Continuing to work together with fans to invigorate IP and provide high-quality products and services

BANDAI SPIRITS CO., LTD. President and Representative Director Nao Udagawa

Nao Udagawa
President and Representative Director

In April 2021, Nao Udagawa, who up to that point had worked in the developmentof the Digital business, became the president of BANDAI SPIRITS CO., LTD., which conducts activities in the Toys and Hobby business. Based on the IP axis strategy, she is working to strengthen business for the mature fan base and to bolster collaboration within the Entertainment Unit. In this interview, she discusses the current circumstances for BANDAI SPIRITS around the world, the future outlook, and other matters.

It has been a year and a half since you became president.

Udagawa: At first, I was a little bit surprised at the difference in the business cycle between the Digital business and the Toys and Hobby business. However, the two businesses have the same approach of developing operations on an IP axis and providing high-quality products and services to customers, which is fundamental at Bandai Namco.

What results have been seen from initiatives fusing physical and digital elements?

Udagawa: One major point has been that, by combining these operations in the same Unit, it has become possible for executives to grasp more-detailed information about the other side’s businesses and numbers. Also, collaboration on an IP axis has further deepened. For example, it is now possible to foster a cycle in which people working in IP-related positions in the Digital business and the Toys and Hobby business meet together to hold discussions under the same strategy, and to implement measures. On the front lines, each company had been focusing on the point of product launch, but now the companies can take a medium to long term perspective in regard to IP trends and developments. Synergies arising from collaboration to maximize IP value are being generated in a variety of front-line settings.

The IP axis strategy seems to be working well.

Udagawa: At New York Comic Con in October, IP axis corners were installed within the Bandai Namco Group booth, such as for DRAGON BALL, ONE PIECE, etc. In one place, we exhibited the products and services for the brands developed by each business, arranged by IP. We took steps to make our booth fun for attendees, such as installing a photo spot and distributing samples. IP fans were able to directly experience products and services in a wide range of genres. I think that Bandai Namco has been able to accomplish what we set out to do.

New York Comic Con
New York Comic Con

What factors are responsible for the favorable results of BANDAI SPIRITS?

Udagawa: In particular, I think that one background factor is that there has been an increase in opportunities for overseas customers to directly experience Japanese anime. Over the past few years, it has become possible to implement online visual product distribution with no time lag between Japan and overseas. A variety of information is distributed through SNS, etc. Also, overseas fans are promoting the appeal of Japanese anime through word of mouth. With interest in Japanese anime increasing in these ways, we have been able to provide products in a timely manner, and this fact has led to the current favorable conditions in the market for products for the mature fan base.

As BANDAI SPIRITS targets the global market, what is the company focusing on?

Udagawa: In addition to rapidly taking action, I think that it is important to continue to provide fans with high-quality products. For example, with plastic models, in addition to the conventional sales route of specialty stores, we have now expanded to large-scale retailers, increasing the opportunities for customers to encounter our products. I think it is important that, as we continue to expand our sales routes, we simultaneously continue to make products that not only meet but exceed the expectations of customers who have purchase products through those routes.

What regions are a special focus?

Udagawa: Of course Japan is also included in our initiatives to strengthen global business development. In the short term, we will further strengthen our footing in the Japanese market. At the same time, overseas we will continue working to achieve expansion in the global market, centered on North America and inland China.

Would you discuss countermeasures to a shortage of Gundam plastic models?

Udagawa: All of our employees want to do a good job of delivering products to large numbers of customers. Currently, we are focusing on making progress with preparations for a new plant at the BANDAI HOBBY CENTER. In addition, in collaboration with related bases within the Group, we are implementing initiatives to increase production efficiency. Furthermore, with the cooperation of related parties in distribution, we are advancing the establishment of a system that facilitates appropriate sales. Going forward, we will continue to implement a variety of initiatives.

Please discuss the future product brand strategy.

Udagawa: There are points of focus for each brand, and common initiatives include enhancement of the originality and value of all brands. There are many issues, such as the rising prices of raw materials, but continuing to provide customers with things that have value is indispensable for the growth of individual brands.

We would like BANDAI SPIRITS to be a company in which the growth of individual employees is a source of strength and makes us indispensable around the world

What are special focus topics and products?

Udagawa: The first would be the new Gundam TV series, Mobile Suit Gundam THE WITCH FROM MERCURY. In preparation for the start of broadcasting, we held a variety of events throughout Japan, such as GUNDAM NEXT FUTURE, a large-scale event connecting fans with the Gundam series. I believe that we were able to enhance the enthusiasm and expectations of fans in advance.


In addition, in regard to sustainability, we are implementing the Gunpla Recycling Project, which recycles plastic runners (part of the plastic model framework) that have been collected through the cooperation of fans. Through this project, we are aiming to recycle 15 tons within this fiscal year. The collection of runners is being implemented on a Groupwide basis, and in these endeavors the Group is leveraging the facilities of Bandai Namco Amusement Inc. and the distribution resources of BANDAI LOGIPAL INC. As one part of these initiatives, we held Gundam R Strategy 2022, an event which included the distribution of Eco Plastic products. This year, the event was held in more than 45 locations around Japan, and many people participated. Sustainability activities implemented together with fans draw on the distinctive characteristics of Bandai Namco, and through these types of activities we will enhance our connections with fans going forward. We are very grateful to have this opportunity.

Are there other points of focus?

Udagawa: Tokyo, we held TAMASHII NATION 2022 for the public for the first time in 3 years. This large-scale event featured collectible items for the mature fan base. This was one of the largest ever real events for products in all categories, including first public exhibitions. In addition, we also collaborated with TAMASHII NATIONS STORE TOKYO, a directly-managed store, and implemented online distribution. In these ways, we were able to highlight our products to many fans. Also, in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the TAMASHII NATIONS brand in 2023, we decided to hold a worldwide tour visiting New York, Tokyo, Mexico, Shanghai, and Paris. TAMASHII NATIONS products have many fans not only in Japan but around the world. We have high expectations that this tour will be an excellent opportunity to highlight these products worldwide.


Connections with fans around the world are becoming stronger.

Udagawa: The Mid-term vision of the Bandai Namco Group is “Connect with Fans.” Personally, this is also my greatest motivation. For me, the greatest reward is the delight of customers, and I think that this also motivates employees.

In regard to connections with fans, are there any other specific initiatives?

Udagawa: Recently, in the communication of information about IP and products, there is a sense of being enthusiastic together with fans, and I think that the metaverse might be one platform that boosts that in the future. Through the Group’s IP Metaverse Concept, we will strive to facilitate the creation of broad, deep, and multifaceted connections with fans around the world. In addition to connections between Bandai Namco and fans, we will also strive to foster connections among fans themselves and to build metaverse initiatives.

What are your policies toward work?

Udagawa: I believe that the individual growth of all employees, including me, is linked to the growth of the company. Accordingly, my aim is to strengthen individuals and the company through collaboration. I would like to see everyone taking on challenges without fearing change, and people with diverse knowhow and backgrounds working hard together in a process of growth. I would like BANDAI SPIRITS to be a company that is indispensable to many people.

This article is an extract from the Newsletter, Bandai Namco News, which was published in December 2022 and partially re-edited.