The 5 Weirdest Anime Merchandising Choices in Japan ・ Octopus Balls and Detergent!?
Is There Anything That Can’t Be Anime-Themed?
When it comes to anime goods, most people might imagine t-shirts or plastic figures, stuffed toys or little things like keychains. And when you think of companies and brands that like to team up with anime series for promotional purposes, fast food and tasty snacks are likely to be high on the list. Japan, however, likes to take things a little farther, and think outside of the box — even when it comes to anime merchandising. Back in 2020, when the release of the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba movie made such a splash that it seemed like everywhere you looked things were soaked with a wash of Demon Slayer branding, and a full-sized Evangelion mech showed up in Kyoto, things became clearer than ever: the time has come when anime can and will show up just about anywhere. And sometimes, that results in some pretty unexpected products.
① Neon Genesis Evangelion: Refreshing Eye Drops
Our attention was first drawn to the realm of character-themed personal care products when we laid eyes on color-coordinated Evangelion Schick razors, which actually seemed like a logical (if creative) choice from the marketing team. After all, Evangelion is particularly popular among male viewers, many of whom are likely to use razors every day, and razors are a practical item that don’t usually get a lot of attention when it comes to decoration. While looking at these razors, however, we found one more practical product complete with Eva branding. It turns out that Neon Genesis Evangelion has been working together with eye drop maker Santen since back in 2012, lending branding to their Sante FX series of “wake up” drops. These Neon Genesis Evangelion eye drops are made to shock tired eyes awake with a cool, refreshing sensation, and we were certainly shocked that Shinji, Asuka, Rei, and Kaworu had made their way all the way onto the sides of these little eye drop bottles.
② Mobile Suit Gundam: Silken Tofu
The name Gundam probably calls to mind images of rigid mechanical bodies and echoes of metallic clangs. Something about the match-up between Evangelion and the sleek silhouette of razors might have made sense to us, but using a mecha anime to sell soft, wiggly silken tofu? Well, it might seem a little unexpected, but it was actually a rousing success. We can thank tofu manufacturer Sagamiya for this unique tie-up, where they’ve used the shape of various Gundam mech heads to shape and package their soybean-based food products. After tofu packaged in a plastic MS-06 Zaku II head flew off of shelves, Sagamiya returned to the product line with two more Gundam tofu packs — a new and improved edamame-flavor MS-06 Zaku II Tofu, and an MSN-00100 Hyaku-Shiki Tofu, which comes with a curry sauce.
When these tofu products were released, Sagamiya actually recommended that customers “paint” the curry sauce onto their Hyaku-Shiki tofu like they were painting a model with golden paint, and even held a Hyaku-Shiki Tofu Painting Contest! The winner received a “Mega Bazooka Launcher Brush” to use for… further tofu painting!?
③ Neon Genesis Evangelion (Again): Fish Grippers
Perhaps the marketing team in charge of Evangelion branding just likes to think outside of the box, or maybe the anime’s movie releases in recent years have just provided ample opportunities, but this next branded product might start to make you think that Evangelion eye drops actually made kind of a lot of sense (in comparison). Our second Evangelion item is this “fish grasper” from Japanese fishing tackle brand Dress, who really dressed up this mechanical fishing tool by making it look like a limb from an EVA mech. If the product photo of the purple and green Evangelion fish gripper holding onto an actual fish mouth doesn’t make you laugh, you might want to look at it one more time.
It turns out, this isn’t even the first time Dress has collaborated with a popular anime series! Of course, the previous show was actually One Piece, which is all about pirates sailing the seas. The connection between anime pirates and actual real-life fishing may be tenuous, but at least thematically we think it made a tiny bit more sense than this time!
④ Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba: Octopus Balls
In Japan, anime-themed pop-up cafes are actually such a common occurrence in recent years, that the Japankuru team is pretty used to seeing pictures of the cutesy parfaits and colorful drinks that are commonly served. Seeing Demon Slayer show up on the menu of a popular takoyaki (octopus ball) chain, however, feels different! The release of the Demon Slayer movie in 2020 brought on such an intense wave of promotional campaigns that the anime seemed to permeate every aspect of daily life, to the point that the show left the realm of cutesy limited-time cafes, and popped up at the Gindaco takoyaki spot down the street instead. For a few months, the restaurant started offering takoyaki toppings themed around Tanjiro, Nezuko, and Rengoku, each with references to the characters in the color schemes and actual ingredients. (You can read much more about them here!)
We couldn’t resist mentioning one other mysterious Demon Slayer line of products before moving on, though. These little toys and keychains are cute, sure, but in terms of anime goods, they seem like a strange fit. (Who can resist that little boar’s head hat, though?)
⑤ Attack on Titan: Laundry Detergent
Last but not least, Attack on Titan has found huge popularity all over the world in recent years, but when it came to promoting the show in Japan, the marketing team made a choice simultaneously ridiculous and overwhelmingly logical. They chose to collaborate with popular laundry detergent brand “Attack.” Of course, the Japanese title of the show is a little different (it’s called Shingeki no Kyojin, 進撃の巨人), but the English-language name has become iconic enough that the owners of Attack laundry detergent (chemical and cosmetics manufacturer Kao) went right ahead with this surprising promotional campaign.
Before releasing this special laundry detergent, Kao hyped it up by letting fans vote via Twitter for which Attack on Titan character they thought should be the main promotional figure for the campaign, and the answer was clear: the clean freak Levi Ackerman took the stage. The final bottles featured one of two illustrations of Levi hard at work doing laundry, accompanied by appropriate quotes from the character. In the end, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Attack on Titan detergent was a hit, and empty bottles are still being sold to this day via second-hand markets, for fairly exorbitant prices.
The laundry detergent even got a special Attack on Titan commercial where the characters discuss the Levi illustrations used on the bottles — making a decision just as hard as whether or not to join the Survey Team.
Perhaps we can thank the general popularity and acceptance of anime in Japan, but when it comes to promoting anime series and movies, a surprising range of brands and companies are willing to be a part of things. Sometimes the results can be hard to believe, but in the end, the real winners are all of us anime fans who get to see some surprising anime merchandise. Which of these items was the most appealing to you, and what do you want to see next?
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