Back in November Topps Japan put a group of "Topps Now" cards up for sale for some members of the Samurai Japan team that played two friendly matches against Team Australia. There were 16 total cards for 15 players (Munetaka Murakami had two cards) and they were on sale in two batches of eight cards for a week each. I discovered that I could order these cards from the US and have them shipped to me (although the shipping was 3900 yen per order - and I screwed up and ordered the two batches of eight cards separately!) so I ordered them. It took a while for them to show up - I got half of the cards on Christmas Eve and the other half on Tuesday of this week so it was roughly a month since the cards stopped being for sale. To be fair, the shipping itself didn't take that long - it was just about a week from when Topps told me the cards were shipping until I had them in my hand - what seemed to take forever was the actual production of the cards.
The cards themselves are very nice. Samurai Japan played four games total in the first half of November - warm up games against the Fighters and Giants at the Tokyo Dome on the 5th and 6th and the games against Australia at Sapporo Dome on the 9th and 10th. Topps issued four cards from each of the games. Here's the first four cards for the game against the Fighters:
Here's the four from the game against the Giants:
The first game against the Australians:
And the second game against Team Australia:
There's really only one thing I'm unhappy about with these cards - the backs. Now if you've been paying attention to Topps' NPB offerings, you'll know that they've been putting a minimal effort into the backs of their cards. These are no different. The backs of each of the four cards for each game is basically identical - only the name at the top of the card changes. The back has no biographical information about the player - it just lists the time, day, location and opponent for each game. But even that's missing an important piece of information. Here's a sample back for each game - see if you can see what's missing:
You'd think maybe they could find room to put THE SCORE OF THE GAME on the card?
Despite the poor backs, I really do like these cards. I think these are the best cards Topps has done for NPB players so far although I am a sucker for National Team sets. I'll be picking up the 30 card Samurai Japan team set Topps is currently selling as well although I still have a few weeks left to order it.
I must say that I'm a bit concerned about the implications of this for cards for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. I'm expecting Topps to again mostly offer Topps Now cards for the tournament and I'm already gearing myself up for how expensive it'll be. It'll be even worse if I need to worry about Japanese cards as well.