Tour the Swag of AnimeJapan 2016

by Ken Iikura-Gross,

As anime and manga fans from around the world gather at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center for the annual Anime Japan fair (March 26 to March 27, 2016), it begs the question of what sort of merchandise fans are looking to purchase here. With over 100 vendors and exhibition booths ranging from anime production companies, card game developers, manga publishing companies, and toy manufacturers among others, the selection of merchandise at the fair was nearly limitless. While some of the items on display are already available to the general public, or will be available in the coming months, many other items were limited to the event. On top of that, certain vendors throughout the Main Exhibition halls were giving away promotional goods for free (or if attendees posted about the vendor's franchise on social media.)

Of all the anime and manga seen at Anime Japan this year, the 2015 anime remake of Fujio Akatsuka's manga series Osomatsu-san was the most prolific sight. As one of the most popular anime series of late 2015, it's no wonder that so many exhibitors wanted to bring merchandise related to the series to the fair. Among the companies selling Osomatsu-san products were the novelty item producer Aquamarine, the music label AOP, the online vendors A3 Market and Gate, and the anime production company Pierrot. While each Osomatsu-san item was unique in its own right, the plush toys on display at the AOP booth and the coffee mugs near the Tsukuri booth were the most memorable. However, the toy manufacturer Banpresto had Osomatsu-san products on display that fans could start purchasing on March 26 through Banpresto's Ichiban-kuji lottery brand at select stores.

With the Winter 2016 anime season coming to an end, three exhibitors (Banpresto, Statelight, and Bandai Namco Visual and Music Production group) were previewing items for one of the most anticipated Spring 2016 anime: Macross Delta. Many of Bandai's subsidiaries, such as Banpresto, had Macross Delta figures displayed at their booths, but the most alluring available item was the exclusive promotional clear file of the series. Unfortunately, you had to collect three different stamps from the three booths listed above to get it. This was a nice little item for fans of the Macross franchise to store important documents, so many attendees were looking to complete the stamp rally.

Anime idol groups such as Love Live!, The Idolmaster, and Hatsune Miku had their share of items on display as well. For the most part, those products were figures, but key chains, pillows, plush toys, albums, and other merchandise was available as well. Bushiroad was also promoting their new Love Live! card game, released on March 18, so there was a variety of merchandise available for idol fans. Unfortunately for The Idolmaster and Hatsune Miku fans, Love Live! won the competition for most products on sale at the fair.

One of the largest draws to Anime Japan this year were the multiple Gachapon machines dotted about the Main Exhibition halls. The most prominent were the Anime Japan Gachapon machines located in East Exhibition Hall 4. There were rows of the machines filled with limited edition pin badges, waiting to be collected by eager fans. Unfortunately, the machines were constantly jammed or in need of re-stocking, and in the worst cases outright broken. It was disappointing how many machines were sold-out by the end of the fair's first day. So if you wanted to try your luck at all the Anime Japan Gachapon machines this year, you had to get there early.

Although figures, clear files, and pin badges were fun little items to collect while attending the fair, there were also apparel, accessories, and cosplay items available. The largest vendor was certainly the cosplay design and distribution company, Cospa. There were a number of fashionable items being sold there, but the crown jewel at the booth was the chance for attendees to win either a limited edition Asuka Langley (Neon Genesis Evangelion) or Ruri Hoshino (Martian Successor Nadesico) jacket. However, raffle entry required purchasing at least 3,000 Yen worth of merchandise at the Cospa booth. There was also a wonderful display of items from the curtain and bedspread manufacture Curtain Damshii. For attendees who want to be wrapped in sheets and blankets with their favorite characters printed on them, or see their favorite characters when they draw their curtains, this was the booth to visit. But the best apparel distributor for attendees with something more sexy in mind was the Super Groupies booth, selling lingerie. At the same time, it boggles the mind that lingerie was being sold at a family friendly fair.

The most impressive and expensive items on display were definitely at the Premium Collaboration space in East Exhibition Hall 4. These included hand mirrors, rice bowls, a sake gourd and cup, and the pièce de résistance, two wooden umbrellas. All the items in the Premium Collaboration area were handcrafted using traditional Japanese techniques, with a beauty unparalleled to anything else seen at the fair. However, these weren't the only expensive items on display. While other high-priced items included jewelry and watches, the Black Butler Sharp RX-CLV2-B Cocorobo Robotic Vacuum Cleaner was the biggest standout.

Sony Corporation had some wonderful items on display at both their main booth and the Playstation booth. While Sony's main exhibition booth only showcased their audio and mobile video devices, the main attraction was their new virtual reality headset, the Playstation VR for PS4 at the Playstation booth. Anime News Network contributor Mike Toole had a chance to demo the Playstation VR headset, and his instant feedback was positive. Hopefully, Sony will have the headset ready for market by the scheduled release date of October 2016.

There were several vendors accommodating niche markets. These ranged from unique items such as a full set of Yukimura Sanada's armor from the historical fictional drama Sanada Maru, to animation cels from lesser-known or older anime titles. Bushiroad was promoting their newly released Love Live! card game, but they also had a sample of cards from their Luck and Logic franchise as well. Their My Hero Academia exhibition previewed the upcoming My Hero Academia card game, and it was a good opportunity to learn the rules of the game before its release on April 23. Two penlight distributors could also be found in the Main Exhibition halls, for those who want to show their devotion to their favorite idols. One of the staff members at the Lumica Light booth was kind enough to pose for a photograph. Among the smaller anime production companies at the fair was director Mamoru Hosoda's production company, Studio Chizu. The plush toys and figures for sale at the Studio Chizu booth were definitely enticing for fans of Mamoru Hosoda's works. Clearly the planners of Anime Japan had the foresight to serve niche communities, so it would take an eternity to comment on each vendor. To put it simply though, they were all well worth the price of entry, and I'm sure every fan can find something alluring in the following gallery.

However, the most sought-after items at Anime Japan weren't the products on sale. Sure, a fair amount of merchandise sold out quickly, but the promotional giveaways and limited amenities were another story. These included large travel bags, promotional playing cards, clear files, line art from anime series, and the Haikyu 2016-2017 calendar from the Toho Animation booth. While many of the booths were handing out promotional goods freely, because of the limited quantity available, only the first few hundred attendees could receive them. A number of exhibition booths also had stamp rallies similar to the Macross Delta one, which only the most dedicated and patient attendees could manage to complete. Some vendors asked patrons to use Twitter or Instagram to spread the word about upcoming products, series, or events before giving away promotional goods. Other vendors adopted this method to enter attendees into a raffle. The grand prizes in these raffles were great collector's items, so dedicated fans wouldn't want to let the opportunity slip through their fingers.

When all was said and done, about 75% of the exhibitors at Anime Japan this year were selling merchandise. Taking the long lines into account, it was nearly impossible to purchase items from every vendor. I'm sure some attendees tried, but it would take both days of the fair to accomplish the task. Even if you couldn't buy something at the fair, you could always appreciate any photographs of merchandise on the different vendor billboards. Granted, it's not the same as owning the item you wanted, but for some a picture may be good enough.

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