price on the completed article. When it was a brand new article, he didn’t allow it to be sold under 10,000 yen.

” It’s not that I couldn’t sell them, it’s that I wouldn’t sell them .”

It was an attitude that said that he would not allow it to be at a low price.  Believing that such wonderful toys cannot be valueless, he did not accept the world where < Saint-Cloth > wasn’t appreciated. He continued this  for many years, and was said to be crazy.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (12 )

Mr.Satte said:

“I have the impression that the delight of possession is fading now. People easily check the price on the Internet and move based on information of whether the articles are cheap or not. Low-priced or high-priced, such information precedes.  People often say “this is rare”, “this is valuable”. But few say “this is good”. Do they love money, not the articles?  We used to be happy just to possess an article. But now, every time people have an article, they try to sell it. They seem to be uneasy possessing an article, don’t they ?”

Regarding my question of why he sided with < the Saint Cloth Series> in such an early stage, Mr.Satte never answered definitely.

In short, he probably had no precise reason to speak of, I guess.

He just found it great at first sight. He fell in love the moment he saw it. Even when no one paid the least amount of attention to it, he didn’t change his mind. He firmly believed in its value, and didn’t budge an inch.

“I said to any visitors, this is a good article, this is expensive, and I won’t sell this for a penny less. So I gave those articles high price, and holding my breath, I put up with being called foolish.”

If they were still unsold, he would probably be putting up with it forever.

Mr.Satte’s remark that “the plating was indispensable to a child’s toy” is probably the actual remark of the little child inside him. That little child was instinctively fascinated with the glittering toy called < Saint Cloth  >.The grown-up Mr. Satte on the outside, gathered them together with the utmost effort and priced them high. It was the price of his soul.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (13)

Here, let me show you this charming commentary for < Cloth > in “Figure Teikoku 2 ” This is written by Mr. Satte and his idiosyncrasy in writing reveals itself. Although it’s a little long, I want to introduce the whole passage.

Please read it.

 

<<< A  Figure and an armor as a single unit has been sold and come to be generically called < Cloth > since < Saint Cloth >. It was the < Saint Cloth series > that first used the name < CLOTH > for a toy. Afterwards, Bandai generically named any toy that puts an armor on an action-figure as a <Cloth>. This series of< Cloth Toy > (including toys other than Bandai’s as well) are distinctive in that they contain a troop of masterpieces to be valued in the future. Winspector( Special Rescue Police), Hypershow ( of Blue Swat series), Kamen-Rider series, the SD Gundum-Cloth are very well-made too.  Besides, above all, and I know I’ve told you already, I can affirm that the Spiral Zone series is the supreme of plastic article units. They are excellent both in material and design. If you find one and are satisfied with the price, you had better buy it immediately by all means. Be careful about missing parts though! >>>

 

I’m heartily fond of this writing.In this passage, pure and cute feeling, the essence of recommending and obtaining a toy, is jam-packed.The sentence “masterpieces to be valued in the future” is excellent.  It’s not recognized by the public yet, but it is certain that these articles are masterpieces. Such an affirmation like that is moving. The word “(If you) are satisfied with the price ” is also cute.The price is not just a number. It is about whether the  person is satisfied with it or not.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (14 )

Above the table of contents of ” Figure Teikoku 2 “, there is a declaration:

< To desire Tokusatsu and images of hyper-reality is to long for world peace!

A dream is something we see for love and peace!

 

Dreaming of toys, and through that dream, we think about love and peace! >

 

A similar expression is on the back cover :

< A dream is seen to establish peace ! We learn from the dream of good old days.>

Those are the words that Mr. Tamura, the superb chief editor of Byakuya-syobo, wrote down. On the back cover, a spaceship no less stranger than the said fake Mazinger Z is pictured going out into space. Colorful, small soft-vinyl-dolls are arranged behind it.The strange spaceship is seen off by them and moves forward into outer space, full of twinkling stars.

 

A toy’s essential power is one of relief.
We hold these small old articles in our heart dearly and move ahead, watched over by them.
The words of Mr. Tamura comes through time and shines light on us more brightly.

Satte Takahashi / Saint Cloth Series (15 )

In this age, when everything has a price, and when a thing is said to have lost it’s power, what is the actual and true price of a toy? What is, actually, the act of buying and selling a toy?

 

Nobody can escape from this situation by any means.
But, suddenly, I’m aware what Mr. Satte has done with < Saint Cloth >, that is, just buying and selling them with all of his soul, was an act of his to raise a banner to side completely with the articles in this world.

 

So far as that banner is flying, articles are still immortal, and we live in the world where something is victorious.

 

 

This Monogatari

Finis