Yes! You literally collect them then throw them, but not in the bin. Welcome the world of Menko, the game where players collect card with art printed on them. Prints range from anime and manga characters, comic book heroes, baseball players, samurais and ninjas, and just about anything worth collecting. The cards themselves are a thick stock, usually in the 40-50 pt range and come in 2 popular shapes, rectangle or circle. The premise of the game is to throw down a card, trying to flip the other player’s card with a gust of wind or by striking his card against the other card. If you succeeds, you takes both cards. The player who takes all the cards, or the one with the most cards at the game’s end, wins the game. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Anyone who grew up with Pokémon and Crazybones should also be familiar with the other collector fad know as POGs. Though menko existed centuries before this 90s fad, POGs have been around for some time. According to facts the game originated in Hawaii sometime in the ’20-’30s and were originally the cardboard inserts in the cap of a POG drink — POG standing for the drink’s ingredients of passion fruit, orange and guava.
The variety of menko out there in the world is unfathomable. Just like CCGs of anything really, millions upon millions of them were printed and that’s just the licensed vendors. Anything popular usually gets a a few noted knockoffs and if you were a collector, there were always the inferior quality, not as sharply printed versions floating around. Heck! I remember buying sheets and sheets of bootleg POGs from the convenience story and flea market where I lived. I have a good collection of Officially licensed World POG Federation POGs, but all the cool slammers and reflective/hologram pogs came from the terribly produced knockoffs. Even the knockoffs followed a code of production, designing lines of characters that were popular among the lesser brands printing them. But more about menko.
In Japan, menko cards we popularized by the times. During the 17th and 18th century, menko sets were designed around samurai and ninja. Before WWII fighter planes and military were popular, in the ’80s and ’90s baseball players, eventually making it’s way to manga and anime being the favoured print style. Going through images of old menko cards that predate my birth really fills me happiness. Happiness in the way of art and characters from my anime and manga, and the fact that such a rudimentary mechanic played pivotal to many generations of gamers and collectors. I collected CCGs but never really played them competitively. Same goes for POGs but I’ve never owned any official or bootleg menko. I think now is the time to get my hands on a piece of history and relive (regardless how brief) the simple joys of smashing chipboard cards onto each other, risking both loss and damage of my beloved Astro Boy or Sailor Moon menko. If you’d like to see how menko is played in Japan, give this short video a watch. It’s entertainment at it’s most basic level, but you know what? It’s still a bloody challenge.
Well, if I end up buying bootlegs – as we all know they are out there – then I guess it’s not that big of a deal. The internet is littered with them, plus who’s stopping me from printing my own. Hm… Yeah. My own!