May 2, 2006

Buy this, and get a free kitten too

The goodies take up more area than the magazine.
The May 2006 issue of Ciao manga magazine comes with no less than the following: a Kirarin Revolution clear tote bag, a Charm Angel mini plastic bottle holder, a Ciao Style plastic charm, and an "Osharemajo Love and Berry" collectible card.

And this is one of the second-tier, ho-hum anthologies aimed at grade-schoolers, mind you.

I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I never cease to marvel at the sheer amount of random crap that you can get with Japan's manga periodicals. And it's not just for the kids, either -- Dengeki Daioh, which appeals mostly to older male teens and young men, bundled their magazine with Ichigo Mashimaro figurines* at the end of 2005. (It should also be duly noted that Dengeki's offerings lean strongly towards the otaku/hardcore fan mindset, but I digress.)

*To the bastard who bought October 2005's issue: It's YOUR fault I'm missing the Chika figure!!

It really has nothing to do with the comic-making process, but it calls to mind Carl Horn's observation that manga is a a way of doing buisness, as opposed to more traditional outlooks based on the content of manga itself. Rather than just the comic being the end product, manga is marketed as a multimedia experience, where you still get the comic at the core, but then you get other trinkets and goodies that allow you to enjoy the characters and the story in ways outside of the reading experience. Oh, and don't forget to watch the currently airing anime, pick up the video game, etc. etc.

Right now, Viz Media is probably the US distributor closest to understanding that business approach, with their selling of not just "comics from Japan," but the very "coolness of Japan," and whatever trinkets that entails. Fullmetal Alchemist volumes packaged with action figures. A free travel bag if you subscribe to one of their magazines at a convention. Naruto everything.

However, the North American market being the way it is, they obviously don't have the advantage of economies of scale where you can just pound out magazines and giveaways and dump them at every street kiosk and book stall. I mean, I'm pretty impressed that Shôjo Beat shows up at everyday white-bread supermarkets, but it's still economically ways away from packaging fashion accessories and sparkly charms with every issue -- and will probably never reach that point. That, I understand.

I'm still a little disappointed, though, that SB's only in-magazine giveaway so far in their first year was the desk calendar.

I'm not wishing for US manga anthologies to be packaged with goodies as profuse as Japan's offerings, because that'd be silly, and failing to recognize impassable economic differences. Heck, you'd have to get more anthologies out there in the first place, along with a bigger readership, before mass-market effects can even begin to take place. But it's something to think about. We focus so much on the internals of the comic that it's easy to miss a key point of manga's appeal -- that an even bigger world of merchandising exists beyond the comic itself.


Brigid said...

Speaking as someone who used to be an 11-year-old girl, I can tell you that those trinkets vastly increase the desirability of the magazine. When I was a kid, I used to read British girls' comics—Bunty, Judy, Diana—and they very often came packaged with a bracelet or something. I remember how shiny and special that always seemed—I got that same thrill when we went into a Japanese bookstore last year and saw phonebook manga packaged with similar items. I just had to buy a couple.

Also, my younger daughter has a kawaii habit that is way out of control. She has an Ichigo Mashimaro alarm clock that has the most obnoxious wake-up signal ever, and my house is full of notebooks and cell phone pouches and what-have-you with neurotic pastries and lazy pandas on them. So they totally have her number. If the American publishers start using that sort of marketing we may have to take out a second mortgage. When Shojo Beat put a preview of Ultra Maniac in one of their early issues, it was the manga equivalent of a crack dealer giving out free samples.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous said...

It just so happens that Shojo Beat has a new poll you might just want to fill out. Title of poll: "What kind of freebies would you like to receive from Shojo Beat?"


9:16 AM  
Tivome said...

Pata I think you've missed more than one.. I got a fairly large figurine of Miu sitting on a rock of sorts from Dengeki... looks like you've missed that one too. It's now on my TV shelf keeping my special edition Aria manga vol. 7 and 8 figurines company.

Kawaii is extremely powerful and damaging to ones wallet if used responsibly. This is what America sorly lacked and hopefully the future gen will embrace the cute and the world will be a much better place. Fill with Ichimaro figurines.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous said...

As a ShojoBeat subscriber, I think I like to receive little trinkets with my magazine. I missed out on the callendar (thinking that my subscription started in January, but didn't begin until March), but the free one-episode anime DVD's are nice...sort of.

Shiny things and junk are sort of a perk once a month. =3

But if I ever got a tote bag in the mail along with my magazine, I'd probably put an extra "whoo" in my squeal.

-MooL, a fellow blogger [just not A Blogger].

4:29 PM  

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