Anime, manga, and Japanese video games are all products. It doesn’t really feel that way, however, since they’re also the actual artistic product that made us fans in the first place. You can tell that the people who made them didn’t just do it for the money. Goodness knows there are easier and more reliable ways to earn a living than making anime! Parting with our money to enjoy these creative products doesn’t feel particularly cynical, but these are not the products we’ll be talking about here.

mirai merchandise

The Different Merchandise

You see, once a given anime, manga, or game becomes popular enough, the flood of merchandise will begin. In fact, just as with popular properties such as Star Wars, related merchandise ends up making more money than the main media! That’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy merch related to your favorite franchises. It can be a great way to personalize your room or home, and the money goes back to those who will make more of the art you love. The world of anime merchandise is a real maze though. Some of the items you can buy are truly bizarre. In this article I’m going to cover the main sorts of merchandise you can expect to encounter and what you should look out for when buying them.

A Word On Bootleg Products

Just as I mentioned in my Bluray and DVD buyer’s guide, the world of anime and manga is rife with bootlegs. The merchandise associated with these is no different, and inevitably you’ll run into products that are not licensed but are knockoffs created by a third party.

Resisting the urge to buy a knockoff product is much harder when it’s a cap, mouse pad, or statuette than if it’s an actual DVD. Bad subtitles and a lack of features might put you off a bootleg video, but people seem to be much more forgiving when it to peripheral items. Why pay full price for a T-shirt when you can get a copy for less than half the price?

Well, there are more than a few things to consider. First of all, no portion of the money you spend on a bootleg piece of merchandise is going to make it to the people who create the content that you love. Secondly, it’s unlikely that the product you are buying is something the original license holders would consider good enough to put their names on. This means you might get something that won’t last, has poor artwork, or is badly-sculpted. The last main reason I can’t condone bootlegs is the fact that they often steal fan art in order to make their products – ripping some poor fan’s work from sites like DeviantArt and selling it for a profit.

In the end, the only people who win when you buy a bootleg product are the bootleggers themselves. Everyone else is worse off after the transaction is done. It can be hard to tell whether something is legit or not, but these days we can check what the real item is meant to look like. Some makers, like Bandai, will even put holographic seals on their products to make it easier to spot fakes.

Dragon Ball z statues


The basic definition of a statue is that it does not move. I know it seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often people refer to statutes as figures, which in this context they are not.

Statues can be made from different materials and in various sizes. Some of the nicest anime statues are made from PVC plastic. The sculpt detail on PVC statues are usually fantastic and painted by hand. The quality of the paint depends on how much you are willing to pay, of course. Many fans who are skilled artists will repaint figures to upgrade them. In some parts of the world these independent artists will even repaint your figure for a fee.

PVC statues tend to be quite large, with 1/7 or 1/8 scale being pretty common. For female characters that often translates into a 9” figure. There have, however, been 1:1 scale anime figures before, such as one lovely Rei Ayanami that I will never afford at a cool $15,000!

These figures usually run anywhere from $50 to a few hundred bucks. I also like small “trading” figures that are usually four or five inches in height. They usually come in under 20 bucks and let you collect detailed figures for entire show casts without breaking the bank.

Poseable Figures

These are like your traditional action figures; they can be posed, thanks to joints. How many points of articulation there are will depend on how expensive and high-end the figure is. If you buy a Hot Toys product you’ll pay several hundred dollars for a figure with photorealistic detail and more articulation than anything on the market. Pick up something a little less insane from a company like Figma and you’ll have something that looks great and can be posed in just about every way you can imagine.

There’s a place for both statues and figures in the world of anime merch. Personally, I like to have figures from action anime or games but prefer statues when it comes to character designs I love. The nice thing about figures is that you can refresh your display of collectibles without having to buy anything new.

Blind-Box Figures and Statues

If you like to gamble, then blind-box figures can be a fun little diversion. These are usually small figures that can be normally proportioned, or “chibi”, which are the cutesy deformed characters. Blind-box collectibles are simply products that don’t show you what’s inside the box. There’s a number of possible figures available, but you have no idea which you are buying. Like with trading figures, the idea is that you have to swap your doubles with another person, which is why I have three blind-box Asukas and one Rei Ayanami.

anime vehicles


Anime are filled with cool machines such as spaceships, mecha, cars, and motorcycles so it’s no surprise that you can buy a whole range of flying and rolling replicas from your favorite show. These vary in size and detail, of course, but you can get some truly incredible pieces. I haven’t seen as many vehicles show up as collectibles over the years, but they always have some level of presence.

Model Kits

Model kits actually deserve an article all their own. These are basically plastic model kits similar to the kind we have in the West. But instead of building WWII planes and tanks, you’re building Gundams and starships. These models vary in their difficulty in assembling, ranging from easy snap-together kits all the way up to master-grade sets where you have a bajillion parts and have to hand-paint everything.

Gundam model kits are an entire industry by themselves, but you’ll find just about any popular mecha- or vehicle-based series represented on the shelves.


Plushies are pretty simple to understand. They’re stuffed toys made from fabrics. As you’d expect, shows like Pokemon also have plenty of associated plush toys. It’s not just monsters and other non-human creatures that get the plush treatment, either. There are often chibi-plush versions of human characters too. Mechs? Someone’s made a plush version of it. Small plushies can be displayed just like any other character, although often they’ll have a hook so you can attach them to a backpack or bag.

