Anime is big in Japan. The industry bases a lot of its revenue to the anime related merchandise they sell, from figures and sweets to event-only limited edition items!
The amount of merchandise available is overwhelming, especially to people who live outside the country and get confused by the variety and complexity of the items.
Manga.Tokyo is here with a small guide to help you find all the items you want! We hope it helps you get everything you need if you are already in Japan or plan to visit in the future.
The difference between normal and limited merchandise
Normal merchandise refers to the official merchandise that is distributed to vendors that sell character goods, such as Animate. These items are being sold all year round. Since their number is not limited, you won’t have any problem finding what you are looking for.
There are, however, some rare cases in which some items become rare because they are discontinued or become too popular that production can’t keep up, but most of them are tracked to match production to demand. Those Gacha-toys or capsule toys in vending machines in front of stores belong to this type of merchandise.
Limited merchandise, on the other hand, is exactly what the name implies, rare and unique. They are usually sold in comic markets, collaboration projects, and the various anime shows and events that are held all over Japan. These events and the rare merchandise they have are a way to keep old fans hooked and new fans attracted.
For example, Tokyo’s Oo-edo Hot Spring (大江戸温泉) in Odaiba and Nanja-town Gyouza Stadium (ナンジャタウン餃子スタジアム) in Ikebukuro regularly serve new dishes based on anime characters or set up new mini games based on anime series.
As of late, restaurant Hirata Park (ひらたパーク) famous for Bakudan-yaki (ばくだん焼, bomb-yaki, a mixed dish of okonomi-yaki and monja-yaki) and Churrostar (Churro) and amusement park Asakusa Hanayashiki (浅草はなやしき) did collaboration projects with anime to attract new customers!
These collaboration events are announced on the official anime twitter accounts, so you may as well follow your favorite shows for all the latest announcements. Most of these projects are announced a month or two in advance.
The merchandise you can only purchase at these spot-sale events or collaboration events are what we call ‘Limited merchandise’. You have to be there to get them. As it happens with rare merchandise, some second-hand shops often sell these at ridiculously high prices. Better to attend the event yourself if there is a particular item you desperately want.
Sold out already!? But I was there when the event opened!
Many Japanese fans consider limited edition items their weak spot. There is always the chance that the anime will be sold out, or that the company will never produce the same item again. This is the reason why anime fans in Japan rush to these anime events. The first days of a popular event are so crowded that you can’t even walk properly through the venue, and when it comes to anime series popular among women, the area in front of limited edition items is a battlefield. Obtaining your favorite item means war!
If you’ve been to Japan, maybe you have seen an extremely long queue of women with tin badges and bags waiting somewhere in Akihabara or Ikebukuro. These queues are formed in front of events from the early hours. Arriving at an event at its opening hour means you have to stand at the end of this long queue – if you can find where it ends.
Then, what time should you go to the event?
According to proper and accurate scientific research conducted by the writer of this article (which basically means that she is a proud otaku who knows her stuff), the anime shows currently forming the longest queues are: Uta no Prince-sama, Ensemble Stars!, Osomatsu-san, Yowamushi Pedal, Touken Ranbu, Detective Conan, Love Live!, The Idolmaster, and shows that resonate more or less on the same anime frequency.
The popularity of Japanese anime series can fluctuate from season to season, but idol and sports shows are almost always popular. These genres have the most live concerts and events, and the fans have more opportunities to share their love of the show to their fellow otaku fans by boasting about their limited edition items!
Anime events are not allowing door camping (spending the night outside the venue to keep your line) so everyone catches the first morning trains at 5 or 6 a.m. It’s a peculiar thing to see otaku fans gathering at the train stations before the morning workers. Not even the birds haven’t had the chance to start chirping yet! If you ever happen to see such a crowd, be nice and cheer them for their dedication. At 9 or 10 a.m. right before the opening, the terrain outside the venue is usually insanely crowded and you may feel like Colonel Musca and shout ‘The people are like garbage!’ (Castle in the Sky)
Most of the merchandise sold at events are limited edition items, so if you reach there at opening hour, it will be almost impossible to buy what you want. If you want to buy limited items of the most popular anime series of the season, you really have to put some effort in getting there as early as possible.
Japanese merchandise for women in 2016
Items of shows that are currently airing are very popular and their events attract the most fans. Here is the 2016 trend for show targeting female fans.
「うたのプリンスさまっ♪/Uta no Prince-sama」
Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love Legend Star is at its fourth season. Their yearly live concerts are always packed, and the title has some really dedicated fans because of its gorgeous VA cast members that really capture the essence of the girls and their beautiful sakuga/animation.
If you ever plan on buying the limited merchandise sold at their concert, Purirai (Pri-live), we’d recommend to take the very first train, or book a hotel room near the venue to spend the night before.
This is currently the most popular idol-themed smartphone game. It has been adapted into stage dramas and it is already announced that it will be animated in 2017.
It has a lot of events and collaboration projects, and the production staff seems to successfully predict the demand. It is fairly easy to purchase their merchandise as long as you arrive there before noon.
Since there are a lot of characters in this show, go straight for the item that features your favorite character! It may get sold out if you leave it for last!
Sadly for Osomatsu fans, this is probably the show whose events turn every time into a battlefield full of of item-hungry fans ready for war.
Osomatsu collaboration projects with shops and restaurants are very frequent, but sometimes the events may not have any direct relation to the show. Recently they announced a spot sale event at a horse-racing stadium, and it became a huge buzz on twitter (In Japan, under-aged are not allowed to purchase a ticket to a horse-racing by law, and people discussed whether it should be considered fine for under-aged to go to the sight only to buy the merchandise.)
Due to unexpected demand, it is rare for a collaboration to successfully predict the number of visitors it will get. we hear a lot of complaints from dedicated NEET fans: ‘Can’t buy even with the first train’, ‘Their drawing lots have too many blanks’.
Many of their merchandise is very cute, and both male and female fans are all prepared to fight ‘the item war’ when it comes to Osomatsu-san items.
The fans are known to be especially fond of the series’ SD (deformed characters) merchandise. Their popularity peaked during the second season and now it’s relatively calm, but you must take the first train if you plan to go on the first day of the events. If you can wait a few days, however, the company resupplies and sell the items right away.
The problem lies with all the limited items sold at Comike which are sold out right away. You need to check the events beforehand!
The series holds collaboration projects regularly, so if you like this show check out their event schedule!
Limited Item Mania
Otaku fans love limited edition merchandise. It’s the proof of their dedication and love for a particular show or character and they work hard to obtain them. Especially when it comes to merchandise for the anime shows targeting women, female fans find it natural to take the very first train for to events of their favorite shows.
Manga.Tokyo is going to return with more articles introducing different genre shows, entry guides to big events, and tips to getting your favorite items! We are going to make you a Limited Edition Master Buyer!
I'm a good-for-nothing otaku who works as a freelance web writer.
I live in Kyoto, Japan, but I am so often in Tokyo for anime-related cafes and products that people frequently misunderstood that I live there. Yowamushi Pedal helps me overcome all difficulties. I'm also a huge fan of Touken Ranbu! In order to deliver to you the latest otaku info and trends, I'll keep dwelling in the 2-D world. Thank you very much!