Friday, October 14, 2011

Anime Self Promotion in the 21st Century

Anime has certainly changed a lot since 1979, when I encountered Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato, the first animated series from Japan awesome enough to actually have stories that were resolved, with characters who did cool stuff like falling in love and dying. The industry has moved through several phases since then, including the the period of "proving" when Akira and Robotech/Macross established that widespread interest in the genre existed, followed by the wild growth phase of the 90s, when content creators could reap huge profits selling the broadcast and DVD rights for shows that had already recovered their investments. The last decade has been harder on anime, what with the rise of the Internet and maturation of the market, and fans no longer spend $600 for a box of laser disks for a single series. (Yes, we actually used to do this.) Anime studios have had to come up with innovative ways to make profits, including new ways to tie the characters we love to different products. This is why you suddenly see product placement for Pizza Hut or Family Mart cropping up in anime, and why you can buy limited edition K-On! Christmas Cakes at Lawson. Some might lament anime studios "selling out," but I support any efforts that helps the medium I love flourish in the future.

Anime has gotten good at marketing itself, which is an important thing.

British English in Japan, including...Pantsu!

One of the themes of being an American expat in Japan is discovering how much the country has taken various cues from Britain. It starts out with cars, getting used to "strange" car-related words like bonnet (the hood of a car), tank lorry (a tanker truck), or Toyota Super Saloon, a car with a name that makes Americans think of the Old West until they learn that saloon is just the British word for sedan. Americans might make a visit to the bathroom or the restroom, but in England (I'm told) they are more likely to use the word "toilet," which is the same in Japan -- and I've gotten some funny looks in stores in the States asking the cashier where the "toilet" was. Then there are clothing-related words that the Japanese imported from Britain, like a sweatshirt or sweater being called a "jumper," and of course the infamous word "pants," which refers to trousers, jeans or slacks in the U.S. but underwear in Britain and Japan. This explains fandom's obsession with the word pantsu.

The legendary flying pantsu from Heaven's Lost Property, if you've not seen it.

Anime Character Types: Boke and Tsukkomi

When anime and manga creators go to make a new character, they have a lot of basic personality types to to work from. They could make a new female character a mukuchi-chara or "silent girl" who almost never talks, or a dojikko who's clumsy in a way that makes her charming, or perhaps a twin-tail childhood friend in a wheelchair who works as a blind robot maid and who's secretly the ghost of a fox-spirit. Two other classic anime character types are boke 惚け and tsukkomi 突っ込み, literally meaning "dull-witted" and "thrusting in with a witty comment" and often referred to in English as "straight man and wise guy." There are many examples of these characters in anime, but my favorite would have to be Mai and Yuko from Nichijou. Mai always seems out of it, yet no matter how often Yuko tries to get the best of her, Mai always wins in the end. Unfortunately for me, I am quite a boke chara in my own family, and my son is all too happy to verbally smite me with witty comebacks, Kagami-style.
So, what kind of chara are you, in anime terms?

Yuko and Mai are my favorite boke and tsukkomi characters.

Good Things are Happening at J-List

First of all, we've got a surprise for you today: a massive refresh of the J-List and websites, to commemorate our 15th year of selling interesting Pocky, "Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend" T-shirts and other fun items from Japan. Virtually every part of the site has been refreshed, including the product and category pages, and the wishlist feature is also greatly improved. (We're still tweaking the updated layout, so if you notice anything odd, please let us know!)
Just are reminder that this month is J-List's 15th anniversary, but we're giving you the present. To celebrate a decade and a half of serving the most awesome customers in the world, we're giving you something special for buying cool stuff from us. For every $100 you spend, we'll send you a coupon for $5 off your next purchase. So you have an awesome excuse to fill your cart up with stuff now! (Plus you can enjoy browsing the new J-List site design.)
After anime conventions, Halloween is our favorite time of year when it comes to selling fun anime cosplay products from Japan. We've got dozens of items from cat girl ears and paws to those stylish Plugsuit-inspired Evangelion costumes to the world's best selection of shimapan (naturally). Click here to view the top anime cosplay products from Japan!

