Back in 2014, I shared my thoughts on collecting merchandise. Of course, a lot has happened since 2014, when I was in my second year working on my Master’s Degree. A lot has changed since I started working and can afford things.
As a result, since I last shared my thoughts on collecting anime merchandise, some views have changed. But, of course, there are some more things I want to go through, and there is more to this rabbit hole than what I shared last time.
Why Collect Anime Merchandise?
Believe it or not, producing anime costs a lot of money. A lot goes into creating a production, such as storyboards, scripts, animation, music, voice acting, and the time slots to broadcast the production on TV. Of course, recouping the cost is the hard part, and most of it comes from merchandising, especially DVD and Blu-Ray sales. Some come from licensed goods, anime figures, and music CDs.
As expected, there is fun in collecting anime goods from shows that you enjoy. As expected, anything besides Japanese Blu-Ray releases is only a tiny drop in the bucket in supporting the creators, like legally streaming anime. Still, you support the creator who created that particular work and the studio who worked on the production.
Collecting vs. Hoarding?
Obviously, there is the urge to buy many anime goods, manga, or figurines. However, there is a difference between collecting and hoarding. Collecting is being selective of what you want to show off and/or keep. This means buying and collecting things that “spark joy,” as Kondo Marie would say.
I’m selective about what I want to collect, especially with more expensive things like anime figures. You need space to show them off, and building furniture to display them while looking decent costs money. So I only collect figures of characters from the series I enjoyed a lot. Also, I must like the figure enough to want to buy it.
On the other hand, hoarding is getting anything you can get your hands on. Yes, there are instances of people wanting to get a hand on everything they can. I know this is especially the case with figurines since people become caught up by how pretty or cool they look when they buy them. Before long, they amass too many and can’t display them. Not to mention the limited quantities!
I think hoarding is terrible because not only does it promotes overconsumption, but it can become harmful to the person’s finances. Yes, there are forum posts of people regretting their decision to buy tons of manga, figures, DVDs, etc., from getting into massive debt and running out of space. However, I have mainly seen this with figures and people regretting spending thousands of dollars. In short, balance is key, and as long you have the space and money to do it, go for it.
How to afford all this stuff?
Anime merchandise can range from something cheap like acrylic keychains, mugs, T-shirts, and music CDs to something expensive like Japanese Blu-Ray releases or Anime figurines. While the yen used to be weak in most of 2022, it’s starting to reverse. Still, you can buy a lot more stuff from Japan for cheap. On the other hand, shipping can get very expensive for anything reasonable. Even so, you shouldn’t sacrifice your finances to buy them.
I understand that most merchandise has a limited release, especially anime figurines, especially mid-range and high-end figures having a limited quantity. However, I know you are tempted to buy all this stuff when you start working or have a job. However, you shouldn’t get into massive credit card debt or what some people in my generation and Generation Z use, which is considered dangerous.
Obviously, debt can quickly snowball, as Shamiko finds out, and it can become burdensome mentally. So, yes, Buy Now, Pay Later services to allow you to split big purchases into several payments over time, usually six weeks. However, these services have downsides as fewer purchase protections and harsh penalties if you don’t pay your bill, including higher interest rates than credit cards.
I always advocate buying things as long you can afford them. That means properly budgeting your expenses. From this, you can determine how much free money you can spend on your hobbies after covering your living expenses, investments, and emergency fund (if needed).
As for me, I work in Information Technology for a Federal Agency. Since I have worked there for a bit and received promotions, I make quite a lot of money since I am in a mid-level career position bringing in the big bucks.
Since my job is practically secure since the chances of losing my job are close to zero, I only keep a buffer of a few thousand for unexpected expenses. Also, my housing costs stay the same since I own a home, which leaves me a good amount of money for my hobbies.
While saving for retirement, I also invest some money each month in stocks of big companies that pay out dividends. No, I do not invest money in meme stocks or crypto as I do not want to risk all my money. The added benefit of dividends is this money goes back into my hobbies without having to do anything. This helps, especially since importing merchandise can get expensive.
In short, don’t stretch yourself too thin and sacrifice your financial health to build a collection. Balance is essential with everything, and buying things in increments can make the hobby more enjoyable.
With that, let’s focus on the things I have collected throughout the years.
