Analyzing “Arpakasso”

Text version and youtube description:

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Digipaca pose set by Starry Dawn:
Opening Digipaca by Kalopsic:
Closing Digipaca by Psaga90:

Megurine Luka – ARPK:
Hatsune Miku – Leave In Summer, Yet You’re In My Fluffthoughts:

Cooking With Arpakasso:

Saber’s New Ride:

Fuck Yeah Arpakasso:

Arpakasso: Cute but Deadly:

Arpakasso FAQ:
Fakes note:
Buyer’s directory:

Digibrony After Dark:

My twitter:
My tumblr:

This, is an alpaca.

This, is an arpakasso.

And this, is a Digipaca. I hope you’re taking notes cause there’s gonna be a test.

About a month ago, Cookie Cutter asked me “what’s the deal with these alpacas?” and sent me a picture of an arpakasso. I quickly decided I wanted to know as well, because these things are crazy adorable. However, even as I kept finding fan sites and stores dedicated to the little fluffballs, it seemed that information about where the hell they come from was hard to come by in English.

I knew that I’d seen alpacas popping up in anime lately, so I thought maybe there was some kind of emerging craze for alpacas happening in Japan, but even fans of the alpacas seemed to have no idea where they were coming from. Limited by my extremely sparse comprehension of Japanese and the general lack of information, I dug up as much as I could to try and explain the phenomenon.

From what I can tell, the alpaca trend did indeed start with the Arpakasso plushies, which are produced by a Japanese enterainment company called Amuse. Near as I can tell, Amuse is mostly a talent acency that also dabbles in publication, music software, and patents. I haven’t been able to draw a direct link from this company to Arpakasso though, so it could be that there are more than one company called Amuse. If I’m wrong, hopefully someone that knows Japanese better can help look into this.

The arpakasso are plushies that can be obtained through UFO catchers, or “crane games” as they’re better known in the US. Near as I can tell, this is the only way that they are commercially sold in Japan, though it’s possible that some stores may have them as well. There are a lot of online stores and ebay listings for them so that Americans can ge their hands on them. From what I can tell, they used to be incredibly rare, but have increased in availability over the last year or so. For items this well-made and of this size, they tend to be well-priced, too.

As Arpakasso have grown in popularity, so to have there emerged many different kinds of them. Similar to the Hello Kitty brand, Arpacasso come with many different outfits and styles, as well as a number of specialty Arpakasso, like this regional set.

Near as I can tell, the emergence of arpakasso into a greater cultural force has largely occured within Japan’s otaku culture, centered around the Akihabara district in Tokyo. This is based entirely on speculation as a result of two characters: Alpacaman from Steins;Gate, and Tsukishimaalpaca from Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. These TV shows aired in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and while I haven’t been able to find out when the Arpakasso first started coming out, there’s evidence to suggest that they’ve been around since at least 2010, with their popularity emerging in 2011.

The noteworthy connection between Akibaranger and Steins;Gate is that both of these shows take place IN Akihabara, and mostly revolve around the otaku culture present in that city. The fact that both shows have alpaca references among all their other Akiba references suggests a connection between that culture and the alpaca craze. Though strangely enough, the two alpaca characters in Akibaranger are named Tsukishimaalpaca and Asakusaalpaca, after the cities of Tsukishima and Asakusa respectively. I have no idea what the relevence of these cities may be.

Besides those shows, there has also been an alpaca character in the show Polar Bear Cafe, which features a cast of talking animal characters, as well as a scene involving alpacas in the anime series Love Live. There’s also an alpaca in the series Jewelpet Happiness, which looks a lot like an Arpakasso, as well as a pair of alpaca characters in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Perhaps the most popular pieces of alpaca media however are a pair of Vocaloid songs revolving around Arpakasso. The first of these is ARPK, a Megurine Luka song from 2010 which, given the time that it came out, may have even been an instrumental part of kicking off the Arpakasso craze and introducing the plushies to otaku culture. This was followed up a year later by the even more popular Hatsune Miku song, Leave In Summer, Yet You’re My Fluffthoughts, which comes with a fantastic animated music video.

The Arpakasso fun isn’t limited to Japan, either. The Australian production group Deerstalker Pictures, mostly involved in lolita fashion and cosplay videos, also have a popular video series called Cooking With Arpakasso, which I demand that you watch right now because they are absolutely amazing.

Besides that, there are tons of random videos of people making their arpakasso do adorable stuff, as well as a bunch of tumblr blogs dedicated to pictures and news regarding arpakasso. The best and most active one I’ve sound is Fuck Yeah Arpakasso, which I totally didn’t follow based on the title alone.

Now I’m sure some of you are asking, if the alpacas really are just a ludicrously popular series of crane game plushies, then… what’s the big deal? Why do people care about these particular plushies so damn much? I have a couple of theories to try and help explain it.

When it comes to cute things, simplicity is always the way to go. Most iconic characters and designs tend to be identifiable with only a couple of simple lines. Hello Kitty is perhaps the most famous example of a design that was so simple, and yet so distinguishable, that it became a cultural phenomenon without any connection to an existing narrative. This little cat is now a five billion dollar enterprise with every form of connected media imaginable developed over the last nearly forty years. By the way pony fans, did you know she was voiced by Tara Strong in one of the animated series?

Arpakasso is, at its core, very similar to a teddy bear, with the simple black eyes and three-shaped mouth. It’s got the rounded limbs and fat, fluffy nature shared by most cute things, but what makes it stand out is simply its being an alpaca. The shape of an alpaca isn’t something which has been replicated in many plushies in the past, especially not with the big-headed Disney look that the Arpakasso has. It’s puffed-out chest and raised head give it a sense of regality and pride, which also sets it apart.

I’ve also wondered if part of the Arpakasso’s prominence in the otaku community could be tied to the massively popular 2011 anime series Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. In that series, the famously creepy evil mascot character Kyuubei has the same facial structure as the Arpakasso, which may have inspired some level of connection. It would certainly explain why I found two different videos about Arpakasso murdering their owners.

Anyways, hopefully this video has been helpful in explaining what the hell those fluffy things are that I keep posting on tumblr, which is only going to become more frequent now that I have an Arpakasso of my own. If the overwhelming cuteness of this video has inspired you to look into obtaining your own Arpakasso, I recommend heading to google, as there’s a ton of easily findable information on where to buy them, as well as guides to helping you avoid fakes. I’m gonna link some of those guides in the description.

That’s all for now! Keep me in your fluffthoughts!

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