Max Factory’s 30th-anniversary event, Omedeto MAX Exhibition (Congratulations MAX Exhibition) was held 10-19 November 2017 at Akiba CO Gallery in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Max Factory is a figure-manufacturing company established by Max Watanabe, one of the most famous and respected modelers in Japan. The company plans and produces figures of beautiful girls, alloy toys, and many others. Good Smile Company (well-known for ‘Nendoroid’ figures) handles most of their merchandise sales.
Max Watanabe made his debut in 1981 as a modeler and writer for Hobby Japan, a magazine about models and figures. He started Max Factory in 1987 as a garage kit maker and developed various new products to establish himself as a model manufacturer. As a modeler, he is especially known for his special painting technique called ‘MAX Painting’, and once joined the TV show Professional Modeling Championship as a supervisor. He also introduced ‘Copic painting’ which is easy for beginners, and works enthusiastically to broaden the fan base for models. He leads the industry while being admired by a wide range of fans, from beginners to pros.
The entrance of the 30th anniversary exhibition event had a lot of figures displayed which had been re-modeled by Max Watanabe’s friends, telling a lot about his character. The main hall presented their new merchandise, including some still under development. At the center, ‘Bio Booster Armor Guyver’ and ‘Hades Project Zeorymer’ were displayed as their proudest work. The wall was covered with the chronological records of the company and congratulatory messages by those involved, with some panels on which visitors could freely write/draw on. There was also a huge screen to show videos of their production and interviews. The exhibition room in the back showed past products in a row on steel shelves like in a stockroom. The perfection level of their products hasn’t changed since the very beginning. They were selling exclusive products there too, but all of them were sold out by the end of the event.
We interviewed Mr. Max Watanabe.
Those displayed in the exhibition room in the back are the start-up products, right?
Our first product, Mazinger Z (released in 1987) was produced before we incorporated the business, I think. We found polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to produce something big enough at a reasonable cost. At the time, we weren’t up to developing plastic models that we wanted to do, so we used resin kits and PVC and focused on producing robot figures and toys. I liked Bio Booster Armor Guyver a lot and asked the original artist, Yoshiki Takaya, to allow us to produce the kits. We still keep in touch with him.
The production of beautiful girl figures isn’t just a recent thing, right?.
I liked cute girl characters too, so I worked on ‘Madoka Ayukawa’ (released in 1990, from Kimagure Orange Road). And then soon there was the Neon Genesis Evangelion fever. I wanted to start manufacturing in China, so I planned and produced new projects for snacks and toys with confectionary manufacturers such as Mikakutou and Morinaga & Company. They sold well, but it got too costly and we don’t do it now. On the other hand, once manufacturing in China started, we were capable of making joint movements for model figures. The early Guyver series made of PVC were restricted in motion, but we finally came to produce fully poseable models.