The brilliance of Hot Wheels/Matchbox Designer Ryu Asada

It has been a rough week for so many following the passing of Hot Wheels Designer Ryu Asada. The outpouring of tributes from so many corners of the collector, auto and design worlds is a testament to the impact Ryu had on so many.

Those that knew him speak of his addictive positivity, even the last four years as he battled cancer. Collectors speak of the tremendous influence he had on the collecting world. Gearheads speak of his encyclopedic knowledge and passion for all things auto. And designers speak of his innovative brilliance, being able to create techniques that made $1 models look incredibly realistic.

I was lucky to know Ryu, having met him over a decade ago at the Matchbox Gathering Convention in Albuquerque, and building a friendship over the years as he moved to Hot Wheels and I started Lamley. He was always willing to chat up his designs, and give me a few tidbits on them for the blog and channel. Most special to me, we bonded over the way Hondas played a unique role in our upbringings.

The thing, though, is that my relationship with Ryu wasn’t unique. To know Ryu was to be friends with Ryu. Over the last few days I have talked with many who were closest to him, like his Mattel colleagues, as well as collectors on the other side of the world who randomly messaged him on Instagram to ask him a question and then fall into a long online chat with him about all kinds of topics. They all speak of him in the same way. Ryu connected with everyone he met. That is why this loss is the gut punch it is for so many of us. It goes way beyond his brilliant designs.

Among all the tributes, including this fantastic look back at Ryu’s life by Japanese Nostalgic Car, I wanted to post something here. I shared a lot of my thoughts on my YouTube Channel in a special look at Ryu’s diecast legacy with both Matchbox and Hot Wheels, which is posted below. But I also wanted to compile many of the articles and video features I have done over the years with him.

Whether it be a few paragraphs he sent over to me about a new model, or a preview he did with my at the Hot Wheels Convention, I have tried to link them all here. Read them, watch them, and hopefully enjoy them. Watching Ryu talk about his thought process gives you a small glimpse into his passion and brilliance, and he can serve as a good teacher for how the design process works.

I will miss Ryu immensely, and I share that feeling with so many. He went way too soon, but he packed an amazing amount into his 42 short years that will live on for years and years to come. RIP Ryu.

4 Replies to “The brilliance of Hot Wheels/Matchbox Designer Ryu Asada”

  1. Sorry for his loss for yourself, his family, coworkers, and the HW/MBX community. He really is one of the guys that once you look up his cars you’re like “Oh my god, he did THAT car? I love that one!”

  2. I am very much saddened by Ryu’s passing and hope my heartfelt condolences reach his family. He has been a source of much happiness in my life, through his craft, and I will miss reading about new releases he has guided to fruition. As I have written before, we are blessed to live in a time of such abundance of beautifully executed toy vehicles. Ryu was a wonderfully talented, incredibly dedicated, and immensely sympathetic magician who helped bring this abundance to life. He will be missed!

  3. We will all miss him and his work. His work already shows to me what kind of a person he was. As an artist, designer and collector myself, I bet he had more to give in design for that $1 toy, but the price and time limited him. If you think it is easy to downscale a real 1/1 car to a 1/64?, think again. Drawing is one think but making it is another. You have to be a visionary in that sense. He knew what he was doing and it made everyone happy. As a collector, I want to see Mattel step up and make a set in tribute to his service for so many years. I want to see a set of 10 of Ryu’s best cars in the next year on the pegs. I always get “they made that car?” or “that’s my favourite car” or “that’s my dream car” he is the man behind it. And thanks to Mattel and his coworkers for keeping him busy for so many years executing wonderful designs. And also thanks to you John at Lamely for this article and your videos in recognizing people behind the scenes that make things happen. We need positive people like you to make our day go better. Yes he was a Hot Wheels guy……. the guy that designed the toy your kids are playing with for $1. Peace

  4. Wow, I am so extremely sad over this news. I read the headline and though it looked like an obituary, I thought that could not possibly be because Ryu was so young and vibrant. Ryu contributed so much to Hot Wheels. Although I am more “Matchbox” than “Hot Wheels” as I like more stock-type vehicles, I still greatly respected Ryu’s input and contribution to the hobby, with cars such as the Prelude and the Miata gladly added to my collection. Gosh, he seemed to be such a gentle and decent human being; the type of person there seems to be in such short supply these days. Wishing the best for his family and friends. Know the comfort of the contribution that he made to our hobby, and the great enjoyment to tens of thousands of people around the world. Godspeed, Ryu!

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