Judging by the amount of Tales of Series merchandise, it seems safe to say that Tales fans like their merch. Of course, what's the point of owning it if no one ever sees it? That's where ita-bags come in. These wonderful bags have clear pouches to show off all your stuff, without risk of losing it or getting it overly dirty. In this article, I'm going to look at my own bag and review some of the merchandise I use. I hope it inspires you to make and share your own.
Naturally, the first thing you need to make an ita-bag, is a bag. The most common place to get these bags in America is conventions, but you can order them online or even make one if you've got the right skills. I mostly see the various small backpacks in the US, but you can get bags of all shapes and sizes, from clutches to messenger bags to t-shirts. If you want to see some of these options, I'd suggest checking out Aitai Kuji as they have a rotating lineup of bags. Unsurprisingly, Amazon also has quite a few and, as mentioned, many convention vendors carry them.
I got mine at Colorado Anime Fest.
It's a pretty standard backpack design, the perfect colors for Tales of Graces, and the perfect size for a notebook and a couple of comic books. It can even hold my small laptop from time to time. Just be warned that ita-bags aren't the sturdiest of things. After a couple rounds of bad luck (I had the strap snap off on two different bags) and a very embarrassed vendor, I ended up having a friend reinforce the straps and handle on this one. In all fairness, pretty much everything I bought that weekend broke, and none of my friends who purchased the same bags had this problem.
While definitely an accessory bag, I still use mine on a regular basis and it's done okay.
Of course, the point of an ita-bag is the display. I didn't really plan mine out, but some people plan their bag layouts well ahead of time, even buying merchandise based on what pieces it needs to fill the whole thing out. You can generally actually see everything on those, and I fully intend to plan my next one, but right now I'm just happy to have a bag covered in some of my favorite things.
That mostly means Asbel, but since I was cosplaying Tear that weekend, I had a lot of my Tales of the Abyss charms on hand, turning it into a Tales of Graces/Abyss bag.
Rubber straps, and now acrylic ones, are staples of the ita-bag. They're cute, but not something you want to expose to normal wear and tear. I have washed my rubber charms many times, and it's always a little scary realizing just how dirty they get or that some scratch has damaged them. An ita-bag solves those problems, alongside the eternal fear of losing them.
That said, one thing I love about rubber straps in particular is that they're generally rather sturdy. I am a firm believer in enjoying my stuff, meaning it gets exposed to a lot. Despite that, the rubber straps hold up well. The main thing to watch with them is the string attaching them to your bag. I find that's more likely to fray than the charms are to actually break. Also be careful not to have so many they slowly saw the zipper off your wallet. Turns out the entire Tales of Xillia 2 cast makes for a lot of straps.
All of the rubber straps on this bag are from Kotobukiya's Tales of Friends lines. In fact, a lot of Tales of Series merchandise is made by Kotobukiya. I guess it makes sense given that they run the Tales of Shop, but it still surprised me.
At least you know what you're getting.
A Note on Dating Your Straps/ Making Sure They're Real
Turns out that they're not all actually the same. There's a clear transition in how Kotobukiya designed these charms. If you look at Sophie and Richard up above, the front makes it looks like they could come out of the same set. The back though tells a different story.
The indicator lays in how Bandai marks itself. Richard is copyright NBG or Namco Bandai Games. Alternatively, Sophie is marked as BNE or Bandai Namco Entertainment. That's the name Bandai unified under in 2015. It's a fun one to identify which strap is older. They also simplified the copyrights for Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima, switching the initials rather than their full names. It makes for a much less crowded back.
Additionally, Sophie is slightly transparent and doesn't feel quite as solid as Richard. Incidentally, their eyes aren't actually colored in, so her's glow if you put a light behind her. The newer ones even develop a sort of purple halo if back lit.
This shows up beautifully if you decorate a Christmas tree with them.
Acrylic charms used to represent the minority of charms, but they've definitely become the popular choice. It's cool that artists can make their own, and they also look great in light, but I'm personally not a huge fan of the material. As I said, my stuff gets the rough treatment, and I've snapped more than one acrylic charm in half trying to transport it. More commonly, they get scratched, causing the image to deteriorate. Luckily these come under the category of "things an ita-bag solves". It's also more of an issue for the long ones than the more square ones.
This guy is part of the Dress-up Clear Charm set from Sol International. I like this set not just for showing Tales of characters in fun costumes (Luke is dressed as a pirate), but for the frames. It's a nice touch with some utilitarian value to go with it as the clear plastic should at least protect them from scratches. Each charm comes with a slightly different frame, and you can slide the base charm out of the frame. This definitely helps customize the look of your bag. Whether you want pretty framed charms, or slightly smaller acrylic images showcasing the base color of your bag is entirely up to you.
The next main category in ita-bag decoration is things you poke through the fabric. I'm talking about all the pins, buttons, and badges you can shove on there. These benefit most obviously from ita-bags, as the bag catches any that come undone. Even when the back is a separate piece, you can dig it out of the main bag.
That said, most of these badges just have a safety pin running through the back. These bend easily, so the thin fabric of your average ita-bag is actually a good thing in this case. Just be aware that they'll probably leave visible holes in your bag, so place with care. This goes double for large badges.
The one in the image above comes from the Tales of Zestiria launch event in Namja Town, and its quite large. I never figured out what to do with it, so I'm glad it found a home on my ita-bag. The long can badges (Asbel can be seen in the main image of my bag) are similarly challenging to wear, and thus also great for bag decoration as they're too large to just wear as normal pins.
Not all badges are so difficult to wear.
Kotobukiya's trading badge collections come in a pretty standard button size. I regularly wear them for a touch of color and geekery in my outfit. Again, apart from the pin bending, they hold up well.
I'm especially fond of Tales of Series vol. 1 because it includes not just Richard, but Peony from Tales of the Abyss as well. While those are the highlights, it's a nice set, covering a span of Tales games from Eternia to Xillia 2. If you want to try and get the set, CDJapan has a proxy service now which doesn't predict too high a price. I haven't used their proxy service yet, but my experience ordering through them directly has been pretty positive.
Naturally, Richard gets to live among the field of Asbels on my bag, but the other fun of this box is that you get every character plus a couple of doubles. That's pretty standard for Kotobukiya boxes, and a lot of people don't realize that when you order the case you typically get everyone. It's a nice perk for putting the extra money down up front.
Some people put full-size plushies in their bags. Some people get plushies to hang off their bag straps. And some people use them for stress balls.
If you fall into the third camp, then oh boy are the Tales of Mascot cushions are for you.
These make great stress balls. They're adorable, soft, and super squishy. The rappig is the secret plush out of volume one, and it's even cuter than I expected. The missing slot is for Mieu, who you can see on the picture of my bag. It's hard to figure out what to do with these guys, but if I don't figure out what to do with all of them, they'll make great emergency presents. Better yet, you can still order them on AmiAmi.
Official Tales of Series merchandise is good and all, but remember that this is your bag. Include fan-made items, especially if you're making one for a character with less merchandise to begin with. Of if you're making a relationship bag and need images of your two characters together. I've also seen people attach fabric on a board and attach their items to that, making for a rotatable display, not to mention avoiding stabbing your bag a million times.
I've shown you mine, now I want to see yours. How do you decorate your ita-bags?