And the answer is me!
Wait, that’s not the whole post. I do actually have something I want to talk about. I think. Let’s hope I manage to get my thoughts together. Let’s start at the beginning. I follow a bunch of Nyanko Twitter accounts because of course I do. These accounts are in Japanese and often advertise events I can’t attend. The other day, one of these accounts tweeted out a picture of a series of perfume bottles with Nyanko sensei on them and I immediately knew I wanted one. I’m a pretty easy customer.
Unfortunately, an internet search for Natsume Yuujinchou or Nyanko perfume only lead me to pages that were no longer selling them. But I also got redirected to a series of potentially newly released Tokyo Revengers perfumes. I actually think these bottles look really good and if I figure out how to buy one, I will!
A bit more research into the subject and I found out that perfumes are a somewhat unusual but not rare merchandise tie-in for anime with many popular series getting their own range. And I just have to ask…why?
Now, I’m a sucker and I do want one of these perfumes. I’m going to buy one if I can find one I like. But I shouldn’t. Or rather, these perfumes are sort of baffling from both a promoter and consumer point of view.
The fact is, if you slap a bunch of anime characters on a bottle, it’s most likely going to look childish. At the very least, it’s not going to have the appeal of expensive perfume or anything. But there is obviously an attempt at making these products look more, for lack of a better word, legitimate.
Let’s take a look at the Tokyo Revengers perfumes.
Look at that. Those clean lines on the bottle. The eye-catching stomper. The slight tint to the perfume itself and of course the understated yet bold label. It’s meant to look like a chick bottle of perfume. And it does, I want one… But the thing is, if someone came over to my place and saw this in my bathroom, they probably would never think it was a Tokyo revenger perfume unless they had specifically seen the product before. I mean even if they had seen the show it probably wouldn’t click. In all probability, they would be left wondering why I have a bottle of perfume with a swastika on it…
For the record, this bottle is a standard for anime series perfumes and you will find many similar ones from different shows.
There’s nothing wrong with subtle merchandising. My favourite type of anime products are the ones where unless you’ve seen the show, you can’t tell it’s merch at all. But this seems so unrelated to the series that it almost makes me wonder why put the Tokyo Revenger name on it at all?
The way I see it, anime merchandise, and just generally fandom merchandise, goes into one of three categories. It makes sense with the story. Hajime no Ippo boxing boots, of course, brilliant! Food War chopsticks, sure. Naruto-themed ramen bowls. Bring it on. The merchandise is expanding on the canon of the story itself and therefore owning a piece of it, makes you feel like you’re part of the story. That makes perfect sense. For the people who design and produce this merchandise, it has a lot of artistic merits. It is another way of telling the story. And when it’s a quality product that’s not too obvious, I find it very difficult to resist.
The second and most common type is the advertising type. T-shirts, hoodies, pins or stickers with the logo or characters on them. It’s something you may or may not find aesthetically attractive but even if you don’t, it is a direct way to tell the world, I like this show. It broadcasts your tastes and identifies you as part of a fandom. And this is great for the producers as well. People are paying YOU to advertise your show! That’s a dream come true.
Although I can’t quite explain the impulse of becoming a free billboard for the entertainment we enjoy, I can’t deny it exists. I don’t like very obvious merch but I still go out of my way to get t-shirts from my favourite shows. And my computer bag is covered in pins.
The third and most unusual type of merchandise is what I like to call authoritative passion. I don’t know that I have a real-world example for anime but it does happen in other fandoms a lot. As an imaginary example, let’s say Eiichiro Oda also happened to be a die-hard fan of table tennis. Like outside of his love of manga, what he really loves is ping pong. He watches tournaments all the time, he has favourite players and part of him still wishes he could have become a professional table tennis player. And so they put out a series of limited edition One Piece ping pong paddles.
For a lot of fans, this product may not make any sense. They probably don’t expect to sell much of them. But it makes the author happy and he has gained enough popularity to go after pipe dreams. He probably will be more motivated by this project than other merch drops and put a lot more personal attention into it because it’s a passion. As such, the few people who also happen to love table tennis and One Piece will consider this product to be an absolute must and probably be willing to pay a larger price. And the other fans will still probably admire an artist following their dreams, as such it won’t muddy the brand. I also really like these types of products but I understand why they are rare. From what I know, manga artists barely have time to sleep, let alone have passions other than their manga!
But you see, anime perfumes don’t fall into any of those categories. There are very few anime that I have seen where smell has any part in the story, and if it’s even mentioned, usually it’s a bad smell. If it was a tie-in with a show about a perfumier, then I get it. Side note, I would 100% watch an anime about perfume making. Maybe a perfume tie-in with an omegaverse doujin – if you know, you know. But that’s not the case. When does perfume have a narrative role in AOT?
Similarly, they aren’t great for advertising. Let’s face it, no one is going to tell you’re a demon Slayer fan by your cologne. They’re just not. And the bottle likely stays in your bathroom so no one is going to see it. If you’re brave and don’t mind running the risk of it spilling all over your stuff, maybe you carry it around in your bag. But even then, it’s really tough to casually bring out a perfume bottle in the middle of a conversation. So forget the advertising aspect.
And I’m sorry, you are just not going to convince me that the vast majority of manga authors with popular franchises are also passionate about perfume. You’re just not. I don’t believe you. Perfume is a very specific product. Crafting an aroma is something that can’t really be compared to a lot of other activities. I might believe that all manga artists also love photography or even that they are all big foodies. Sure. But they are not all perfume otakus.
I’m not basing this on anything. It’s just an assumption but until I’m proven wrong, I will not budge from this hill!
So who is making all these anime perfumes…and why. It’s not like there’s a huge demand for it. There’s no general consensus that anime fans also love perfume. It’s a weird product. In fact, the most likely explanation is that these are just a bunch of cheap sents that cost pennies to manufacture and then slap an anime label on them and sell them for 10x the price. I’m not even sure any of these are officially licensed but even if they are, it seems like a particularly soulless cash grab. On top of it all, it’s a product fans are not likely to find that much use out of, so it’s wasteful.
And I still totally want one. Maybe two. What’s wrong with me? Wait don’t answer that…