I promised I'd talk about Primopuel, but, before I go on to that, I'll give a little background.
Ah, Bandai. The creators of Gundam, Digimon, my all-time favourite anime Keroro Gunsou and much more. This corperation has impacted the lives of many, Japanese and North American alike. For many people, this all started with a simple compound word...
Oh, hell yes! Tamagotchi! The name, derived from 'tamago' and 'tomodatchi' ('egg', 'friend'), left surprisingly unchanged the world over. Tamagotchi is even a recognized word in the Nintendo Wii internet's dictionary, despite the fact it has no direct relation to Nintendo.
I have loved Tamagotchi for as long as I can remember. Someday I'll discuss the finer points of Tama raising with you all, but today we're looking at the big picture.
Tamagotchi is a very Japanese concept. The idea of a virtual, portable pet is huge there. It combines technology with friendship in an effort to combat lonliness on-the-go. There are numerous products like this made in Japan (ironically, a lot of them are Bandai knocking off itself), but none have quite had the impact of our little "egg friends".
If you mention "Tamagotchi", everyone will know what you're talking about. They may not have ever owned one or even really know what it means, but everyone has at least heard the name.
"Primopuel", however? If you asked people in North America if they've heard of it, you'll get a room full of cartoon-stock cricket noises. In Japan, however, it's Bandai's biggest property alongside Tamagotchi! Everyone knows what a Primopuel is!
Assuming you don't know what a Primopuel is...
Primopuel (sometimes romanized as 'Purimopueru'; the kana writing is 'プリモプエル') is a series of interactive dolls that were first introduced in 1999. The dolls have the vocabulary and voice of a five-year-old boy and require constant care, much like a Tamagotchi. They react to being touched almost anywhere, and can even sense temperature (much like 'Forestgotchi', which was never released in English) and asked to be moved to a warmer or colder spot.
They were originally designed for lonely, single women: but it didn't take long for Bandai to realize that the people who really caught on to the concept were senior citizens whose children have all grown up and who wish to experience a child-like companionship.
For all ages, these things caught on like wildfire! Now there are several versions (including two spinoffs, Primochocol and Primopeace), a specifically female-looking model called Primopuera and tons and tons of clothes available for dressing them up.
The big question is thus: Why has Primopuel, a HUGE seller for Bandai, never been released anywhere remotely NEAR North America?
The classic answer would be "it's a cultural thing", but Tamagotchi was a very Japanese concept that caught on very well here.
It could also be because Bandai thinks that Americans wouldn't understand the concept, which is plausible (several of the more complex Tamas were not released here for this reason).
Of course, it could also be because people here live much shorter overall lives and the demographic of old people is much smaller. Also, more of our old folks are sick or unable to think for themselves due to mental disability.
Whatever the case, I have bought a Primopuel myself off of the wonderful Japanese shopping site known as Rinkya, and I will log its progress in a similar way to my Tamagotchi's. The difference is that I will post it publically so you can see what life with this distinctly Japanese phenominon is like.
Long live the virtual pet! Long live! :D
PS: For those of you who are Tamagotchi fans like me, check out the Bandai US Youtube channel for a big, wonderful surprise...I'll reveal it in my next post!