Bikkuriman (ビックリマン, “Surprise Man”) is a series of chocolate and peanut wafers sold with a small random sticker bonus in Japan. Produced by Lotte, a candy company, the franchise became a phenomenon in Japan in the mid-80’s, when the Akuma vs Tenshi Seal (悪魔VS天使シール, Devil vs Angel Seal) series began. (“Seals”, by the way, are what the stickers are commonly referred to as) With its emphasis on characters, as mentioned previously, it became hugely influential on the way toys, novelties, candy, video games, and a wide variety of other products were marketed.
The original artists for the Devil vs Angel series are Minoru Yonezawa and Satoshi Hyodo. They work at Greenhouse, a design company, and continue to do art for Bikkuriman projects to this day.
First released in 1977, the nature of the sticker bonus was different from what it later became famous for: Each pack included a “Dokkiri Seal” (どっきりシール, “Shocking Seal), a realistically illustrated gag sticker featuring things like switches, eyes, stains, coins, broken glass, etc – the idea being that you could stick one in various places to play pranks. (The term is also commonly associated with “Dokkiri Camera” shows, which are basically like Candid Camera)
By the early 80’s, the formula was switched up, this time featuring characters on each sticker. A few different themes and gimmicks were employed (part of the 1982 series used characters overlaid on real photos), but the whole series was still primarily gag oriented, its characters revolving around some sort of joke or pun.
image via here, a good overview of the early series, as is this
The 10th Generation, Devil vs Angel
In August 1985, the tenth iteration of Bikkuriman, titled “Akuma vs Tenshi Seal” began. Although the characters were still largely cartoony and humorous, their themes were more based in mythology and folklore from around the world (albeit played fast and loose). Each set of releases had a range of random characters to collect from, including one super rare “Head”, whose sticker had some sort of foil or holographic effect. The most famous of these, Super Zeus, is shown left (from the first set).
On the back of the sticker, some information about the character/story would be listed – and if one were to collect all the other stickers, a larger narrative could be pieced together. This was one of the key draws that kept kids coming back f0r more.
images left and below via here – main page
And that they did – Bikkuriman’s popularity exploded. The common story goes, kids would buy the candy, keep the sticker, and throw out the chocolate, baffling adults.
It’s worth noting at this point that there had been plenty of other snacks that included randomly packed bonus items, from trading cards to toys, and others still had direct tie-ins to children’s television programs and the like for added allure. It would seem as if Bikkiruman, having mere stickers with no tie-ins, would be at a disadvantage – but that piecing together of a larger world, with mysterious hints like “Rumors from the Devil World”, indications of rivalries and friendships, and so on, provided a different sort of entertainment going beyond the stickers themselves.
Indeed, while there were many spin-off products after it took off, from a TV anime in 1987 to various toys, comics, etc, they were all secondary to the stickers.
All the same, the most fancy stickers were the most desired. The voracious behavior of kids trying to obtain the rare Head seals soon caught the attention of PTAs – with the whole set up of having to buy packs over and over to get the most ornate ones, which could then potentially be sold for real money, it seemed like a form of gambling. Not to mention general distraction and delinquency: Throwing away food just to get at a sticker was one thing, but at worst, some even resorted to theft.
It went so far as to spur the involvement of the Japan Fair Trade Commission, and as a result, the amount of Heads per set increased dramatically: after already having reached an average of 4 to 5 per set, starting with the 17th edition, it was increased to a whopping 24. Needless to say, getting the shiny ones got much easier.
Regardless, sales remained steady, and new visual effects came and went, as did a second anime adaptation, Shin Bikkuriman – but the 25th set saw a decline, and the original Devil vs Angel series ended with the 31st in 1990.
Into the 90’s
1991 saw the release of the 11th generation, Super Bikkuriman: New Battle Devil vs Angel Seal (Bio-Devil vs Mecha Angel Seal). The stickers employed a variety of new gimmicks, and some characters from the previous series returned, but a new cast of armored protagonists was introduced.
This was emphasized with the 1992 Super Bikkuriman anime, featuring fully figured characters in Saint Seiya/Ronin Warriors-like power up armor and a more serious action storyline. It seems neither caught on, however, as the seal series ended prematurely with 10 sets and the anime was cut short.