I must admit that I enjoy listening to Japanese music, which I started listening to in 2004. This was especially the case when I rediscovered anime. While I sailed the high seas for music as a college student, I started importing CDs from Japan in 2012 because I had some money. Since I started working in 2015, I have followed solo Seiyuu singing careers and Seiyuu units. Some notable ones I follow are Minase Inori, TrySail, Toyama Nao, Kitou Akari, and Ueda Reina, to name a few. Since then, my CD collection has grown considerably and won’t fit on one shelf anymore.
You might be wondering, why collect CDs when people download and/or stream music nowadays? I would rather own my music, as music artists aren’t paid well through streaming. Also, it’s a cheap way to support the anime you enjoy, as Japanese music plays a big role in anime. CDs typically cost 1000 to 4000 yen, depending on how many tracks. I also buy music that Seiyuu produces, a good amount that sings anime theme songs.
Nowadays, I don’t buy as many CDs as before the pandemic. Now, cheaper shipping options have been unavailable for a long time due to COVID-19. This leaves only the higher-cost express shipping options such as DHL, FedEx and EMS. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to buy one single. Instead, I usually order things in bulk, as in purchasing other items in one shipment. That makes express shipping worthwhile while reducing the impact of climate change.
Also, I learned that I can legally download the tracks from services like mora and Ototoy. These services sell DRM-free lossless and hi-res audio versions for most of the music they sell. While it costs a little more than the physical release, it comes out cheaper since there are no shipping costs. You need to use a Japanese VPN to buy music, which is relatively easy to set up, although not free. Still, foregoing CDs and downloading music through these services can help reduce Climate Change.
However, there are some downsides to this. Besides not having physical stuff like CDs and booklets, not all music they sell is lossless or high-res. It annoys me that some tracks for certain artists are only available in a lossy format. Thus, I need to buy the CD, especially if there is a limited edition of an artist or voice actress I like, or to make the express shipping cost worth it. Still, these services, like iTunes Music Store, should have most releases.
In 2018, I started to read the manga to practice my Japanese reading skills. While I bought several physical copies since I thought of scanning them to make a digital copy. Although I own a book scanner, digitizing it without altering the book takes a lot of time to scan and touch up the scan.
On the other hand, I admit that most of the Manga Time Kirara releases are excellent as they print them on nice paper. But, of course, the physical print release costs a little more than your typical manga release. Therefore, I tend to buy Japanese releases, not localized ones, since I’m studying Japanese. The plus side is that Japanese releases, even the digital ones, are cheaper than the localized copy since no translation is involved.
Nowadays, I find it more convenient to buy manga released digitally. Sure, you don’t get the physical release on your shelf, but it’s better for the environment. Also, going digital is much more convenient as I can read it on my iPad Pro. However, since I’m reading much more to improve my Japanese reading skills, I bought myself a Boox Nova Air C, an e-ink tablet. With its size of 7.8 inches, it is closer to the size of a typical Manga. Moreover, with a color e-ink screen, it’s like reading from a paper.
By going digital, I don’t have to worry about having the physical copy risk getting damaged. Sure, you won’t get the same satisfaction of having a physical collection but going digital benefits the environment. However, losing access to a digital copy is risky if an ebook service goes down. However, I found a way to rip the manga I bought from these services and read it in a non-DRM format. That way, I have an actual copy and do not worry about the service going down in the future, although this is a grey area.
Anime Figures and Dolls
As expected, collecting anime figures is one of the popular and most expensive aspects of being an Anime fan. Sure, figures can range from being cheap, as in prize or miniature figures that are affordable, to being expensive, costing hundreds of dollars.
In the past, I wrote off anime figures as expensive for my blood. However, the tune changed when I shared my thoughts about them in 2014. In fact, it became a bit cheaper thanks to the weakening yen.
When I started working my first job, I bought a Kafuu Chino and a Kirima Sharo in 2016, which cost about $100 each. My collection has grown since then as I added more figures, Tamaki Iroha, Shamiko, Momo, and 2 different figures of Shima Rin.
Also, I have several on preorder (Tang Keke, Chiyoda Momo, Shamiko, Goto Hitori, and Hinatsuki Mikan), but nothing over the $150-200 range. As expected, I am very selective about which ones to buy since my limited shelf space. I usually pick figures of characters from anime I really enjoy. However, I must admit there is an appeal to having ones I like to display on my shelf.