Cool Products Friday, October 14, 2011

Here are today's "really cool products" that I've picked out for you, out of the 30+ new items we've added to the J-List and sites today. Note that some products may be "not safe for work" but that all links will allow you to redirect yourself either to the J-List or websites. To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the updated products link.
Comptiq Nov 2011
Hatsune Miku fans will want to pick up this very special issue of Comptiq, for inside as a special omake you get a DVD of her live concert. The magazine is overflowing with great moe moe art and information. Comptiq is one of our favorite magazines for its high quality and awesome moe content -- grab it now!
View products »
Cutie Oct 2011
Cutie Oct 2011 Keep on top of all the fashion trends of the young and stylish girls in Japan with another great issue of Cutie.
Fuwa Fuwa Panda Poncho  White
Fuwa Fuwa Panda Poncho ~ White, Black Make this winter more... kawaii with this fluffy, super soft poncho with a hood that will make you look like a panda.
Neko Mimi Cat Ear and Tails set  Black
Neko Mimi Cat Ears, Striped Knee Socks Make your costume complete, or just play around the house, as a kawaii cat girl with this awesome cosplay accessory set.
Stripe Panty -- Shimapan PINK  size 5L
Shimapan ~ Striped Panties Restocked The holy grail of anime cosplay are shimapan, worn by the cutest anime girls. See pink (Kagami, Kirino) and blue (Mio, Lucchini) in today.
Self Photographed Cosplayer  Jigadori Cosplayer
You know what's cool? Gorgeous female cosplayers taking photographs of themselves, that's what. Here's a great glossy photobook featuring the cutest 'Layers (what the best cosplayers call themselves), looking very kawaii! Every page is satisfying to gaze at, and it's also great for cosplay fan looking for ideas.
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Choen Bako  Monkey Coin Bank (Japanese monkey ver.)
Choen Bako ~ Monkey Coin Bank The latest wacky Japanese coin bank series is a monkey and a gorilla who "eat" your money for you and keep it safe. Awesome!
Moppets -- Cute Dog Cleaner  Corgi
Kawaii Plush Toys Want to Clean your Computer Screen Also, we've gotten in fresh stock of the popular cute dog plush toys that clean your gadgets for you. Corgi, Chihuahua, and Golden Retriever.
WASHI SAKURA Rabbit Handy Schedule Book  2012
WASHI SAKURA Rabbit Handy Schedule Book ~ 2012 A very cool schedule book for the new year, featuring the designs of usagi (rabbits) and sakura (cherry blossoms).
Hello Kitty to Issho! Mini Dakimakura  RIO (by KEI)
Random Hello Kitty Products Restocked Check out our awesome selection of Hello Kitty items, like these trainer chopsticks plus the gorgeous "Always With Hello Kitty" hug pillows.
Japanese T-Shirt -- SCIENCE! (Fitted Girl's Tee)
Sakamoto Nyan Girl's Fitted Tee Nyan Nyan. The cute anime cat, Sakamoto, is now available in a girl's fitted T-shirt, so everyone can own this great T-shirt.
My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute 4  Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 4 (Blu-ray Disc)
My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute Blu-ray We love the OreImo anime, and stock all the Blu-ray discs. You won't believe how good this looks in full 1080p. Compatible with North American players too.
Hetalia Character CD Complete Guide
Hetalia Character CG Complete Guide For Hetalia fans we've got fresh stock of the Character CD Complete Guide, which even comes with the sheet music to the character songs -- awesome.
Totoro Wooden Music Box
Wonderful Totoro Products See some great My Neighbor Totoro music boxes restocked, as well as the awesome Totoro "Gamaguchi" coin purses for carrying your money.
Totoro 2-tier Bento Box  Totoro in Flower Garden
Fun Anime Bento Restocked We live to sell as many Totoro bento boxes as we can, and today we've restocked several popular designs. Totoro makes bento taste delicious.
Taiyaki Punyo Punyo Strap Keychain
Taiyaki Punyo Punyo Strap Keychain Its something you shouldn't eat, since its a strap, but it looks so realistic -- like it was just taken out of the Taiyaki maker. A great objet d'art for anime fans.
Electric Mini Taiyaki Maker
Awesome Taiyaki Cookers, More Restocked And after looking at that Taiyaki strap, we're in the mood to make some of our own. Thankfully we've got the Taiyaki maker back in stock.
Microwave Waffle Maker
Microwave Waffle Maker Want to make waffles the fast, easy way? Make delicious petite waffles in your microwave with this kit from Japan. Just add the waffle mix.
Home Made Kawaii Donuts Mold w/ microwave
Other Microwave Products, Too Make doughnuts or "American dogs" (what a corn dog is known as in Japan) at home with these great products from Japan.
Meiji Petite Assort
