I was about to call this post “anime bating” then I realized that sounded way to serious and important for what I had in mind. Instead I went the light novel route. I’m not sure it works either. I hope I figure out the secret of the perfect post title some day…
You can blame this post on Colourpop…
For the record I’m one of those very odd people that watches YouTube videos about how to put makeup on and even reads the odd make-up article, while very regularly forgetting to put any makeup on at all. I own a handful of products, have given up on finding a lipstick I will not compulsively wipe off within a minute and think that applying foundation all over your face without it looking like clown make-up straight up requires magic. Don’t even get me started on false lashes. As you can imagine, I do not own much make-up. I have a few staples and really have no need for anything else.
But I still watch a ton of people talk about makeup and tell me I should buy more. Not sure why I do that. And that’s how I found out about this here Sailor Moon themed Colourpop collection and I want it. Except I don’t. Not really. It’s an eye shadow palette with some real bright colours, a couple of blushes, lip kits and body glitter. Out of which I only ever wear eye shadow and only in neutrals or red. (It’s a long story that has something to do with Darling and the Franxx). Basically I would get exactly zero use out of any of those products. But I still kind of want them.
Sure part of it is nostalgia as Sailor Moon was an important part of my youth. But part of it is just cause it’s vaguely anime themed. I know this because it’s happened before. See I’ve wanted this “manga” palette since I discovered it’s existence and that’s not related to any actual anime. And again it’s a product I have no use for! I have considered crossing borders to get to a hot topic for some sweet anime apparel and they mostly feature shows I’m relatively indifferent to.
Don’t get me wrong, I could just order merch from Japan, pay quadruple the price in shipping fees and wait three months for a shirt that *might* fit me but something in this process takes the fun out of it. So anytime there’s an anime themed product that’s a bit more easily accessible, I go nuts. And then I feel awkward.
Also, I went to a con not that long ago. I’m a rather small human. They didn’t have a single shirt in my size. Not one in the entire place. Why are all anime shirts extra large “unisex” in stiff material. It literally looks like a tent on me. And it’s uncomfortable and in the way because it doesn’t hang down and just stiffly sticks out. There were a ton of people there roughly my size or just a little bigger. Definitely not big enough for those shirts. And unisex is clearly not for anyone with a reasonable chest or a small waist. Or that are 5 feet tall. Ok, rant over. It’s just so sad how many ill fitting anime shirts I own. Buying anime shorts that don’t in fact fit me is such a weird hobby of mine…
That was a really long rant. I guess it bothers me more than I realized.
I also know that there are stores like To public or Red Bubble that have a lot of anime stuff. I do have a few t shirts and a mug from there. The problem here is that I haven’t looked into them enough but from what I gather, these are completely unlicensed items. Like Etsy. It’s independent “artists” and the profits are split between them and the platform. Nothing goes back to the anime industry at all. It’s not a deal breaker for me but I do prefer official merchandise once in a while.
This is also part of the reasons anime collaborations with established brands are just a bit more attractive. I assume all the due diligence was done and everyone got paid. Not to mention that it shows that there is a commercial interest in anime on an international basis beyond simple streaming and at the end of the day, a product that sells is always better regarded.
It kind of sounds like I know exactly how to feel about anime in advertising. All for it.. And in principal I am except….
O.k., this may really be all in my head. Or maybe I’m a dirty horrible gatekeeper or something. But there was just something so, I don’t know, joyless about the Colourpop launch. I watched YouTube “influencer” after YouTube influencer gush about how adorable the packaging i8s (and it is! this pictures change!!!) without knowing the names of the characters. This was a pretty popular show. I imagine these are not necessarily people who watch a lot of anime… I read the promotional material. It’s cute. But I never really saw myself in it. By this I mean that somehow it didn’t felt like it was for actual anime fans or like anyone involved was an anime fan…
Oh my…I am a dirty rotten gatekeeper. Like that’s any different from any other collaboration out there and I’m a consumer. I want more.
You know as I write this, like at this very moment, I think I’m coming to a realization. What’s irking me isn’t the commercialization, it’s this bait and switch that I perceive. You see I’m not just an anime fan, I’m an anime nerd. I like to discuss animation techniques, analyze classic anime tropes, try to find trends in narratives or characters. I’m not super skilled at it but I do enjoy it. And I enjoy it so much more when it’s in the form of a discussion or even a debate. I can push my thoughts so much further when there’s a back and forth.
So when I see someone casually wearing an anime t-shirt or pin or getting excited about Sailor Moon make up, I get all psyched that I found someone to have those discussions with. And when they look at me like I’m crazy or tell me they’ve only seen one anime or bought the t-shirt cause the girl on it was hot… it’s a let down.
By the way it’s perfectly fine if you’ve only seen one anime or buy merch just because a character’s hot. More than fine, there’s no issue with it at all. In fact I think more people should watch an anime and have hot boy figurines on their desks at work just cause they’re hot….
The only possible issue is entirely in my head. I just imagined a scenario and got disappointed when it didn’t magically come to pass. I think part of my complicated relationship with mass commercialization of anime is just that. Finding out somebody bought a Sailor Moon eye shadow palette because they really liked the eye shadows is just something that sounds inherently odd to me (it’s perfectly normal) and I have to adjust to that reality.