Just as with Western stuffed animals you can also get rather large plushies. I’ve seen one Snorlax plushie so big that it’s basically a small bed. Seriously, it won’t fit through a normal door.

Plushies are also surprisingly expensive and I often feel they aren’t great value for money since they are less hardy than figures. Still, people who love plushies tend to REALLY love them, so maybe they are for you.

Anime computer


When I say “electronics” I mostly mean special editions of headphones that carry anime designs. Still, there are plenty of exceptions. For example, there’s actually a fantastic Evangelion humidifier that I’ve always wanted. It shows Eva 01 standing atop NERV headquarters while “smoke” pours out the top. Be still, my beating heart.

There’s usually some assortment of gadgets and doodads related to any popular anime. How worthwhile these are is something you’ll need to consider on a case-by-case basis.


I guess I don’t really have to explain posters to you, dear reader, but you sure can buy a lot of them when it comes to anime and manga. Some posters are meant to be sold as standalone products, while others might come as a limited bonus along with something like a DVD or figure.

Posters can feature original artwork or they can be the actual promotional posters for the show, anime. or game in question. You can buy them framed or laminated; otherwise you’ll have to do it yourself. I’m not a huge fan of paper posters. Although they are affordable, the fragile nature of paper means they won’t last long unless you spend even more money preserving them. That being said, if you change your posters out every few years, they can really liven up the place.

Wall Scrolls

Wall scrolls are more durable decorations that are made from printed fabrics. They have a weighted bar at the top and bottom that stretches the scroll out so that it displays properly. There are also strings that you can use to mount them on a hook or nail.

Personally, this is my favorite form of wall decoration and I like that they are good-to-go out of the box. They last forever and you can clean them without damaging them, unlike paper posters. Most of the time they are priced reasonably too.

Cosplay Stuff

You can get the details on cosplay from my article on the topic, but it’s basically a hobby where people dress up as characters from anime shows. The idea is to make your own costume and props, but cosplay has become so popular that companies have started making some cosplay stuff for resale.

So in principle you could buy an entire costume, or perhaps you only needed one piece such as a helmet or weapon. That doesn’t mean you have to be a cosplayer to buy products aimed at them. Props and costumes can be just as collectible, especially weapons, jewelry and other standalone items.

girl cute clothing


Apart from cosplay clothing, which you could also wear on the regular of you’re brave, there’s just normal people clothes too. T-shirts are pretty much par for the course. If you want to let your geek flag fly and also avoid being naked in public, this is a tried and tested method – given that you also remember to wear pants, that is.

Shoes, hoodies, pants, dresses, socks, and any other item that human beings wear to not be naked can be bought in some anime-related form. Since I assume you already know how to buy clothes, there’s not much more to say.


Oddly enough, anime themed bags are some of the most creative merchandise I’ve seen. The way some designers integrate an anime’s elements into a messenger bag or backpack can be pretty impressive. Shows like Attack on Titan and games like the Legend of Zelda series have yielded some pretty nice bags.

One thing I have learned is to avoid bags that have a faux leather finish. They simply don’t last very long. The bag needs to be more than ornamental, so pay attention to the quality of the straps and linkages.

Body Pillows

Oh boy. This is by far the most controversial form of anime merchandise. First let me explain what a “body pillow” is. It’s innocent enough, being just a pillow that is as long as your body. People can snuggle with a body pillow, and in Japan they’re pretty popular.

Anime body pillows have a full length print of a (usually) female anime character on them. The idea is that you can “snuggle” with that character. Yeah, it’s as creepy as it sounds, and in Japan itself some Otaku have a pretty weird relationship with body pillows. I don’t really want to detail it here, but you can Google the sordid details for yourself.

Basically, plenty of people will find it socially unacceptable to own one of these and you’ll have to think hard about how much you really want one, if at all.

Mouse Pads

Why am I talking about anime mouse pads all by themselves? A mousepad is just a square spongy thing with stuff printed on it, right? Well, yes, you get plenty of mouse pads that are just that. I have a lovely one with a Kiznaiver print on it.

There are, however, other anime mouse pads that might be, er, less socially acceptable. Basically they are pads with silicone wrist guards, but these have been shaped to be the boobs or butt of a character. Very comfortable and great for your carpal tunnel syndrome, but you have to keep in mind how it looks.

anime mousepad

Trading Cards

Some anime spawn analogue game spinoffs. Shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have solid trading card or card battling games that are played by millions of people worldwide. They have been going for years and can be quite addictive.
Getting into these games can be just as life-sucking as getting into Magic:The Gathering, so you have been warned.


Many anime have some amazing original soundtracks that are well worth popping into your car’s player or listening to at home. Personally, I have a hard time finding them on places like iTunes or Apple Music, but that will probably change over time.

Buying the official OST on CD has its charms though, such as the extras you might get and the nice packaging and artwork. Japan still clings to some older physical formats, such as CDs, for some reason. So you might as well get with the program.

Key Chains, USB Drives, Cups, Etc

Every little accessory you use in life has some sort of anime merchandise tied in somewhere. Mugs and cups are obvious ones and a great way to show everyone at work how much of a geek you are. I have a USB drive in a shape of the weapons from Psycho Pass, which means it won’t actually fit anywhere, but boy does it look cool! Smartphone cases are another popular product, although they tend to make them for only the popular premium phones such as Samsung Galaxies and Apple iPhones. If you really want to squeeze in a reminder of your favorite programs into every corner of your life, there’s some little piece of plastic and metal that will let you do it.


No. Just no.

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