Nick’s Nippon Notebook: Limited Initial YMCK

Posted by Guest Author on Dec 20, 2007 in Hobbies and Collections |


Many bands and their graphic designer friends dream of doing something special when designing the packaging their new album release only to be told “no” by their labels that the cost would be too prohibitive. A popular win-win style strategy in Japan is to press up just one run of special, more deluxe packaging to coincide with an album’s release and then revert to standard packaging for the rest of the album’s run. This is usually referred to as “Limited Initial Packaging”. Sometimes it can mean a larger picture booklet, different case or maybe a DVD single. Sometimes it’s something more unusual like Cornelius including a pair of album cover color matching ear buds with the first copies of his “Fantasma” album.

Usually these limited initial packaging releases cost nothing above normal album and are often incentives to grab one right away before they are gone. Sometimes though if the packaging or bonus is very elaborate then the price is higher. All in all, at least to someone living overseas, finding the initial limited packaging makes owning that CD something special, or the reverse of feeling a bit frustrated if you know it was out there but could only get the regular version.

A particularly unique example comes from the band YMCK. The combine cute vocals with a vintage video game “Chiptunes” sound. While I’ve not heard an official explanation of their name, it does seem to be a slight variation on both “YMCA” and the color printing process of CMYK.

The combination of guy working with game sounds and a cute female vocalist seems to be a popular one with indie bands in Japan for a number of years. YMCK stand out as one of the few if not only one that has gotten international recognition.

For 500 yen extra (about $4.50) a limited edition .S building set came bundled with initial copies (2500 yen total). .S are mini building sets with colored plastic pin “pixels”. If you have enough of the right colored pegs and place them properly you can create semi-dimensional versions of your favorite 8 bit characters.


Unfortunately the “Family Racing” edition is long sold out.

On the plus side the band does tour internationally. I missed them in 2006 because I was in Tokyo and they were in NYC. As partial compensation I did find their limited initial packaging release of “Family Racing” in a used CD shop.

Nick Kent is a New York based artist who works with electronic media and is an occasional pop culture pundit.

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