From horsemeat-flavored ice cream to tomato-flavored chocolate, the Japanese have amazed the world with their appetite for weird and wonderful confectionery. Frozen soup on a stick is the latest novelty product to hit the jackpot in Japan’s convenience stores. According to Rocket News, within just three days of being released on Sept. 4, stocks of Gari Gari Kun Rich Corn Soup Flavor popsicles have completely sold out, forcing the company to announce that sales will be suspended for a short while. J-Cast points out that there was a huge amount of pre-launch buzz on the web by consumers eager to find out what this new frozen treat might taste like. Twitter has been abuzz with positive reviews like, “It’s surprisingly tasty.” Not convinced? We can’t guarantee that it’s delicious, but the video above proves that at the very least, it’s inspiring some creativity.
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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.
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.
In Japan, where new varieties of familiar products appear and disappear with the seasons, consumers are often left feeling bereft when their favorite flavor suddenly becomes unavailable. “What happened to that delicious Milk Tea KitKat?” shoppers moan as they scour konbini shelves for that elusive treat. But a couple of campaigns from Nestle and Nissin have brought a small degree of relief to those suffering from this first world problem.
Both companies launched grand election campaigns this year, allowing customers to vote for the reintroduction of their favorite flavor. Nissin kicked things off earlier this year with its Cup Noodle election campaign. Visitors to the election website were able to vote for their favorite retro flavor out of a possible 73 options. The winning product, with 133,144 votes was tempura soba, and will be available in stores from January next year.
Not to be outdone, Nestle, the maker of KitKat, has also launched an almost identical campaign in which voters online get to choose their favorite discontinued variety of the chocolately snack. However, KitKat’s campaign is a little more limited in scope: the candidates include only 19 varieties. And one of my friends did grumble that their favorite Cola Lemon KitKat didn’t make the list.