Lotte tried out a few different directions for a while – there was the very short lived Dokkiri Derby, a Wacky Races-like seal series which lasted one installment in 1993. In 1996, the next attempt came with Cho Nensha Tantei-dan seals (Super Nensha Detective), which featured things like real photos with “psychic imprints” along with an illustration of a paranormal creature associated with it.
via here and here
After that ended with three sets, a “Legend Reprint” of stickers from the original Devil vs Angel series came out in 1998, the beginning of a complete return to the theme.
Bikkuriman 2000 and Beyond
1999 kicked off the new Bikkuriman 2000: Bug Devil vs Giga Angel set, and a new TV anime. Featuring fully digital animation (during a time when studios were transitioning from traditional cel animation), the anime ran through 2001. The stickers, too, had a very digital look to them: The character designs stuck the squat statures of the original Devil vs Angel series, but had distinctly modern stylings and effects.
via here and here
Lotte kept busy on the Bikkuriman front, with a number of different kinds of releases. There were also two more short lived alternate series, namely Guts! Synchro X in 2002 and Ghost Village Incident in 2004. They even brought back the very first Dokkiri seal type with two new sets in 2003 and 2004, featuring more up to date joke objects (like cell phone buttons). And, reprints and restylings of classic Devil vs Angel seals started up again in 2001 and 2002.
2006 saw another TV anime with Happy Lucky Bikkuriman, which had a new pair of protagonists joined by the original pair from the first anime, and a cast largely consisting of first run characters. The overall art direction aims for something much closer to the first series. To date, it remains the latest anime version, ending in 2007.
Both classic redo and new character Devil vs Angel releases have continued ever since, with new visual tricks and stylings applied to each as well as digital add-ons like AR features. So far, it seems this is the way Bikkuriman is set to continue.
via BM Kingdom
And that indeed has largely continued to be the case, with one brief aberration: in March 2014, Lotte introduced a new product, Shin Bikkuriman: Kamui Tensei (神ビックリマン神威転生) – (Not to be confused with the 1989 “Shin Bikkuriman” anime). Launched not as a replacement, but an additional line, the subtitle suggested further installments. That was it, though – no other continuations followed.
Shin Bikkuriman made numerous departures from the main products, putting it more in step with other novelty candy series. Rather than stickers, packs feature sealed cards, with the packs themselves now a vertical design identical to Bandai’s wafer products. Based on the original Devil vs Angel characters, it featured new versions with a new artist and sized up proportions, with new characters as well. All of this making it rather notably more like Shinra Bansho.
These new cards put their story/character information on the front, however, as the backs are all a generic image like a trading card game – this is since, like (for example) Kaiten Mutenmaru, the cards can be used to play a quick and easy to play card game, with just a few cards (no need for an entire deck). That story stuff gets crammed into the bottom of the card, while things like card effect descriptions and game icons take up more real estate. There’s also a QR code for possible use in collection apps.
There are a number of other quirks which range from surprising to sort of funny: The wafers lack the peanuts Bikkuriman wafers usually have, to the shock of many. Rare “Head” cards, or any other cards for that matter, do not have any sort of prism or foil effects. That aforementioned generic card back reinforces the logo’s resemblance to Dragonball Z’s, including having a fiery orb behind it that resembles a Dragonball. The power ranking in the upper right has the old Bikkuriman logo’s “man” under it – this is because the extra zeroes after the main number are arbitrarily added so the number is read as “man” (so 60000 = “roku man”), with the logo portion meant to reinforce this associative joke. However, people would read both the number AND the logo together, as “man man” – i.e. “roku man man”. So much for that.
Boxes had 20 packs, and with 51 cards to collect (plus 12 variants with different backgrounds and card stats), it seems Lotte intended to put it out there for a while, without a concrete schedule for follow ups. It was supported further in the year with a promotion where you could receive a “Battle Kit” including a play mat, a how to play DVD, and some special exclusive cards. Later boxes also have additional QR codes on the packaging for use with Bukigami, an arcade card scanning game involving the use of giant weapons (so you could get Shin Bikkuriman weapons in the game). These boxes have the same cards and no differences aside from that, though.
But, as mentioned, that would be it, and Shin Bikkuriman was no more. The main Bikkuriman franchise continues on as ever though, with the classic re-releases, the occasional new set, and collaborations. The entire card run is viewable on the official site (image source for this section – also from Palusuke Staff Blog here & here).