We've got tons of great chocolates, snacks and candies, like this Meiji Petite chocolate assortment and Lotte Koala's March special winter milk flavor. You'll also find many other great treats inside, coming straight from Japan. It's fun to learn about Japan through its snack culture.
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Lotte Acuo Powder Mega Speed Blue
New 'Acuo' Haruhi Gum With a commercial featuring Haruhi, this is the official otaku gum, now with even more freshening power. (The TV commercial is funny, click to see).
Yamayoshi Wasa-Beef Potato Chips
Many Restocked Japanese Snacks We've got Wasa-Beef Wasabi Potato Chips and Black Black caffeine gum and candy, Rich Toppo baked stick snacks and elegant Sasha melted chocolates.
Blue Rabbit x Moon Bento Box Set  Square 2 tier Bento Box  Chopsticks  Bento Bag
Our Most Popular Bento Boxes Restocked Also, some of our most elegant traditional bento boxes are restocked, including the Blue Rabbit x Moon bento (both colors), the most popular bento we sell.
Lovely DECO Bento Set  Baran  Furikake Stencil  Food Shaper
Cool 'Deco Bento' Accessories "Deco" is short for "decoration," and beautiful is what you'll make the bento meals you prepare with the cute decoben gear we have in stock.
Kutsushita Nyanko Pen Pouch
Kawaii Japanese Pen & Pencil Cases Japan is home to the cutest and most outstanding pen and pencil cases. We've restocked some awesome new ones for you today.
Zebra 'Check Set'  Best for Memory Retention
Awesome Study Tools Restocked We have dozens of other great products to help you learn Japanese, from the Furo-Tan "study in the bath" flashcards and Zebra Check Set.
Black Bamboo TATEBUE  Traditional Bamboo Flute
Black Bamboo TATEBUE Flute Learn the traditional musical art of the tatebue (bamboo flute), a favorite musical instrument of samurai ronin.
Lying Lucky Cat Display    MANPUKU  ' Full of Happiness'
A Whole Bunch of Traditional Items And you'll notice that we've got a huge restocking of our traditional items too, from cute cats to lucky charms.
Ika-Musume Figma Action Figure **Preorder**
Ika-Musume Figma Action Figure *Preorder* Get ready to take home Ika Musume, the cutest squid girl on the beach, soon to be released into gorgeous Figma form. Preorder soon (de gosu).
Rider Figma Action Figure  Fate/stay night **Preorder**
Rider Figma ~ Fate/stay night *Preorder* I love the amazing figures from the Figma line, and here's another one to lust over: Rider from Fate/stay night. Available for order once again!
Shinobu Oshino 1/8 Figure  Bakemonogatari  **Preorder**
Shinobu Oshino 1/8 Scale *Preorder* From Bakemonogatari comes the adorable Shinobu, and in this figure she is enjoying a mountain of donuts and other pastries.
Puchitto Queen's Gate Set of 6 **Preorder**
Puchitto Queen's Gate Set of 6 *Preorder* Then, a really special item: a set of figures from the Queen's Gate series, which bridges Queen's Blade to the most famous girls from video games.
2012 Yulia Nova Calendar
2012 Yulia Nova Calendar Great news! We've gotten the 2012 Yulia Nova in stock, and it is beautiful. Printed on two glorious sheets, this is the perfect item for Yulia fans.
The Good Schoolgirl Days  Shojo Jidai
Gorgeous Photobooks Restocked Also, we have several stellar Japanese photobooks with absolutely beautiful models, many re-stocked and ready to send to you.
Maria the Scarlet Virgin II -- Maria Okazaki  Aria the Scarlet Ammo Bullet Parody Toy
A parody of the amazing anime Aria the Scarlet Ammo comes some amazing men's adult toys. Whether you're a fan of the sassy tsundere Aria or the pure and devoted sweetness of Shirayuki, you will love this relistic new series.
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Love Body Mini
Love Body Mini This mini sized adult toy is perfect for traveling or those who want to have one handy, but in a secret location. A very popular J-List product.
Bakujiri Musou -- Extreme Impact  Samurai Girls Parody Toy
Anime Parody Stress Toys Restocked Allow yourself to relax with your favorite girls from the anime that you love, now with newly restocked toys that are ready to ship to you. Big restocking today.
The Collection of Hagane Tsuruki - Exhibition at Walhalla
Awesome Artbooks Restocked If you are a fan of Moe artwork, these are the artbooks you should be look at. There are plenty of popular items here for everyone.
Kajiri Kamui Kagura
New Eroge: Kajiri Kamui Kagura Another great eroge from Japan, this one featuring enough content to require 2 DVDs. One of the most beautiful games we've ever seen.
Fate/stay night DVD-ROM Version
Restocked Japanese Visual Novels Enjoy some great restocked eroge from Japan, including Utawarerumono, Clannad Tomoyo After, Devil on G-String, Kanon and Fate/stay night.
Discipline: The Record of the Crusade *Preorder*
Discipline is Back in Stock! Then great news: Discipline, the legendary eroge from the creator of Bible Black, is back in stock. Incredible art and a huge harem of characters!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gunma, Famous For...What?

