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Keshi (Japanese: 消し or ケシ) aka keshigomu (消しゴム, for Keshi Gum) is the Japanese word for eraser. Modern reference to "keshi" is related to a collectible manga/anime character mini figure made of coloured hard gum. However, keshi is not restrictive to its etymology but a generic term as several gum types are used, from matte to transparent. Also, some lines, such as the "Cosmos Souls Keshi Gum" (コスモスザウルス消しゴム, kosumosu saurusu keshi gomu) uses plastic parts. Keshi figures are not necessarily based on Japanese comic book nor TV series franchises, since there are keshi dedicated to video games (Super Mario, Zelda, etc.) and some western lines are based on local mythologies and popular culture. A similar product is often mistaken with keshi, the pencil cap toy (ペンシル キャップ, penshiru kyappu) which appeared around the same period.
Keshi is a toy genre with Japanese roots but is not limited to Japanese manufacture nor Japanese culture as the keshi were sold and became popular all around the world in the last twenty years, and some keshi lines were made in Europe or in China and exported.
This toy genre appeared in Japan during the 1970s and became increasingly popular. Collectors would paint and expose Ultraman, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, High School! Kimengumi, Dai no Daibouken, Dr. Slump or even Kinnikuman keshis (known as Kinkeshi).
The first keshi exported outside Japan appeared in the late 1970s in Bonux packages, a Procter & Gamble washing powder released in France (and recently introduced in former USSR states such as Ukraine). The Bonux brand was launched with the "cadeau Bonux" (the Bonux present) concept, a small value mini toy hidden inside the powder. Some keshi were part of these packages, including a 10-figure series of the, then, famous Monchhichi (モンチッチ). A monkey character created in 1974 by Koichi Sekiguchi and part of the first large scale, successful, exported Japanese anime franchises. The Bonux Monchhichi figures were 4.4/4.8 cm tall, chibikeshi styled, and available in seven different gums.
However the keshi phenomenon sped-up worldwide in the late 1980s, early 1990s, with a wave of gum toy lines named M.U.S.C.L.E. (Kinkeshi americanized), Fistful Of Monsters or Monster In My Pocket in the United States.
The same lines were also exported in Europe, sometimes under different names, e.g. M.U.S.C.L.E. became Exogini in Italy and Cosmix in France. These franchises are actually composite bootleg lines including Kinkeshi/M.U.S.C.L.E., N.I.N.J.A.S. and Fistful Of Monsters, in the very same collection. Though, licensed lines appeared in Europe, including BeastFormer localized as "Les Dragonautes" in France and Monster In My Pocket.
In Japan, Keshi are still popular in the 2000s (decade), and "keshi days" are often organized in Mandarake stores where collectors can sell and buy used keshis.
Bandai America has launched the M.U.S.C.L.E.'s series' sequel in the United States market only in 2003 as a 20th anniversary celebration of the original Kinkeshi (M.U.S.C.L.E.'s original name) line. The new American keshi line is named Micro Muscle Wrestlers.
The popular Monster In My Pocket line was created in the United States in the early 1990s as an answer to the massive success of the Japan imported M.U.S.C.L.E. (Kinkeshi). This line was exported in Europe and in Japan, where it is known as 米のモンスター消しゴム (American Monster Keshi Gum).
As a 20th anniversary celebration of its 1983~87 Kinkeshi line, the American branch of Bandai has launched the Micro Muscle Wrestler line in the United States. Even though it is the sequel of the M.U.S.C.L.E. line (overseas version of the Kinkeshi Kinnikuman series), this Micro Muscle Wrestler are exclusively marketed in the USA.
The keshi are sold in transparent plastic capsules (1~5 figures), opaque bags (1/2), plastic pots (10-pack), partially transparent carton boxsets (28), or the regular transparent plastic pack (3~6). Some lines have special packages like the Exogini pyramid ships (20/1940) in Italy, or the 205-figure collector set released in Japan (Kinkeshi). Some keshi are offered in washing powder packages, crisps or cereals bags. Catalogue color leaflets are included in Japanese capsule keshi, showing the series figures. Such series are named "PART", or its Japanese equivalent "パート" (pāto) and "ぱと" (pato), by Bandai and other brands.
Although vending machines keshi are often considered as standard size, three different material are used, hard gum, plastic or gum w/plastic parts. Even though dark salmon matte color mini figures are the quickest types identified as keshi in western countries, due to the famous M.U.S.C.L.E. line, there are actually a wide variety of gum from matte to bright, from translucent to transparent, from white to black, including the deluxe painted types.
Dekakeshi (デカ消し) are big size keshi released by the Marukoshi company prior to Bandai's popular lines.
The standard keshi are 5/5.5 cm mini figures sold in transparent plastic capsules available in Bandai vending machines known as "gachagacha" (ガチャガチャ).
Chibikeshi (チビ消し) are mini size keshi released by Bandai.
SDkeshi (SD消し) are Super Deformed mini size keshi released by Bandai.
Full color keshi
Full color keshi are deluxe, hand painted, keshi. Originally made in Japan, these art keshi were later manufactured in China to reduce production cost.
Famous keshi lines
Keshi list sorted by line starting year. (a keshi line running from 1980 to 1995 would be in the "1980~1990" section)
- Kinkeshi (Bandai)
- BeastFormer/LaserBeast (Takara)
- Fistful Of Monsters (?)
- Exogini (GIG)
- Cosmix (Action GT)
- N.I.N.J.A.S. (Mattel?)