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Recently, one of our correspondents was strolling through a shopping mall in Mandaue City on Cebu Island in the Philippines. As he passed an arcade, one of the attendants flagged him down, asking if he wanted to try to win a stuffed doll in one of their crane games.

Intrigued by the offer, our reporter peered into the machine’s glass case, at first thinking he saw popular Japanese anime characters Doraemon and Testuwan Atom (also know as Astro Boy internationally). Closer investigation though, revealed that the arcade was filled with cheap, yet somehow incredibly endearing, knock-offs.

The first giveaway was Atom’s disproportionally large nose.

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▼ Will the real Atom please stand up?
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The counterfeit Doraemon is a little closer to the real deal. As you can see in the top left of the following photo, though, he’s missing the fourth-dimensional pocket that usually adorns his stomach. Doraemon uses the pocket to produce all sorts of gadgets that come in handy on the many adventures he shares with the children he lives with. Without the pocket, he’s reduced to an ordinary freeloader, scamming snacks off of his housemates.

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The prizes in a different machine resembled Nintendo’s famous plumbing duo, Mario and Luigi. We don’t remember the brothers having striped shirts before, which sort of make them look like prison inmates.

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Lending further credence to our theory that the pair has been thrown into a dungeon to experience unspeakable torture is the fact that Mario’s moustache, nose, and mouth have been removed! Without his trademark (-protected) hat, we probably wouldn’t have even been able to tell who the doll is.

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To confirm his suspicions that he was dealing with a batch of Chinese knock-offs, our reporter asked Rhey, the arcade attendant, where the dolls came from. His response: “Some company in China.”

▼ The industrious and informative Rhey

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The Philippine-manufactured machine itself was emblazoned with “TOY STORY,” which we find a little hard to believe just coincidentally shares a name with the popular and Disney/Pixar franchise that follows more conventional capitalization protocol.

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Since he’d been so helpful, we decided to take Rhey up on his offer and dropped five pesos (US$0.14) into the machine. Unfortunately, its claws were too weak to grab onto anything and we walked away empty-handed, leaving us to believe that maybe the dolls themselves weren’t the only rip-offs we encountered that day…

Top image: RocketNews24
Insert images: RocketNews24, Barks