I follow the Facebook page of the Japanese trading card and magazine producer, BBM, so little previews of their products pop up on my feed from time to time. Back in November, they posted a preview of their 2016 P★League All-Stars set. I had been thinking for some time that Japanese Women's Wrestling was getting a little too mainstream for me, and I needed to find something else to help me stand out from the crowd. This could be just the ticket! I went to one of my usual suppliers of True Heart wrestling cards to see if they had any of this, and they were offering it for pre-order. I ordered one box of 2016 BBM P★League All-Stars and a box of 2016 BBM True Heart wrestling cards (which turned out to be one of my best ever boxes of that product), as well as a couple packs of sleeves to push me over the threshold for the coupon I wanted to use, which saved me about the cost of shipping on the order.
P★League is a televised women's bowling tournament that appears to be quite popular in Japan. It's been going on since 2006. I don't fully understand the structure yet, but the participants are selected from the ranks of the Japan Professional Bowling Association and maybe some amateurs who pass an audition. Bowlers who are eliminated in one season of the show are ineligible to participate in the next season, but can come back after that. The prize money seems to be pretty significant for the winners.
The cards are presented in a box-set format, with each box containing a 36-card base set and two special cards, for a total of 38 cards per box. The box lid pictures all 30 bowlers who are included in the set.
The back of the box has pictures of some of the cards from the set and a checklist. There are 30 base cards, a 6-card subset, and 30 autographs. It appears that every bowler in the set signed cards for the release, as you can see that the autograph checklist on the right matches the base checklist on the left.
Opening the box lid reveals a picture of all 30 subjects in the set, as well as some text that I'm not sure of as far as translation goes. There were 3000 sets made, with mine being # 2986 / 3000. The official checklist says that there are 6000 special cards printed, which is just enough to make up the 2 inserts per set.
The cards are packed into the box with a slip of paper wrapped around them. The back of the stack has a thin backing card, presumably to protect the hits.
Here's a standard base card of Hiromi Matsunaga. The card fronts feature the anglicized version of the bowler's name, which is incredibly helpful for someone like me. The card backs are not in English, though, so I have some trouble with them. There is biographical information. I think the black text in the middle of the card back says which seasons she participated in, with maybe her rankings from those seasons as well? It looks like all of the bowlers have sponsors, with logos placed on their clothing.
Here are some more base cards. I can't help thinking that bowling balls are about the same size and weight as a baby, so I picture these bowlers proudly holding a baby. I've mentioned before that when baseball players pose for cards and they are holding a baseball, I can't help picturing the baseball as a piece of fruit that the player is about to throw or take a bite out of. This is the same thing, but with a bigger ball.
Here are the backs of the cards from the previous scan. I guess there isn't much else to cover on them. I really need to learn to read these things, but I am a loser and haven't even done much research into the best way of doing that. If you Google their names, though, you can sometimes match up the information, like that their professional bowling license number is included in the first block of information.
After the 30-card base set, there is a 6-card calendar subset. It is pretty much as advertised, with each card containing two months of a 2017 calendar and a picture of two or three of the bowlers. The Google translation from the product page has this to say:
As a subset, we will line up 2017 calendar cards that we want you to carry around regularly or in a notebook.
The cards run in sequential order by month, then the other side runs through the next six months, so you have January/July on the first card, February/August on the next, and so on.
I guess you could make a good case for using one of these as a wallet card, as it kind of serves a practical purpose in addition to being part of a game. It might lead to some weird conversations, though. Even carrying a baseball card around could be taken the wrong way by all the Fun Police out there who think that grown-ups should only do grown-up things. It would probably be hard to explain why you're carrying around a baseball card-sized calendar with female bowlers on it.
Next up are the hits. Each bowler has four different variations of autograph. There are Regular Black Ink (#/90), Regular Pink Ink (#/40), Holo Black Ink (#/55), and Holo Pink Ink (#/15). I got one of each of the Regular versions, so I don't know what the Holo autographs look like. This first autograph features Aki Nawa, the winner of P★League Tournament 2. It is the base version, numbered # 31 / 90. The autographs are glossy stickers, which in the case of this black pen led to some bubbling in the signature.
My second autograph is a Regular Pink Ink of Urara Himeji, who holds the record for the highest score (289) in a P★League Tournament. The card is numbered # 20 / 40. I don't think I'll try to chase down a master set of these, but it would be nice to get an example of each type of autograph.
And that's the breakdown of this box set. At the time I ordered these I thought I might be the only guy in town who had them, but a few days ago R Laughton included them in a post (along with a link to a video), San Jose Fuji has a few of the sets, and Ryan G was posting about them two or four years ago. That makes me late to the party. I still think these cards are cool, though, and I'll probably seek out a few more of them. I was actually about to order some of the 2015 version from my source, but they went on sale and I waffled too long and they sold out their inventory. Oops.