Hunting for Limited Edition Anime Swag in Japan

by Ken Iikura-Gross,

There are two Japanese phrases that describe serious Japanese collectors rather well. Roughly translated they're “Japanese people can't resist the words ‘limited edition’” and “Always buy sets of three. One to enjoy, one to display, and one to store away.” As a collector of manga I personally don't subscribe to either philosophy, but the allure behind these statements is understandable. Limited edition material can be difficult to find once they're out of print and while used copies usually aren't that expensive, most collectors would rather have new copies. This means collectors of limited edition anime and manga have to purchase the manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays as quickly as possible when they're released. While this may not seem like a difficult task at first, this can be an arduous process when taking into consideration the exclusives, perks, and other gifts that come with purchasing limited edition manga, DVD's, and Blu-ray's. Added on top of this we have to factor in limited screenings of original video anime (OVA) and anime films in theaters, as they, too, come with exclusives for viewers.

In all honesty, it isn't that difficult to purchase limited edition anime and manga in Japan. The sole reason for this is that limited edition material is often produced in bulk. This is less true for anime DVDs and Blu-rays, but retailers carry enough stock of the material for fans and collectors. As such, anime and manga fans don't have to invest too much time or effort purchasing the material. In fact, if you really wanted to, you could go to one of the numerous on-line retailers at this very moment and purchase a brand new copy of the limited edition twelfth volume Attack on Titan manga, which was released on December 9, 2013, at the original retail price. This is even true with less popular anime and manga titles. Even if collectors avoid on-line retailers they could simply go to a physical retailer and place a pre-order for the material. Additionally, it's possible to buy discounted new copies of limited edition manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays because retailers need to liquidate stock of material that has exceeded its shelf life. I've seen this happen with a few of the limited edition To Love-ru and Minami-ke manga volumes along with the limited edition Detroit Metal City live-action film DVD. It isn't all that surprising with those three titles because the extra content in each wasn't all that enticing. In this regard, buying limited edition manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays in Japan isn't too difficult.

The difficulty of collecting limited edition anime and manga in Japan arises when exclusives, perks, and other gifts are added to the purchase of the material. Retailers often include exclusives only offered by their store when purchasing limited edition manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays making the process much more complicated. For the most part, only three or four retailers offer exclusives, but there have been cases were nine or more hand out something to customers. Although one might think these exclusives would be grand, they're generally mass-produced signed autograph boards with characters from the work printed on it. To non-collectors, it's ludicrous spending more than is needed for the exclusives of different retailers, but there's a mystique about it. That mystique revolves around the necessity of completing a set - collectors are prone to this. It's partially why they collect, but also because they love the material just that much. Thus, what could be a $40 purchase can crawl up towards the $200 range. For example, purchasing the fifteenth volume limited edition To Love-ru Darkness manga from Animate, which is one of the largest retailers of anime, manga, and related merchandise in Japan, came with a card of the character Golden Darkness. In turn, other retailers didn't include an amenity or weren't carrying the limited edition volume to begin with.

The fifteenth volume of the To Love-ru Darkness manga is a wonderful example of a specific retailer offering an amenity with a limited edition product; it perfectly illustrates the decisions fervent collectors of anime and manga in Japan have to make. After all, not every collector has an immense amount of disposable income and weighing the benefits of purchasing a limited edition copy of any anime or manga title with an amenity can be nerve-racking. While I've never had to choose between different retailer exclusives, there were times I had to decide whether or not to purchase a limited edition or standard edition manga or DVD. The three that standout the most were the twenty-seventh volume limited edition Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei manga, the thirteenth volume limited edition Minami-ke manga, and limited edition The Last: Naruto the Movie DVD. Granted, I gave in to purchasing the last two, yet my decision came down to if I wanted the extra content or not. However, if I were a dedicated collector the question wouldn't have been do I want the limited editions or not, but rather how many copies of each I wanted, which retailer I should purchase them from, what sort of exclusives came with each different version, and if I had the funds. This is where collecting anime and manga in Japan becomes demanding and requires a great deal of mental fortitude. [DVD2.jpeg]

A collector's determination is certainly pushed by all these retailer exclusives, but the true test of patience comes from collecting the perks from watching anime films or limited screenings of OVAs in theaters. Undoubtedly, the most famous perk from an anime film is the rare Pokémon card that comes with a viewing of a new Pokémon film. But this isn't unique to Pokemon – many Japanese theaters use an assortment of gifts to entice viewers. Like with manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays the perks are generally signed autograph boards with characters from the work printed on it. However, there have been instances where theaters give away clear files, trading cards, books, post cards, stickers, slices of film reel, and on the rare occasion DVDs, mock newspapers, portraits, and line art of the film. This isn't even taking into consideration what collectors receive when they buy advanced tickets to anime films or OVA screenings. I've amassed a fair amount of these items over the years and I don't think about the perks when viewing an anime film or OVA because I don't actively collect them. But, a conversation with a good friend of mine puts into perspective how Japanese collectors view the exclusives, perks, and gifts given to theater patrons.

Simply put, we were discussing when we'd watch the film Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Side of Dimensions because of the limited edition cards handed out before each screening. While I haven't played the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game let alone collected the cards in well over a decade, my friend still pursued the hobby. But he only wanted to see the film once. This made him ponder his decision very carefully because different cards were being handed out during the first four weeks the film was in theaters—though it seemed as though my friend was leaning towards the week of May 7 to May 13, 2016 for the Lemon Magician Girl card. However, enthusiastic collectors of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game wouldn't hesitate watching the film multiple times to receive duplicates or even triplicates of the cards. I couldn't fathom watching the same film twice in a month, but three times a week would wear away at my psyche. For serious collectors this wouldn't be an issue in the least because the movie going experience isn't all about watching the film, but also includes receiving the perk. In this regard, Japanese collectors have to make conscious choices about how many times they want to see an anime film or limited screening of an OVA in theaters.

It's true that buying physical copies of limited edition manga, DVDs, and Blu-rays isn't that difficult in Japan. In fact, it's beyond easy thanks to on-line retailers. Collecting the material becomes difficult is choosing between the exclusives, perks, and other gifts from different retailers. But again, many Japanese retailers carry similar exclusives with limited edition manga, DVDs and Blu-rays. Thus, rarely does this become an issue for devoted collectors. In turn, finding promotional material for anime films and limited screenings of OVAs is far more challenging as not every theater carries every anime film or OVA. As such, Japanese anime and manga collectors often have to go out of their way to find these exclusives, perks, and gifts. It's not an ideal system by any means, but that's the nature of collecting limited edition merchandise. However, this is just the surface of colleting limited edition material related to anime and manga in Japan. The quagmire of industries surrounding the anime and manga industries isn't vast, but when you consider their scope, the task of collecting becomes daunting. So, while collecting limited edition anime and manga may be frustrating at times, the rewards can be satisfying so long as you focus on one type of media. Happy hunting!

discuss this in the forum (42 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

Feature homepage / archives