It shouldn’t surprise you that the KingBlade is the glorious leader in the LED glowstick market. Since 2012, discerning otaku have waved KingBlades at their idols every chance they get. It’s not safe or appropriate to wave anything else.
So this thing’s only been around for 5 years? And it’s THE big name in lightstick technology? Sure is.
Don’t try this at home!
You might know Japan’s got rules about how big and bright penlights can be at events. So everyone wants the brightest they can get. They always have, if we’re honest, but there’s a much bigger emphasis on safety now.
Here’s some of the backstory. Once light and LED tech got advanced enough, cheap snap-in-half chemical glowsticks didn’t cut it any more. In the bid to be the brightest, otaku got more and more inventive with their light sources. Fans started showing up at concerts with actual safety batons.
Some other people decided the best way to get the brightest lightstick was to make one themselves. Often by gluing or taping a coloured plastic tube to the end of a really strong torch. If you read that sentence and thought, ‘Well, that sounds like a recipe for disaster’, you’d be right. Some of them broke mid-concert. Some were stupidly bright. And inevitably, accidents happened.
At that point, concert/event organisers started putting restrictions on penlights.
The KingBlade was made by Ruifan Japan in response to those restrictions. It looked kinda like the dodgy modded versions people made at home, but done properly. With a bunch of different colours, so you don’t have to hold 3+ blades at a time.
(And if you get a special KingBlade bag, you won’t need to hold onto them anyway.)
All KingBlades comply with concert regulations for light levels and penlight size. They’re bright enough for your idols to see, without blinding the wota next to you. You can take them anywhere and keep them on for ages. A fresh set of batteries can power the LEDs inside for up to 10 hours.
Ruifan’s had a massive KingBlade stand at Anime Japan every year since 2014. It helps that they do custom versions for 2D and 3D idol groups. KingBlades are the base model for all Love Live and Love Live Sunshine blades, and the official glowsticks for groups like Milky Holmes, AKB48, and Morning Musume.
Penlight Fantasy X10 III Neo
The KingBlade X10 is actually the original. They didn’t make the X1 to X9 versions. Or X11 and X12, either – those are the X10 II and X10 III models. Feel like you’ll only ever need one colour for the rest of your otaku life? The MAX2 edition is for you.
Newer blades come in 3 versions: the mini Super Tube, Shining, and Smoke. The ‘Shining’ one has a glittery finish, and ‘Smoke’ looks like someone lit a match inside the tube. (It’s a cool effect, though.)
Smoke is a little less bright as a result, which is why most fans pick a Shining version. They don’t weigh very much, so a handy strap keeps them from flying away during your wotagei.
15+ colours installed as standard are enough for supporting most J-idol groups. The original blade had 12. Red, several blues, yellow, white, pink, a lighter pink, purple, orange, green, and one that could be turquoise or green but nobody knows for sure. If you need more shades than that, several newer models can be customised with ‘infinite’ colours.
The custom system’s great if you follow an idol group with a lot of girls. Once they run out of standard colours, they start getting creative. How else would you end up with image colours like ‘Golden Yellow’?
Yes, that one’s real – claimed by Yokoyama Reina from Morning Musume. And we had to double check that, because we thought it was Mustard instead. Somehow, it’s subtly different to groupmate Iikubo Haruna’s ‘Honey’ colour, probably a bit darker. Put them side by side and we can’t really tell, but hardcore fans will know at a glance.
Perfect for a R-A-V-E
Ruifan’s developed something a bit special to show off the KingBlade’s lights. RAVE, which stands for ‘Radio Activated Visual Emotion’.
It’s already possible to use apps, QR codes, and good old fashioned button-pressing to set colour patterns. You can preset up to 30 colours and switch through them during a show. RAVE takes that capability further. A hell of a lot further.
Hundreds – well, what looks like hundreds – of KingBlades are programmed to accompany whatever music’s playing. It was used at Japan’s annual music TV show, Best Hit Kayousai, in 2014 and 2015.
That’s a lotta lightsticks to set up. You can just about see in the video that they’re mostly arranged in bunches of 6. And there are more bunches than we can count. Gotta admit, when everything’s in place and changing colours to the rhythm it looks pretty cool.
How to get the glow
The main problem for international otaku is that Ruifan Japan doesn’t deliver overseas. You can find KingBlades and other brands of glowsticks on places like Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Auctions.