Popular pirate manga-anime series "One Piece" was one of the main attractions at the Mega Hobby 2012 Spring figure exhibition that drew thousands of fans late last month to Akihabara.
The one-day event was held at the Akiba Square event hall on the second floor of the Akihabara UDX building in the Sotokanda area of Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.
More than 100 fans lined up in front of the venue before the doors opened and soon crowded around sales booths for rare items unobtainable at specialty shops.
There was no waiting line at the exhibition space, but fans were seen checking out figures based on anime, robots and "bishojo" (beautiful young girl) characters.
In one section of the venue, a photo session with female cosplayers was held. Card games and new toys were also on display in other sections so visitors could get a hands-on experience.
Huge crowds formed around the display cases with "One Piece" figures. Among the colorfully painted figures, the gray-colored prototypes made from clay and wax attracted extra attention.
Posted near the display cases was a note asking visitors not to distribute images of the figures on blogs or Twitter because the versions that will later be marketed could be different from the prototypes. Regardless, a lot of fans had their cellphones out anyway and were taking photos.
"We are asking them not to post (the images) over the Internet," said Hiroki Kaneko, who leads the planning and development team responsible for figurines at MegaHouse Corp. "But I hope they exchange information with those who couldn't visit the venue."
The Mega Hobby Expo dates back to July 2008, when MegaHouse hosted a business meeting in Taito Ward for retailers and wholesalers. To get feedback from fans in the development process, the company hosted the first session for general public in Akihabara in February 2009 in collaboration with peers and other entities. Since then, the event has been held every six months.
"The market for figures is not broad," said MegaHouse representative Riichiro Kobayashi. "The best way to collect information is to see our customers face to face at the venue to get their opinions."
The one-day spring session was so popular that more than 7,000 people visited the venue. The event will next take place this summer at the Japan Expo, the largest convention dedicated to Japanese culture held in Europe.
"Japanese 'otaku' culture is widely known in Europe," Kobayashi added. "Japanese products are growing in demand, with (European customers) appreciating them as something 'cool.' "
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