Merch Rooms February 27, 2010Posted by navycherub in Anime, Conventions, Essay.
Recently I attended Katsucon 16. It was held at a wonderful (although quite ritzy, and therefore expensive) hotel that basically had a fully-fleshed out town inside of it…but I digress, I might write a post about the actual convention later. Right now, I would like to discuss the merch room, as there was some controversy about it both during and after the convention, and since this is a blog, I will give my unwanted opinions about it all! How wonderful for you, right?
Now, I got the idea for this post after stumbling upon a very funny comic written by an attendee of this convention. The whole comic is pretty good, but this one in particular grabbed my attention.
I don’t know if the “Yes, we have goggles” sign actually existed, but to be quite honest I wouldn’t be surprised. You don’t really expect con-goers to be paying attention, right?
Anywho, this image is pretty accurate. If I counted right (and I made my rounds about the merch room many times) there were three total vendors selling manga, and four total vendors selling anime, not counting Funimation’s booth because who would buy the overpriced stuff directly from them, anyway?
To go into detail, one of the vendors selling manga was only selling manga and had them for really cheap, but didn’t have anything that has come out even remotely recently. I mean, I’d love to buy ten books for $40, that’s a great deal, but I had a hard time finding even three books there I hadn’t already owned (or had any interest in), not to mention that they weren’t in the greatest condition. The other two vendors had more extensive selections, similar to what one could find in a local Borders or Barnes and Nobles. This isn’t bad, but it didn’t really entice me to buy much from them, because like I said earlier, anything I could find there I could find back home anyway. Why would I spend my money on something I could buy any time when I could be looking for things I don’t see every day? To give just one example, one of the vendors didn’t even know what I was talking about when I asked about Sunshine (Hidamari) Sketch. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy much manga even though I truly wanted to because it felt like a waste of a convention to buy things I could buy anywhere.
Now, I don’t buy anime often, but from what I’ve heard the lack of competition in the dealer’s room lead to disappointing prices and small-to-non-existent price drops on Sunday.
What lead to these things? I have a few ideas. For one thing, the anime industry pretty much exists as a result of piracy. Strange on the surface, but anyone who is in the culture at all knows what I’m talking about. As a result, these fans simply don’t buy much product, so vendors don’t feel the need to come out to conventions often, causing a lack of competition. A lack of competition leads to monopolies, which leads to higher prices. This is followed by those anime fans who already aren’t extremely excited to buy product to buy even less after seeing what they have to pay. I know plenty of people who have cited this as a reason they do not buy any anime or manga when it does release here. And if they aren’t buying, why bother trying to sell?
So the result of this is that vendors have come to sell things that aren’t anime and manga, and I’d imagine they have had plenty of success with this. Many of these things have little to nothing to do with anime. An example from the comic is the “military uniform” vendor. I passed that a couple times, and I was very confused. They were selling the strangest “uniforms” I have ever seen, and had a whole rack dedicated to Nazi-wear, mostly swastika-branded arm bands. What does this have to do with anime? Well…nothing. So what is it doing here? Apparently anime fans buy these kinds of things. I don’t know why these two interests converge, but somehow they do.
Now, you can make arguments for certain products being appropriate pretty easily. Corsets and wigs, for example, are common items used for cosplay, which is definitely relevant to conventions. But the fact that this kind of merchandise (and the very much non-relevant stuff like the Nazi outfits) very much outweighs the actual directly anime-related product speaks volumes about the state of the industry right now, and perhaps about the fans as well. I, for one, don’t entirely mind; money makes the world go round. I am quite disappointed with the situation, however, and I wish anime fans would simply buy more anime-related products. It’s hard to support an industry that barely exists.