Over the years, there’s been a number of official tie-ins featuring Bikkuriman stickers of other franchises or celebrities. There’s too many to reasonably list, so here’s a few of the most interesting ones:
Stars Wars Bikkuriman, from 2015, is among the most major. Sets came out featuring the original trilogy characters as well as the prequels, and included stickers that depict events from the films.
Bikkuriman Kanjuku Haoh is significant for running with its own gimmicks, lasting for a full three sets (August 2010, March 2011, August 2011). It features characters from Disgaea, the Nippon Ichi video game series, with a unique factor – the characters are posed and combined with accessories in such a way that they form a kanji symbol. In July 2011, Nippon Ichi themselves released a game for the Nintendo 3DS based on it, in which you group the characters to form words and phrases to perform actions and attacks.
via BM Kingdom
Aside from that:
–Wrath of the Titans – 2012 movie tie-in
–Bikkuriman Pro Baseball – Stickers with caricatures of real baseball players.
–Mikkuriman – Hatsune Miku tie-in, featuring a few versions of Miku herself and other Vocaloids.
–Bikkariman – Based on Capcom’s Monster Hunter video game series.
–Momocloman – Featuring the all-girl idol band.
–Super P3 Seals – Given as bonus items at screenings of Persona 3 The Movie, itself based on the Atlus video game.
–Hokuto-no-Man – Based on the classic anime/manga, Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken)
Putting aside anime localizations, Bikkuriman stickers have remained a Japan only thing for the most part. The only attempt I’m familiar with otherwise is a rather recent one: Bikkuriman Bubble Gum in Indonesia.
Distributed by Lotte themselves, the characters featured are from the original Devil vs Angel sets, with their names written out directly from the Japanese. The biggest change here, obviously, is the replacement of a chocolate wafer with sealed bubblegum – if I had to guess, it may have to do with local laws regarding such food pack ins, but it could just as well be a marketing decision.
Where to Buy & Other Merchandise
Take a look at the “Where can you buy Shinra Bansho cards?” article, search instead for Bikkuriman or ビックリマン and you’re off to the races.
With over 30 years worth of stickers and reprints, and an active collector’s market, prices on the second hand seals vary pretty dramatically. Even recent editions can go for a pretty high amount. Fortunately, you can always just buy a whole wafer box of one of the new releases, just like you can for Shinra Bansho.
As for other merchandise, well…there’s plenty, a lot of it anime related, likely to pop up in any search conducted. There’s been a few different guidebooks over the years, which tend to go for a little more than they should at this point, so it’s hard to recommend one in particular.
Bikkuriman – TV, 75 episodes, 1987-10-11 to 1989-04-02
(Also aired in: France, Chile, Latin America)
—Bikkuriman: Taiichiji Seima Taisen – Movie, 30 minutes, 1988-03-12
—Bikkuriman: Moen Zone no Himitsu – Movie, 45 minutes, 1988-07-09
Shin Bikkuriman – TV, 72 episodes, 1989-04-19 to 1990-08-26
Super Bikkuriman – TV, 44 episodes, 1992-05-17 to 1993-04-04
(Also aired in: Spain)
Bikkuriman 2000 – TV, 68 episodes, 1999-11-01 to 2001-02-26
(Also aired in: Philippines)
Happy Lucky Bikkuriman – TV, 46 episodes, 2006-10-15 to 2007-09-30
(Also aired in: France, Italy)
There’s been a couple over the years – a few, namely Bikkuriman Daijikai on the PC Engine and Bikkuriman Daijiten on the Nintendo DS are more just character encyclopedias than anything. Probably the most famous game, and pretty much the main way any English speakers heard of Bikkuriman at all for some time, is Bikkuriman World.
Interestingly enough, it’s actually a port of an arcade title, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, but with characters swapped for Bikkuriman ones. Under orders from Super Zeus, you play as Head Rococo and fight to restore peace to the zone, fighting bosses like Satan Maria and Mashou Nero. That’s pretty much the only difference – aside from that, it’s a rather accurate port.
This whole article is intended to be more of a general overview than a comprehensive guide, although admittedly I ended up adding more detail than expected. So if you have any info you’d like to share, questions, or just want to talk Bikkuriman in general, head on down to this thread in our forums!