Yo-kai Watch

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International logo of the Yo-kai Watch franchise.

Yo-kai Watch ( Japanese : 妖怪ウォッチ Yōkai Wotchi, literally meaning; "Spirit Watch"), sometimes misspelled as Yo-Kai Watch or Youkai Watch, is a cross-media franchise created and developed by the Japanese company Level-5. The series focuses on Yo-kai that are causing mischief in the realm of living, where Level-5 called their project "daily life with ghosts". Ones who have the Yo-kai Watch are able to see Yo-kai.

First to be released in the Yo-kai Watch franchise was the manga series which started since December 15, 2012 in the montly magazine CoroCoro Comic. Ever since then, the franchise released its planned and long-awaited first titled game for the Nintendo 3DS and has since inspired an array of media which includes an anime, merchandise, a card game, movies, collaborations, own store, numerous manga, and various spin-off games.

History[edit]

Yo-kai Watch was first officially announced during the Level-5 World 2011, Level-5 Vision 2011, in Tokyo. During the footage, it was strongly revealed that the game was meant to be for the Playstation 3 before their shift on the Nintendo 3DS. Level-5 wanted to create an IP that is universal and long-lasting, while something new and highly relatable to children today. They explained further that Yo-kai are spooky beings which often appear in Japanese folklore, mostly related to either humans or objects were once attached to. Akihiro Hino revealed in an interview that he realized that Yo-kai never had been featured in video games and from there he started to think about some of the main characters. He came up with the concept of the Yo-kai Jibanyan and in order to write a story they conducted robust children research to understand them. He further explained that they tried hard to capture what they are most concerned about and about the settings he told that it was natural to have it take place in the real world and explained what function Springdale has in the games. Level-5 also took influences from the popular anime and manga series Doraemon which was started as a manga by Fujiko F. Fujio, a nom de plume of the duo Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko.

After the release of the first game, the sales were moderate in Japan with only 53,654 copies that has been sold and a second spot in their release week. It started to boom in 2014 after the release of the animation which have the game sold a total of 1.29 million copies and became one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo 3DS. The sequels of the game became extremely popular and the demands in other countries other than Japan were extremely high. The animation series that is based on the game, became one of the most watched animated series in Japan, which mostly ending in the top ten of ratings alongside with other popular animations such as: Sazae-san, Crayon Shin-chan, Detective Conan, One Piece, and Pokémon. The franchise gained as well numerous of cross-overs in Japan with popular characters from popular series or franchises. The popularity in Japan lead Yo-kai Watch to become a phenomenal creation, as it quickly became a multi-billion franchise. In overall sales, Yo-kai Watch sold 10,438,903 copies in Japan alone, which excludes digital sales.[1]

The western audience were interested in the game and plannings were revealed to release the game worldwide. However, due to the animation casting as well broadcasting it in different regions globally, the release of the first game was released seperately. In 2015, the first game was released in North America, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. In 2016, Europe received the first game during the spring, being the last continent to receive the game. The animation of the series aired as well in the west, with only one season and as well a second season with an upcoming third season. The animation was revealed to be very popular in the west. The games were not popular in North America, but beloved in Europe mostly in Spain and France were the merchandise were purchased a lot of time. The first Yo-kai Watch game sold very low in North America with only 360,000 copies since 2017. This led Level-5 to change their plans for North America to make the franchise popular, brining events in North America ahead of Japan. The first Yo-kai Watch game sold much better in Europe than North America, and even Japan with 650,000 copies. The game are very popular in France and Spain, which the game even received high demands from the customers. The situation in Europe has led that Yo-kai Watch 2, will be debuting in Russia, which also the European marketing of the franchise has different plans than the North American markets and promoting the franchise in different countries.

Concept[edit]

The theme of the game is known as a "everyday life with Youkai". In the main game series, the player can choose between a male or a female player and encounters a Yo-kai named Whisper that introduce them to the world of Yo-kai. There they will live their everyday normal live with the mischief of Yo-kai. The player goes through the main story of the game that is set in chapters where the main event happens. The player can also accept quests from non-playable characters. The player can ride on their bikes, catching bugs and fishing for fish. The player can open different boxes, which are the yellow and purple boxes to receive items, and find items from something glowing on the ground. Further, the player can see Yo-kai through the Yo-kai Watch. The mini-game of finding a Yo-kai occurs where the Yo-kai is trying to escape from the player, when the player fully see the Yo-kai through their Yo-kai Watch, the Yo-kai will attack them and starts to fight the player's Yo-kai friends.

