Shinra Bansho Chocolate (神羅万象チョコ) is a brand of chocolate wafers packaged with collectible trading cards distributed by Bandai. Debuting in Japan with the first set’s release on March 14th 2005, it has remained popular enough to keep spawning new editions, animated promotional videos, and an online browser game. As of March 2008, it had sold 50 million units – and by March 2013, 100 million.
Each pack includes a chocolate wafer and a single trading card. The characters featured on each card range from humanoid males and females, to animal people, to armored warriors, to mascot-style creatures. The influence of folklore and mythology is apparent in the design, based around world settings featuring numerous tribes and races, and each set of releases revolve around a particular story arc.
Info on the back of the cards, covering the characters, settings, plots points, and other tidbits, go together to form the worlds and narratives of Shinra Bansho.
(To be clear: It is not a trading card game ala YuGiOh)
It also has a head mascot – Wafer Man.
For info on where to buy Shinra Bansho boxes and cards, see our buying guide.
The term “Shinra Bansho” means something like “all things in the universe” or “all things in nature” (or creation, in other words). It is also commonly spelled as Shinrabanshou or Shinrabansho.
It’s been used in literature and popular culture quite a bit before, some instances readers may be familiar with including the special attack used by Reiji and Xiaomu of Namco x Capcom and Super Robot Taisen, or a technique of Miharu’s in Nabari no Ou.
In 1977, candy company Lotte released a series of chocolate wafers with nuts inside called Bikkuriman (“Surprise Man”) – each one included a randomly packed sticker with a character on it, including devils, angels, protectors, and the rare “Heads”. The back included some story information that could be pieced together into a larger narrative. Despite originally having no anime or manga or any other type of tie-in, they became hugely popular among Japanese children, eventually spawning such adaptations and more, including video games.
Bikkuriman influenced the vast number of collectible products that followed in Japan, everything from gashapon toys to telephone cards, but there are many particular direct parallels between it and Shinra Bansho – from the card design, to the world setting, to (of course) the chocolate wafer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say it’s like a cousin to Bikkuriman, or at least Bandai’s version of it.