Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Top Shelf

I was over at the local Japanese animé-themed novelty store the other day when I noticed something interesting on one of the shelves. Well... about three hundred or so interesting things, to be exact.

By now, it should be automatically assumed that children and Pokémon products go together like magnets and iron filings. This was, in a way, what I realized when confronted with an entire set of display shelves full of tiny Pokémon figurines, each about one inch high. There were enough figurines lined up across four shelves to make your average kid convulse with glee.

I mention four shelves, however, because that number happens to be relevant to my narrative. You see, these shelves weren't stacked in such a way as to display all the figurines at equal height -- instead, they were stacked in a straight vertical formation, one shelf on top of another shelf and so forth.

As you might expect, the top shelf contained what I assumed were the most popular Pokémon creatures, uncovered and shining directly into the eyes of prospective buyers. Pikachu was obviously there, for example, but I also noticed quite a few samples of the local fan-favorites: Squirtle the turtle, Bulbasaur the plant-thingy, and Jigglypuff the weird-looking-round- thing-with-the-incredibly-massive-eyes. A forlorn sign with "Charmander" on it stood beside an empty row, so I guess the fire-elemental dinosaur was a huge seller. I actually went as far as to pick up a few figurines and shake my head at the shoddy paint jobs -- one Pikachu was actually missing an eye, for instance.

In short, it seemed that only the best sellers could possibly make it to the top shelf. For that matter, you could probably put a half-finished, colorblindly-painted representation of Pikachu up there, and it would still get snatched up in less than a minute.

As expected, the second shelf held all the hopefuls -- the creatures that were most likely fringe favorites, or which were most likely awaiting their shot at the big time. I recognized Meowth there, for one -- he's a mainstay in the cartoon, but he's in cahoots with the villains, which probably hurts his street cred. I noticed such characters as Scyther and Abra as well -- both not so popular as to sell in significant numbers, but with enough of a fanbase to bring in the money.

I had to bend over in order to glance at the selection that lined the third shelf. This one was only about two feet off the floor, and it was difficult to see the whole selection. Koffing and Ekans were there -- they're a smog pokémon and a snake pokémon between them -- and I only imagined that they happened to sell only because they were also cartoon mainstays; there was nothing cute about them at all. Also on this shelf: Torchic (a cute bird pokémon that had the misfortune of appearing when the series was already on the decline), and Geodude (er... a floating rock.)

I had to crouch just to see what was on the last shelf. This one didn't even have the figurines lined up in neat rows, much less dusted and cleaned. Instead, it looked as though somebody had thrown all the unsaleable creatures together into a single pile in order to fend for themselves.

You could make a case for any of the creatures you found here: There was Unown, for example, whose figurine could barely stand up on its own. There was Muk, who looked like a living blob of something purple and unmentionable (although I'm sure it wasn't his fault). And there was Porygon, who will forever be tied to the cartoon's seizure episode. It was a little sad seeing all of them stacked up in a messy little pile, wondering if anyone was even going to bother picking them up and dragging them to the cashier. Somehow I doubted it.

I can't help but think that there was a lesson in all that, mind you.

After observing this arrangement for a few minutes, I then proceeded to look for Psyduck. I've always felt an affinity for Psyduck, especially since his special powers all seem to involve going around having headaches at the other pocket monsters. As you can probably expect, he's not universally loved.

I didn't find a Psyduck figurine anywhere, not even on the dirty bottom shelf after a bit of digging. This didn't surprise me at all -- somehow I expected that the psychic yellow duck was a free agent of some sort, running through the cartoon universe with a perpetually bewildered expression on its face. Either that, or he was having a headache somewhere in one of the back rooms, wondering if there were any other shelves that could possibly be lower than his...

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