President and Representative Director
BANDAI SPIRITS CO., LTD.
In April 2023, Hiroshi Sakakibara, who had been responsible for the plastic model and collectible figures divisions at Bandai Spirits Co., Ltd., became president of the company. Bandai Spirits is the driving force for overseas initiatives in the Toys and Hobby business in accordance with the IP axis strategy. In this issue of the newsletter, Mr. Sakakibara discusses the current circumstances and future outlook at Bandai Spirits as well as this year’s focus products and services.
Sakakibara : The past six months have gone by quickly. I think that we have increased initiatives focused on growth over the medium to long term, and further stepped up our sense of urgency. I would like us to further increase our unity and leverage the Group’s strengths to deliver products around the world under the ALL BANDAI NAMCO concept. In October, we will relocate the head office and consolidate offices in the Mita area of Tokyo into one location. We think that the consolidation of dispersed offices into a single base will result in an enhanced sense of unity. Our business divisions will not all be on a single floor. However, we think that working in the same building will deepen mutual understanding and enable us to advance business operations smoothly.
Sakakibara: The company has grown, and our organization is becoming more vertically oriented. However, we are working to align the visions and directions of each division as much as possible. In accordance with Bandai Namco's Purpose — Fun for All into the Future — we are aiming to work together to create a future of connections with fans around the world through entertainment. Our Mid-term Vision is Connect with Fans. I have communicated to each division in the company that we will strive to give shape to these ideas. Fortunately, our employees are very serious about manufacturing. We are a group of professionals that does not compromise. That is the starting point of Bandai Spirits, and we are proud that it is one of our strengths. If we can ensure that all employees share that attitude and advance their work based on mutual understanding, then we should be able to generate positive results.
Mobile Suit Gundam THE WITCH FROM MERCURY HG 1/144 Gundam Calibar
Sakakibara: SNS and other touchpoints with anime and IP are advancing and spreading around the world. This includes online distribution and other elements of the viewing environment. It has become possible to commence online distribution simultaneously around the world, and over the past several years the circumstances involving content have undergone dramatic change. This change is one of the factors behind our favorable results with products for the mature fan base. Another effect of this change is that in order to deliver products worldwide without a major time lag versus online distribution, it has become extremely important to collaborate from the planning stage up to manufacturing and sales. The fact that we can now do that represents significant progress.
Sakakibara: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the amount of time people spent indoors expanded, and there was an increase in people experiencing content. Accordingly, despite differences in business categories, overall this supported the Toys and Hobby business. Currently, there has been an increase in real events and in feedback from customers saying that they want to see actual products. The number of customers attending real events has started to undergo a significant recovery. Going forward, we are anticipating promotions and events that fuse physical and digital elements, including overseas.
Sakakibara: It is the IP axis strategy, under which we work to implement global business initiatives, centered on IP. I think that a major advantage is the fact that partners around the world, such as sales companies within the Group and sales agents, can roll out products in collaboration with content initiatives. In addition, by combining the Toys and Hobby business and the Digital business into single Unit, the Group has facilitated collaboration with game IP. Gundam, DRAGON BALL, ONE PIECE, etc., which have been positioned as strategic IP, have started to show results from collaborative initiatives since last year. Going forward, we will strive to generate further momentum by adding NARUTO to these IP.
Sakakibara: We have many employees who are highly sensitive to new things, and accordingly people speak up within the company, without regard to position or age, when they think that something will sell, or something is interesting. When this happens, as much as possible, we emphasize taking on challenges, rather than saying no. This approach is linked to a sense of urgency in all settings, and makes it easier to leverage opportunities. In addition, our approach to delivering better products and services to fans, is an indication that we have earned the confidence of rights holders as a company that places importance on IP.
Sakakibara: Within the Toys and Hobby business, our products have been rolled out overseas at a comparatively early stage, and we have played a leading role in Asia and North America. In future global initiatives, we will strive to be the driving force in the Toys and Hobby business while collaborating with each base.
Sakakibara: In regard to product exhibitions, etc., we will move forward in collaboration with Bandai Co., Ltd., rather than taking the lead by ourselves. With the addition of games from Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. and visual works from the IP Production Unit, we will expand touchpoints with customers while leveraging collaboration within the Group. In addition, I think there might be an increase in opportunities for the Toys and Hobby business to participate in game-centered events. We are already jointly implementing promotions in such areas as related-product sales. Accordingly, we will work to move forward strategically while cooperating with Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
Sakakibara: Naturally, Japan is included in global initiatives, and we will strive to record expansion overseas while simultaneously generating growth in Japan. We will collaborate with companies overseas while continuing to focus on Japan as well, leading to overall business expansion. This direction is not limited to Bandai Spirits. It is shared across the entire Group. Moreover, plans call for the new plant at the Bandai Hobby Center, a manufacturing base for plastic models in Japan, to go into operation by the end of FY2025.3. In addition to increasing production capacity, we plan to introduce new technologies and systems, such as automation through AI, and to make this facility into a plant that reflects an awareness of harmonious coexistence with the local community. Going forward, we will continue working to advance initiatives related to production system reinforcement and to facilitate the delivery of products to customers.
Sakakibara: First, in regard to Gundam, in October we will implement a test opening of the Gunpla Colony in the IP Metaverse. In January 2024, the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED theatrical film will be released, and we will continue to implement multi-faceted initiatives. In addition, in the collectors toy business, the TAMASHII NATIONS brand marks its 15th anniversary this year, and currently we are holding the TAMASHII NATIONS WORLD TOUR. The tour will visit five cities around the world by September, starting with New York in April and including Tokyo, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Paris. Then, in September we will open TAMASHII NATIONS STORE NEW YORK in New York’s Times Square. Going forward, we will work to increase recognition of the TAMASHII NATIONS brand worldwide.
Mexico venue for TAMASHII NATIONS WORLD TOUR — TAMASHII NATIONS 15th ANNIVERSARY
Furthermore, looking at SAND LAND, for which a film was released in August, we are launching products from all business department, such as CHOGOKIN and character lottery products. This is an IP that people should keep their eyes on going forward.
Left: SAND LAND – Chogokin – Royal Army Tank Corps No. 104 SAND LAND
Right: Character Lottery —Category “A” prize: MASTERLISE Beelzebub
Sakakibara: Our goal is to deliver products that customers enjoy. As a major precondition for that goal, I think that it is important for employees themselves to enjoy their work. No matter what type of work you are doing, what is important is how much you enjoy doing it. In the end, I think that this will be linked to better manufacturing and services. My dream is to provide Bandai Spirits products and services to markets around the world. Going forward, we will aim for further growth so that we deliver products and services to fans around the world, including areas in which we do not yet have a presence.
This article is an extract from the Newsletter, Bandai Namco News, which was published in September 2023 and partially re-edited.