Care Bears Bearbrick figures at 2B Art Gallery

Bearbrick History: The Story Behind Iconic Collectibles

History lesson young folks. Let’s break down these (in)famous and beloved Bearbrick figures all the way to the core. Whether you own one, or you’re eyeing one to add to your collection, do you know much about the history of these collectibles?
Here, we will take a trip down memory lane and try to explain how these bad boys came to life.

Bearbrick figures at 2B Art Gallery

Perhaps the first ‘world-changing’ collectibles in terms of hype can be added to Bearbrick figures today. But it wasn’t always like this. Back in the day, the first Bearbrick figures had quite humble beginnings. Bearbrick figures saw the light of day in the “land of the rising sun” back on the 27th of May 2001.

Medicom Toy Founder Tatsuhiko Akashi

Bearbrick figures were born on May 27, 2001

The story goes like this

Even before Medicom Toy Company was founded, Tatsuhiko Akashi worked a simple desk job in computer manufacturing. Nothing exciting or special about it. While the job paid his bills, Tatsuhiko Akashi was getting bored of everyday tasks and wanted more. It was time to taste the fruits and let the juices drip down his chin. During one of his days off, while taking a stroll around Tokyo’s popular shopping and entertainment area Shibuya, Tatsuhiko stumbled upon ZAAP!, a shop that sold American toys. It’s safe to say he got immediately attracted by figures from blockbuster Hollywood movies such as Terminator and Batman. This resulted in his empty pockets and a couple of figures on his shelf. Can’t blame him, we’ve all been in those situations. As a matter of fact, Tatsuhiko was so “blown away” and motivated by the shop that he eventually hired ZAAP!’s founder as an executive at Medicom Toy Company. But let’s get back to the story.

Medicom Toy Bearbrick figures

From that moment on, Tatsuhiko Akashi was inspired, and he eventually ended up opening his own toy shop and settling on a location in Ebisu in 1996. It’s quite funny that the store he opened had to share with a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) spot. Tonkatsu may have an exotic name but it will be a familiar concept to most people, it is essentially a breaded pork schnitzel served with cabbage salad. Something like Austrian Wiener Schnitzel. But enough with schnitzels. Bottom line, who knew these adorable Bearbrick figures would start next to pork chops. And that is how Medicom Toy Corporation actually started. Dope, right?

Bearbrick figures at 2B Art & Toys gallery

Created by the Japanese company Medicom Toy, these little rascals were first offered as presents to participants of the 2001 World Character Convention in Tokyo. And the rest was history.

But back then, they looked quite odd (compared to today’s standards): It was just a plain white toy bear with the logo – a blue bear shape with a red “@” enclosed within. In fact, the whole idea behind this toy was widely inspired by Medicom Toy’s other line of production – The Kubrick figure, based on the famous American film director Stanley Kubrick and his legendary movie “A Clockwork Orange” (a bit weird when you look at it now 😂).

Kubrick figure basic

The Kubrick is a line of collectible block-style figures, designed in the style of the logo created for Stanley’s movie “A Clockwork Orange”. By linguistic coincidence, the name Kubrick may also be perceived as a hybrid word of the Japanese word “ku”, meaning the number nine, and the English word “brick”.

Kubrick figure 400% red

Although Kubrick figures have captured the interest of collectors all over the world, Medicom Toy’s main focus at the beginning was primarily on the Japanese market. Bearbrick figure got its name from a cartoon-style representation of a bear, and a modification of Medicom Toy’s Kubrick design.

XLarge Bearbrick figures at 2B Art Gallery

In spite of the fact that they are both assembled of nine parts (a head, torso, hips, arms, hands, and legs with moving joints), Bearbrick figures are human-like bears while Kubricks figures are human forms (my mom would say “I don’t see any difference”). Not to mention there is a line of B@wbricks, Kubrick-style dogs that stand on four legs.

B@wbrick figure by Medicom Toy

From the beginning, Medicom Toy set itself apart from other toy manufacturers, and corporations. Tatsuhiko Akashi is an unconventional leader who pushed for new initiatives and a focus on the essence of collectible items. Just a simple combination of a childhood obsession with toys and an adult fixation with collecting. And that is why we love the Bearbrick figures. Always evolving and pushing the boundaries, these figures are the holy grail for many collectors out there.

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Photo and source: Wikipedia, Grailed, Medicom Toy