Do you like when big brands do anime collaborations seemingly out of the blue? Do you buy them? Do you prefer unlicensed goods? Maybe you stick to only official merchandise and shell out the big bucks? Let me know.
20 thoughts on “I Don’t Know How to Feel About the Use of Anime in Advertising”
I always found the anime advertisements to range from MEH, to I can’t believe they did that, and finally the WTF ones. For example there is an anime promo for an industrial laser. I also undestand where you’re coming from in regards to crappy anime products as I’m not interested in many of those.
There’s also a cultural divide. Up until just a few years ago you couldn’t find any anime branded merchandise around here at all. Even now, it’s very rare.
I’m neither organized nor dedicated enough to go one route over the other based upon principle alone–if I see it and I want it, I’ll try to get it. (But to be fair, this attitude extends far beyond anime and its merch, so. . .)
well that’s probably the healthy way to go
I have a similar thing happen a lot with music. You know how many times I’ve seen someone wearing a cool t-shirt for Pink Floyd or another band I like, and wanted to start talking to them about it, only for it to turn out they’ve never even heard of the band and just bought it cause they liked the design and wanted to be edgy or something? It’s more than zero, I’ll tell you that!
It’s just a little sad, isn’t it?
I know exactly what you mean! I feel that, especially when really big brands do some kind of specific anime promo, it’s not because anyone at the top is genuinely passionate about said show, but just because someone thought it would be an easy cash grab – and that feels disingenuous and soulless to me. It doesn’t make me mad or anything – I know businesses are by their very nature designed to make money, so they’re just doing their job – but it’s definitely not likely to make me want to buy whatever product in question, even when it’s related to an anime show that I personally like.
It’s an odd situation to be in. I want to support the IP but I also am a little off put by the practice
Take the oversize tshirt, wash it a few times. Then take it in around the waist and you could have a cotton dress.
I could, and should. It would be a rather modest dress too…
I don’t have any merchandise, and I pretty much only wear simple sweaters and T-shirts, almost never anything with an imprint of any kind. I’m pretty much impervious to most advertisments. But… the Bump of Chicken/Rie Matsumoto advertisment for Lotte chocolates has left me curious. (It doesn’t take much to get me curious about chocolate to begin with, but that add was gorgeous.)
I looked it up – it is gorgeous!
I understand how you feel, seeing someone use something with a character or property you like but knowing they aren’t into that in the same way. Though the marketing I see usually doesn’t involve anime stylings at all. The closest I can remember is when Toyota and Domino’s (I think) paired with Sega to bring in Hatsune Miku as a guest mascot. That certainly didn’t catch on too much.
Honestly, though, I still believe American marketing firms are missing out on an entire segment of consumers. I don’t give a damn what kind of soda or whatever some Hollywood celebrity drinks in an ad, but put it in the hands of a hot anime girl and we’re talking. They need to think more two-dimensionally.
Honestly, can’t say I pay much attention to ads nor other people’s life decisions so generally I think it’s just fun to come across an anime commercial of a brand I know irl every once in a while. I have no real opinion on the matter since I don’t interact all that much with others who I’m not already familiar with after all.
With regards to licensed or unlicensed, all my t-shirts are licensed t-shirts I believe. That’s only because I’m fortunate enough to live in Singapore where whenever there is an Anime Movie Fan Screening brought by ODEX, they usually include a t-shirt along with other merch (though that makes the ticket prices anywhere from S$30-60)
At the same time, Anime Festival Asia that is held in Singapore every year always has a big ODEX booth where I can find tons of anime t-shirts (though expensive S$25-50). As a result, I own a ton of anime t-shirts from varying anime.
I live in a bit of an anime wasteland
I think it’s okay and perfectly natural to raise an eyebrow when someone sees something you feel passionate about and boils it down to simplistic terms — and not always in the most complimentary manner, either.
What makes the difference between an understandable reaction and “gatekeeping” is how you react to that. So long as you’re not raging and hurling abuse at a million and one blonde-haired, smooth-skinned YouTubers all talking about how “you guys” will find this “so cute!!!!” (my wife also watches a lot of make-up videos) then I think you’re perfectly within your rights to think “Hmm”.
Ultimately the existence of these products isn’t really hurting anyone, so if I see anything like this I tend to just shrug and move on. (That said, it was seeing Darth Vader tissues in my local Boots that convinced me I finally wasn’t on board with Star Wars any more… so maybe I do have some deep-seated issues of some sort here.)
I do have similar feelings to you about Redbubble and the like, though; the fact that some people just copy and paste stuff they got from Google Image Search or screencaps and then sell it as their own is more than a little shady. (Obviously I’m not including the people who genuinely do their own artwork in this — and I’d even argue fanart of something established is morally acceptable if it’s recognisably the artist’s own style rather than simply aping the original.)
We can argue copyright for a while… Also being blonde and using you guys regularly I suddenly realize Im a stereotype
teehee. Until you start posting 45-minute videos of you slapping goop on your face while talking about your latest Wish.com haul, I think you’re all good 🙂