Posts Tagged ‘character goods’

Streamlined offerings from new adult anime titles

Friday, March 30th, 2012

A long anime series of 24-26 episodes will typically change gears halfway through with brand new theme songs, a new story arc and a fresh set of characters. But this spring’s crop sees five titles buck this trend, in a move that has surprised the industry. Cyzo News reports that “Fate/Zero,” “Medaka Box,” “Kimi to Boku 2,” “Jormungand” and “Hirono no Kaera” all have lengthened story arcs and will be keeping the same theme tune throughout the season. This effectively slims down the merchandising package for the season. Sales of DVDs, singles and figurines make up a significant part of the earnings for anime shows, and the move is seen as a reflection of economic hard times in otaku industries.

Fate/Zero's non-increasing cast

The ostensible reason is that anime creators want more time to develop story lines, rather than being forced to come up with fresh ideas every three months (the time needed to air a set of 12-13 episodes). But the real reason may be that while merchandise sales are still strong, the numbers of hardcore fans willing to buy up an entire collection of CD, DVD, and character models is dwindling. The slimline package is a way of enticing fans to splurge on the full set of merchandise instead of picking and choosing.

Japan’s falling birth rate means that  anime aimed at adults (broadcast late at night) has enjoyed huge popularity in recent years among those in their 20s to 30s. During the 1980s, as the number of children fell, the number of kidults hungry for sexier, gorier anime rose. In the latter part of the noughties the number of fans willing to purchase anime merchandise aimed at adults increased. However, unlike  hadcore fans, they opt to purchase only the merchandise that appeals to them. In fact, otaku culture is no longer the preserve of the hardcore nerd. According to Sankei, a recent study by Yano Research Institute showed that one in four Japanese identified themselves as otaku.

Dentsu advertising agency now considers the market so significant that they will be setting up a branch dedicated to studying otaku spending habits. Nevertheless, Cyzo’s article states that last year these otaku were spending less, so watch for the anime industry to keep looking for creative ways to keep the cash flow going.

Naive yuru kyara win hearts across Japan

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

He’s not cute, in fact many have dubbed him “creepy,” but finally after courting much controversy, the people of Japan have taken Sentou-kun, to their hearts as the official mascot of Nara’s 2010 celebrations. Sentou-kun, who looks like a young Buddha with deer antlers atop his head, is just one of many “yuru kyara” (literally “loose characters”) that have gained national fame in Japan over the last few years.

The phrase yuru kyara was coined by kitsch connoisseur Jun Miura to describe characters that have been rather naively created by non-professional artists to comic effect. While aiming to be cute, an odd concept or a badly executed design produces the opposite effect. Miura’s Web site is a treasure trove of rather odd yuru kyara, from concrete mixers making the peace sign to grinning 2-meter leeks.

But it’s the characters created by local government to attract tourism that have really set the imagination of the Japanese public on fire. In December 15,000 people gathered for a festival in the town of Ginan in Gifu Prefecture and according to a questionnaire, over half were there to catch a sight of Negicho, the popular aforementioned grinning leek character, or rather, a hapless civil servant shanghaied into wearing an uncomfortable leek suit.

Continue reading about yuru kyara →

What’s in the cards for the future of sumo?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009


One of sumo’s two present yokozuna (grand champions) may have just cemented his place in the sport’s history last weekend, but far fewer people were watching than just a decade earlier. Could playing cards help rekindle interest?

The traditional Japanese sport has been simultaneously battling two nebulous forces: controversy and apathy. Not only are popularity and new recruits dropping, but at the same time a number of scandals continue to fester. There was the hazing death of a young wrestler in 2007, the recent accusations of special treatment of yakuza bosses in Nagoya and an assault charge and civil suit filed this month by a tokoyama (sumo hair stylists). And, of course, few have forgotten the marijuana busts.

Long before these pratfalls, many of Japan’s purist (and arguably nationalist) fans were already decrying the influx of non-Japanese grapplers – including the two present yokozuna, both  Mongolians – and their lack of deference to the sport’s rigid and time-honored traditions. Asashoryu, last week’s victor and 24-time winner of the Imperial Cup, has been repeatedly criticized for his behavior, which may seem tame when compared to Western athletes but is considered barbaric by sumo’s strict standards.

Controversy generates attention, so one could argue that such scandals actually help sumo attract more eyeballs, but certainly not enough. Interest in sumo among younger generations has been waning for some time, overtaken by video games and J. League soccer, the youth’s pro sport of choice.

What to do? One proven method of garnering attention in Japan is by developing your own line of adorable character goods. Enter Sekitori-kun. The name for these chicken littles is a play on the word sekitori (関取, top-ranked wrestler) and the kanji for bird (鳥) which also has the sound “tori”. The characters are packaged as playing cards similar to the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! brands – with strength, endurance and other fighting characteristics mapped out – and then handed out to kids at tournaments.

Is the pre-teen demographic what they’re aiming for? That would explain the recent flirtation with fast food – I’m imagining Asashoryu-shaped Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s by 2010. If Japanese kids buy enough of them – and eat enough of those hamburgers – then sumo may form its next generation sooner than expected.


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