Or is there? During the anime boom of the early 2000s, anime merchandise get a bit of kick up as well, specifically in video stores. Yeah, video stores. You remember those right? It was this place that you could go to, a physical place, to rent movies. At first it was mainly VHS, but by the 2000s DVDs were comin’ in style and the internet was still catching on slowly (dial-up anyone?). At first the trend was only seen in larger, often more expensive, stores, like Suncoast. Yeah, Suncoast used to be cool. They’d have a few posters, soundtracks, collection packs, figures, heck they’d even have Japanese candy. But that was an oddity. An oases of anime merchandise in a sea of, well, no merchandise…. Unless you could get yourself to a convention, but conventions are pretty much anther dimension to begin with.
Which is often why I do double takes when I run into these pocks of fandom in other places these days. Today, far more places embrace anime. While you won’t likely find that rare figure in your local grocery store, you will probably find a larger selection of Japanese foods, including more traditional ramen, noodles and candy. And a few bookstores have also caught on, often carrying a least a few collector sets, if not having an entire table of extra goods besides manga. Of course, with the fall of Borders in the US, which was one of the most excepting bookstores of imported Japanese goods, not to mention the fact that video stores are dying worldwide, the expansion of merchandise might ebb again.
Even so, I just can’t get used to the idea of picking up some ramune (a Japanese soda) at the grocery store instead of at an anime convention. I mean, it’s quite nice and all. I just can never remember the fact until I’m standing in the isle and it’s winking me in the face. Right next to the Hello Kitty Marshmallows that are oddly still soft. I won’t even pretend to understand how Japan manages that.