Visit any variety store or musical instrument shop in Japan, and it’s likely that you’ll find a rack devoted to a novelty toy synthesizer called the Otamatone, a strange device with a small but dedicated global fan base. Coming in a variety of sizes, the simple electronic musical instrument with the appearance of a cartoon eighth note, first issued in 2010, is the best known of the many creations of Maywa Denki. The Tokyo-based company reconciles high art and lowbrow commerce, democratizing creativity while legitimizing silly fun as a noble pursuit.
At the heart of Maywa Denki is its co-founder, inventor, musician, artist, and entrepreneur Novmichi Tosa. On the cultural map, he could be situated somewhere between Devo and Blue Man Group, Harry Partch and Alexander Calder, and Akihiro Yokoi and Aki Maita (inventors of the Tamagotchi). His latest project, with his Maywa Denki colleagues and anime development firm Slowcurve Co., is the OTAMATOONS series of short, wordless video vignettes, using MIDI and animatronics to bring the Otamatone and its assortment of associated kawaii noisemakers to life.
Not only is Fantasia proudly presenting the world premieres of the first five OTAMATOONS, which will pop up before various features films in our schedule, the festival is welcoming Tosa-san himself for DISCOVER MAYWA DENKI, a special, free artist talk/workshop event. It’s an introduction to Maywa Denki’s history, an encounter with its most popular products in action, an unveiling of the OTAMATOON series, and a chance to meet Tosa-san in person, as well as purchase Maywa Denki items rarely seen in North America! – Rupert Bottenberg