J-List is located in Gunma Prefecture, a ho-hum place 100 km north of Tokyo that's famous for...well, nothing, really. Gunma ranks dead last out of Japan's 47 prefectures in terms of making an impression on people, and many Japanese would have trouble finding us on a map, assuming we're part of the cold Tohoku region when we're actually in the Kanto (Tokyo) area. The reason for our lack of fame is what I called the Fresno Effect -- like Fresno, California, Gunma is surrounded by places that are far more interesting, making it difficult to stand out in people's minds much. The other day I caught a variety show that promised to improve the image of Gunma by introducing the best parts of it to everyone. The show laid out all the positive images of our prefecture -- its excellent onsen hot spring towns that have been operated for hundreds of years, convenient skiing, cultural images like those Daruma dolls, ample nature and parks, plus the tendency of Japanese Prime Ministers to hail from our prefecture (my wife says it's an indication of how bad they want to leave). Gunma is an industrial powerhouse too, the show said, sporting one of the only three factories making Haagen-Daz ice cream in the world (I didn't know that one), and being the leading Japanese producer of...ukuleles (^_^')
Yes, a place that's "famous for not being famous for anything" like Gunma needs to learn to laugh at itself just a bit. You can get a feel for the ironic humor of Gunma residents through Nichijou, the anime and manga that's a blend of slice-of-life stories about four high school girls, one of whom is a robot made by a genius five-year-old professor, with deadpan jokes about Buddhist statues and other crazy stuff thrown in. The story is created by Arawi Keiichi, who happened to live in the exact neighborhood J-List is based in -- I like to think he came to buy Shonen Jump on Sundays from my in-laws' liquor store -- and the self-effacing jokes in the series are definitely something a Gunma resident could think of. The latest mini-meme to hit Japanese video site Nico Douga is to make fun of how rural a place Gunma is, substituting images of the most desolate parts of Africa and Photoshopping in road signs that say Gunma, then making statements like, "Well I'm off to Gunma. If you don't hear from me in three days, send a search party!"

A poster for a "Gunma Holiday" parodying Roman Holiday; Gunma is associated with Daruma dolls.

Importing Business Models Between Countries

One of the time-honored approaches to business in Japan is, watch for new business concepts cropping up in the U.S. and Europe then adapt those ideas as quickly as you can. This happened with online auctions (where Yahoo Japan still reigns, having beaten eBay out of the auction market here), with pizza delivery (Dominoes revolutionized the industry in the 80s but upstarts Pizza La and Pizza Hut successfully copied their business model in Japan), and with Netflix-style DVD rental-by-mail (which bookstore chain Tsutaya operates). I'm a big fan of Yelp!, and I use it all the time when I'm in the U.S. to hunt up good places to eat. This business model has been imported to Japan, too, in the form of popular restaurant review site Tabelog, which helps you find good food in any part of Japan. I wonder if some Japanese business concepts couldn't be brought to other countries? I'm a fan of Japanese "Daiko" services, a taxi with an additional driver who drives your car home for you after a night of drinking. And maybe Japanese love hotels could be exported? Or maybe that's asking too much.

I like Tabelog's logo too.