Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Anime Merchandising

For me, one of the greatest successes of anime isn't necessarily in the storytelling itself, but in the way it managed to maximize its profits from its own shoes. I don't think American cartoons (or even American TV in general) matches up to the merchandising most anime shows have.

When we talk of merchandising, most people are probably thinking "toys". And to a certain extent, that's true. But what's amazing about anime is that it goes beyond toys. There's music CDs, radio dramas, trading cards, plushies, key chains, video games, candy, comic adaptations, etc. The counter-argument is that American cartoons does this too, especially when characters appear in lunch boxes and Happy Meals. Unfortunately, that's only the case when a series is really really popular. And perhaps the shocker is that the Japanese have been doing this kind of merchandising for more than two decades.

Of course I'll give credit where it's due. Today, there's a brand of anime that is there solely because of the merchandise rather than the other way around. The anime pushes sales of the product and quite frankly, I've seen it work. Examples of this are Beyblade and Let's & Go (no, I don't count something like Yu-Gi-Oh because that was actually story-driven and it was only later that the card game idea manifested and subsequently editorialized) . But 80's US cartoons like Transformers and G.I. Joe fall under that category too and those shows were intended to be that way.

Still, it's interesting to see an anime drama, for example, to rake in the profits without needing to sell action robots and the like but rather earn from selling stuff like keychains or music CDs.

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