Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012 BBM 1st Version

BBM's 1st Version set came out in mid-April and I got mine about a month ago, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it.  At 442 total cards this year's set is a little larger than last year's, but I'm still pretty disappointed in it.

Like last year, there are 27 "regular" cards for the manager and players for each of the 12 teams.  This can lead to some people that you might expect to have cards not having them (like, say, Masahiro Yamamoto).  This year's card design is very similar to last year's - a white border on the bottom of an otherwise borderless photo.  While attractive enough on their own merits, after a couple of years of similar designs, I'm kind of getting a real "meh" feeling towards the designs.  Good thing BBM puts the year on the front of the card or it'd start getting hard to really figure out which set a particular card is from.  And while the photography remains outstanding, I'm surprised by the repetition in some of the photographs.  For example, Keiichi Hirano of the Tigers is depicted making a headfirst slide into a base, just like last year.  Last year, that was a really cool shot.  This year, my reaction is more of "Really?  You used that idea again?"  Here's some example cards:






The annual Leaders subset features 33 cards of 24 people (including Hawks manager Koji Akiyama, winner of the Shoriki award) and the Nippon Series Champion Hawks.  Obviously, several players have multiple cards in the subset - Masahiro Tanaka has the most at 4.  (Notably missing in the subset is a card for 2011 PL Strikeout leader Yu Darvish.) Here's a sample card showing one of the most unflattering pictures I've ever seen on a baseball card:

BBM again included subsets for last season's Best 9 and Golden Glove award winners - until last season, these traditionally insert sets.  The Best 9 cards feature two photos of the player on the front - the Golden Glove cards feature action shots of the player fielding.


For the first time in what seems like forever, the team checklist cards do not feature the team mascots.  Instead they feature candid shots involving the team (although several do show the mascot).  A couple are simple action shots.  I like this one for the Baystars - Alex Ramirez has been featured a number of times goofing around with his team's mascot.  I don't think the Baystars currently have a mascot, so he's goofing around with the next best thing - manager Kiyoshi Nakahata:

The final subset for the set is part of a cross-set subset called "Cross Blaze".  This is similar to what BBM did in 2010 where they had a 180 card set called "Cross Stream" that featured 15 cards per team - 3 cards for each team (36 total) in each of the 1st and 2nd Version and the Touch The Game sets and 6 cards in each team's team set.  What I think is happening this year is that the "Cross Blaze" set will be 108 cards in all - 9 cards per team - with again 3 cards for each team in each of the 1st and 2nd Version and the Touch The Game sets, but not have any cards in the team sets.  (Although I think there's some sort of "Cross Blaze" related memorabilia cards that are appearing in the team sets.)  The "Cross Blaze" cards are not numbered as part of the 1st Version set but as a separate set.

Like the "Cross Stream" cards in 2010, the "Cross Blaze" cards feature an image of the player superimposed on a background - for "Cross Stream" it was water; for "Cross Blaze" it's fire.  The back of the card shows the original picture that the image on the front was taken from.  Here's the front and back of Shinnoske Abe's card (#CB074):

You can see all the cards (including the "Cross Blaze" cards and some of the parallel and inserts) here.

The 1st Version set is not a bad set - it's just frustrating looking at it and knowing that it could have been better.  Like this year's Calbee 1st Series, there's an inconsistency in how the Dragons and Baystars (the two teams with new uniforms) are pictured - the Dragons are mostly shown in their 2011 uniforms while ALL the Baystars are in their 2012 uniforms.  So obviously, BBM could have had all the Dragons in their 2012 uniforms as well - they just decided not to.  They could have had a design that didn't look like the design for the last two years, but they decided not to.  They could have shown a little more imagination in picking photos, but they didn't.  BBM doesn't have to really make any effort in their sets since they are really the only manufacturer in Japan making a comprehensive set of baseball cards (Calbee, Konami and Owner's League don't feature as many players) - if you want a set of everyone who's playing in Japan, you'll either buy BBM or you'll go without.  It reminds me of how lazy Topps got in the late 1970's when they had virtually no competition at all.  It'd be interesting to see if someone else could step in (like Fleer and Donruss in 1981) and stir things up a little bit.

(I know it's probably unfair that I'm beating up BBM for unorginal card designs while NOT beating up Calbee for having pretty much the exact same card front for the last 12 years or so, but I expect more from BBM.)


Anonymous said...

Nice analysis ... go ahead beat up on them :D

Jason said...

I figured out what multi-set insert we were missing in 2011 from BBM. Cross Blast. I found a couple of images of them while searching for set listings. The Cross Blast cards featured an explosion of dirt in place of the water or fire. I guess next year should bring Cross Wind or something with a tornado as the graphical theme.

Jason said...

Internationally, I think Panini would probably be the logical competition for BBM, as they're really the only serious international card company around. Topps likes to pretend, but Panini has been in some 15 countries for decades. Surprisingly, they have little to no products being produced for the Japanese market. The Japanese market may just be oversaturated with all the other sports and non-sports offerings from Calbee, Konami, Bandai and other companies producing CCG sets for every imaginable anime/manga property.

NPB Card Guy said...

Wow - great catch on the "Cross Blast". At first I thought you were pulling my leg (because it was a lot funnier than what I did on April 1st). But then I found this and now I see what you're talking about.

Taking a closer look at BBM's team set listings from last year, it looks like they were a VERY limited insert set for each team set (only 50 made for each card). There were three cards per team (issued only with the team set) for a total of 36 cards. (While all the team sets had the cards, not all of BBM's web pages describing the team sets acknowledge the Cross Blast cards.)

So maybe the reason that this year's "Cross Blaze" cards are not in the team sets is because last year's "Cross Blast" cards were ONLY in the team sets.

And I agree - next year the theme should be wind to complete all the elements.