However, compared to when I bought my first two anime figures and got my first job, the price of new ones has increased significantly. For example, in 2016, the scale figures I bought were around 9,000 yen. Now, they are around 16,000 and 17,000 yen. I think there are some reasons, such as material, manufacturing, and shipping costs due to impacts from the covid pandemic and the War in Ukraine. I also don’t buy for AmiAmi as you can’t prepay, and shipping costs are unpredictable.
Still, I find it insane how 1/7 scale figures cost as much as 1/6 scale anime dolls. The funny thing is that anime-themed Japanese fashion dolls are priced around 14,000-17,000 yen on a 1/6 scale and 50,000 on a 1/3 scale. Anime figures are creeping up or beyond those price points.
Also, besides the increased interest in the hobby, I feel that greed is another factor. Greedflation is rampant in everyday products like food, housing, and gas as companies make record profits. This trend is reaching the anime merchandise industry, especially anime figures. I guess these companies believe they can keep raising the prices indefinitely as their customers will keep buying them.
Even with the price increases, the quality stays the same or starts to suffer to increase profit margins. Finally, there is a breaking point as people begin to complain, buy less, and/or even consider quitting the hobby all together. Once that happens, well, they will see the demand dry up. Therefore, profits go down, and prices need to go down too.
Another subsection of the Anime Figures is anime-themed Asian Fashion Dolls, especially with brands like Pure Neemo and Dollfie Dream. They are dolls but have a more anime-like appearance on its face. It’s yet another expensive hobby that you can jump down the rabbit hole. There is a vast number of accessories and clothing you can get for it. They are Figmas on steroids, as the dolls have ball joints.
Besides the usual doll releases, many of these dolls are based on various anime from popular franchises like Love Live, Re:Zero, Demon Slayer, etc. So yes, I find many of them cute, so I got Kafuu Chino, Kirima Sharo, Shima Rin, Suzukaze Aoba, and Akebi Komichi. After getting Sharo Pure Neemo, I admit that she looks cute. Of course, some might find dolls creepy as it goes down the uncanny valley, but it depends on the design. Still, I wish Azone would make a Tedeza Rize and Ujimatsu Chiya Pure Neemo to complete the collection.
Blu-rays and DVDs
I have a small but sizable collection of DVDs, mainly from the late 2000s and early 2010s. This is because legal anime streaming wasn’t a thing back then. The only way to watch them is to buy the DVDs, as fansub groups tend to remove downloads. The only way to view these titles is to purchase the DVDs themselves. Sometimes, releases go out of print, especially when ADV went bankrupt and was eventually reborn as Sentai Filmworks.
Currently, I do not collect DVDs and Blu-rays because of streaming services. Of course, I imported all the Blu-rays for Idolmaster Cinderella Girls for the photo-shooting mini-game and the extra music. Japanese Blu-ray releases are usually more expensive since they are treated as collector items. Japanese DVD and Blu-ray releases come in better packing than a generic plastic DVD case.
However, during the first year of the pandemic, I became interested in Seiyuu live performances. While going into one of these lives is cost-prohibitive for most people, most are recorded. So at least you get the experience of them performing live. Either way, I usually buy Blu-rays of the lives of Seiyuus I’m interested in.
Besides watching anime, collecting anime merchandise is a big part of being an anime fan. While it’s not necessary to get into collecting to become a fan of anime, it’s one of the ways to support your favorite works. But, of course, balance is key, and it’s never a good idea to get into massive debt to grow your collection.
Of course, with the economy’s uncertain future, I want to cut back a little bit. While I have a very stable job, I have other goals, including saving money to visit Japan and getting an electric car.
With that, feel free to share what anime-related items you collect in the comments and your thoughts about collecting anime merchandise.
I also share pictures of Anime merchandise primarily on my Pixelfed account (an alternative to Instagram) and my Mastodon account. I post a lot of stuff, mostly on decentralized networks, as I’m done with Twitter and Facebook forever. If you haven’t already, join us at Sakurajima, the Mastodon server I set up when Twitter went to hell. We cater primarily to Anime Bloggers, content creators who focus on Japanese media and fans of Japanese media.
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