During battles, the Yo-kai will fight automatically with the player helping them with various of options. The player can give their Yo-kai an item that can boost their strength, filling their soul meter or healing them when they are low of HP. When a Yo-kai is inspirited, the player can help them by purifying them through a series of mini game. This will give the Yo-kai extra experience when the player succeeds to purify them. The player can also give items to enemy Yo-kai in order to befriend them and adding them in their team. The player can use a max of three Yo-kai in battle and changing them at will by spinning the wheel to place a new Yo-kai in the field. Furthermore, through some quests, the Yo-kai befriends the player as thanks for their help and if the player is mischievous themselves they will trigger an event where an Oni Yo-kai tries to punish them from disobeying. In the third part of the main game, the player can choose between two characters, the main character Nathan Adams and Hailey Anne. The player will go through the story between both of them, and in an updated version of the third part of the main games, they can play as the female protagonist Katie Forester. Each game has their own main antagonist that triggers the events of the entire game.

Yo-kai Watch Boom[edit]

People waiting in Line for Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls in Japan.

"Yo-kai Watch Boom" is a term refert to the immense popuarity the franchise received in 2014 after the debut of the animation series of the franchise. In February 2014, the first fame was shipped over 500,000 copies and the animation was surpassing Pokémon in the TV ranking which as well led to its comparison. Yo-kai Watch was also dubbed the "Pokémon Killer" as its popularity overshadowing that of Pokémon. The second game sold 1,316,707 copies which surpassed the total sales of the first game that was at 1,195,287. The third version of the fame as well impressed with the sales of 1,244,171 units. The president of Level-5 Akihiro Hino was even surpised by the popularity of Yo-kai Watch and even tells "While I did believe that it would get its break, honestly, to have it come this far, where the children of Japan would get so hopped-up on youkai, to the point where all the goods would sell out, is something I didn’t expect.".

There were various of explanations of its popularity ranged from catchy songs and dances, to being something parents and children could enjoy together. Hino in fact believed that the reason for its popularity was the relatable characters and situations relatible to modern childrens. Toy sales of the franchise where racking in 55.2 billion yen for Namco Bandai and the toys where frequently out of stock. People had to wait in lotteries to receive a Yo-kai Watch and searched hard got medals. Other merchandise had to wait longer due to the long licensing wait times which this demand made it the second highest product in Nikkei Trendy the same year. The franchise was a top seller in many other areas, as the Yo-kai Watch Guide was the number one book in 2014, the first theme song Geragerapo no Uta was the number 50 song on the Oricon Singles Chart and the movie had the highest opening of any Japanese film since 2000. Yo-kai Watch even had a special segment on Kohaku Uta Gassen, which is Japan's most viewed music program.

However, by 2015, the sales of Yo-kai Watch started to fall to number ranging from around a quarter to 1/8 of what they where in 2014. Known was that the prices where cut and there was less visible excitement among children. By the time the third game were released in the summer of 2016, it did not compared to the second game and was launched about half of what the sales of the second game did. The third game sold 632,135 units in its first week and the updated version of the third game sold half what the first game sold with 337,979 units. The toy sales where 10.4 billion yen and estimated to be at 6.3 billion yen in 2017. There were few theories by analysts, such as Ken Hōri of The Business Journal and Ollie Barder of Forbres thought it was mainly distribution issues; products that were ordered from the summer vacation where over stocked, because of the six-month waiting period for copyright approvals. Another reason he had was that the toys had incompatible medals with later watches, leading to a loss of interest. Barder and Sato of Siliconera also mentioned oversaturation, with it being Sato's main focus. The sales of Yo-kai Watch declines even further with the second version of Yo-kai Watch Busters selling only 208,540 copies in its first week.

Media[edit]

Manga[edit]

There are six manga adaptions that are based on the series that has been published by the Japanese company Shogakukan. The first manga is a shōnen manga series by Noriyuki Konishi that began serialization in CoroCoro Comic from December 15, 2012 which then has been licensed by Viz Media under its Perfect Square imprint. Yo-kai Watch: Exciting Nyanderful Days is a shōjo manga series by Chikako Mori and began serialization in the Japanese magazine Ciao from December 27, 2013. 4-Panel Yo-kai Watch: Geragera Manga Theater is a 4-Panel manga yonkoma series by Coconas Rumba and began serialization in CoroCoro Comic SPECIAL from October 2014. Yo-kai Watch 4-Panel Pun Club is a second yonkoma series by Santa Harukaze and began serialization in CoroCoro Ichiban! from April 2015. A shōnen and seinen manga series by Shō Shibamoto, titled Komasan 〜A Time for Fireworks and Miracles〜 began serialization in HiBaNa on April 10, 2015 and ended on September 10 of that year. A manga series that is based on the Yo-kai Watch Busters series by Atsushi Ohba began serialization in CoroCoro Comic in June 2015, however, it ended in October of that year. A comic series was announced in January 2017 and was released in May 2017.

Video games[edit]

There are three main games that contains Yo-kai Watch, Yo-kai Watch 2, and Yo-kai Watch 3. There are four spin-offs and six smartphone apps of the franchise. Yo-kai Watch was released in Japan on July 11, 2013, in North America it was release on November 6, 2015, in Australia and New Zealand it was release on December 5, 2015, and in Europe it was release on April 29, 2016. Yo-kai Watch 2 was release in Japan on July 10, 2014, in North America on September 30, 2016, in Australia and New Zealand on October 15, 2016, and in Europe on April 7, 2017. The third version of Yo-kai Watch 2 named Psychic Specters was release in Japan on December 13, 2014, in North America and Europe on September 29, 2017 and in Australia and New Zealand on September 30, 2017. Yo-kai Watch 3 was release in Japan on July 2016 with a third version of Yo-kai Watch 3 named Sukiyaki that was released on December 16, 2016 in Japan.

The first spin-offs of the games where Yo-kai Watch Busters that was released in Japan on July 11, 2015 with a third version of Yo-kai Watch Busters named Moon Rabbit Team that was released in Japan on December 12, 2015. Yo-kai Watch Dance: Just Dance Special Version a collaboration between Level-5 and Ubisoft was released in Japan on December 5, 2015. Yo-kai Sangokushi a collaboration between Level-5 and Koei Tecmo was released in Japan on April 2, 2016. Yo-kai Watch Busters 2 the sequel of Yo-kai Watch Busters was released in Japan on December 16, 2017. Most of the games were released for the Nintendo 3DS, except for Yo-kai Watch Dance: Just Dance Special Version, which was released for the Nintendo WiiU.

Yo-kai Watch: Tomodachi UkiUkipedia is a Data Carddass game that was first tested in late December 2013, and debuted at the Next Generation World Hobby Fair Winter 2014 before being released in early 2014. The goes the same as other Bandai's Data Cardass games, in which the player uses an interface resembling a slot machine to determine the events of a battle between 3 of the player's Yo-kai against 3 enemy Yo-kai. After the player wins the game, the player will be rewarded with a card that can be used for future Tomodachi UkiUkipedia play.

Television animation[edit]

The animation series of the franchise is produced by OLM and began airing in Japan on TX Network on January 8, 2014. On April 7, 2015, Level-5 unveiled a promotional video for a second season of the animation series that aired in Japan on July 2015. The third season of the animation series aired in Japan on January 6, 2017 which enters the Busters Arc in July 2017. Planning for an overseas debut where officially announced by Level-5's president Akihiro Hino during the premiere of Yo-kai Watch the Movie in Japan. He said that the anime would begin broadcasting internationally in 2015 and jokingly requested Etsuko Kozakura and Tomokazu Seki to study English.

In April 2014, Dentsu Entertainment USA announced that they were seeking broadcast and merchandising partners in North America for the anime. The anime began its broadcast on Disney XD on October 5, 2015 as a 26-episode season in North America. The official Yo-kai Watch YouTube channel posted episodes a month later with the episodes performing well in that continent. A second season that is not on pair with the second season that aired in Japan was broadcasted on August 1, 2016 as a 50-episode season. The first two season of the animation series contained an American cast, but they were replaced in the third season due to budget cost. In Latin America, MarVista Entertainment has licensed the season in that region. Netflix is currently streaming the first season of the animation on their platform.

In Europe, Russia, and Africa, the animation series has licensed by Viz Media Europe. The animation was premiered in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Cartoon Network which was broadcasted on April 23, 2016. In France, the animation was shown on three different stations which was Boing which started broadcasting the animation series on April, 2016, Gulli in September 2016, and Cartoon Network France in March 2017. In Germany and Austria they were aired on Nickelodeon and in Spain and Africa on Boing. In the Netherlands and Belgium the animation series was broadcasted on Nickelodeon and in Isreal on Noga. In Portugal, Turkey, Poland and the Nordic, Central and Eastern Europe are aired on Cartoon Network which the broadcast started in Sprin 2016. Known is that Viz Media hired Bulldog licensing and German brand-management company m4e to represent the brand in the UK and German-speaking territories. The European broadcast were splitted with different broadcasting, which some episode first premiered in May 2016.

In other Asian countries, an alternative English dub began airing on Cartoon Network and Toonami Asia from June 27, 2015. The alternative dub uses original Japanese names instead of localized names. Shogakukan Asia also licensed the series in the Philippines. In Australia and New Zealand, the Fusion Agency acquired the licensing and merchandising rights for the series. It was aired in Australia on 9Go! on December 14, 2015.

The first season tells the stories of Nathan Adams that solves problems that are caused by Yo-kai. Although the animation series is based on the games, it has a higher focus on comedy. The second season of the animation series features a new protagonist named Hailey Anne Thomas and her Yo-kai companion Usapyon, which also features new models of the Yo-kai Watch named the Yo-kai Watch Model U and the Yo-kai Watch Dream Model.

The series is being released on DVD box sets alongside with rental DVDs in Japan by Kadokawa Media Factory. Every episode from the animation series is available for streaming on multiple video on deman services in Japan such as Hulu and Rakuten Video Showtime.

Movies[edit]

References[edit]