On the Gendering of Merchandise

I went on a long ramble in the tags of a magicalgirlsandcerulean post, so I might as well elaborate on my thoughts here…

Although sometimes it may not seem like it, anime merchandise can be quite gendered. Certainly, it makes sense for clothing items which are exclusive to some gender presentations to be gendered – it’s unlikely a person who identifies as female would want a pair of male underwear with the name of her favourite anime (like in one of the cases that got me thinking about all this), after all.

Series which are aiming for an audience of cishet women generally tend to get pushes for more merch that isn’t the source content or exclusive content (e.g. Blu-Rays, DVDs, drama tracks, CDs…). The merch itself can be quite gender-neutral – key chains, acrylic stands and metal badges (known as “can badges” because they are made from the same material as cans) are some pretty common items – so I’m not quite sure why the push exists, but I get the feeling it has to do with how, in Japan, male consumption of anime tends to be seen as lonely after the rise of the otaku stereotype seen in Train Man (Densha Otoko). More recently, merch sales for series aimed at cishet women have been driven by that exact audience voting with their wallet. (In Hypnosis Mic’s case, certain CDs and tickets have serial codes, which, if entered into a certain website during a certain time frame, allow characters to move ahead in the battles featured in the series, meaning “voting with your wallet” gets very literal…)

I can only really speak for the fandoms of these series because I commonly roam these fandoms – that’s just who I am. That said, there’s a bunch of trends for this demographic’s merchandise. For instance, the tweet that got me thinking about this topic, which was from the director of Fairy Ranmaru Masakazu Hishida, said collaboration cafes are not typically made for series which are aimed at a male audience. I would consider this a half-truth – even shonen can get collaboration cafes (in fact, the day I found the tweet, there was a different tweet for a café for Mairimashita, Iruma-kun) and shonen, by nature, are aimed at a male audience (or they’re…expected to be, at least). However, the much more common case for a series that gets a collaboration café would be one with a sizable female demographic or at the very least, a fairly even split between male and female (such as a shonen with a periphery fujoshi and/or shipper fanbase…which, unfortunately, is basically every shonen in existence…). In this case, Hishida is talking about the Fairy Ranmaru Sweets Paradise collaboration cafétake a gander at the extensive list of collaborations Sweets Paradise has done with series (predominantly anime or anime-adjacent series/figures) to see exactly what I mean.

Collaboration cafes are a very specific type of beast in anime’s case – they typically give coasters to patrons, there’s themed food and drink and then some exclusive merch will be produced to tie into this. Some merch will just be the same, but differentiated by the character featured on it. Again, I dunno whose idea it was to gender cafes like this, but if I were to hazard a guess at why this is, in Japan, there appears to be a stigma against men liking and/or eating sweet foods if they value their masculinity (I personally think this notion is rubbish – you like whatever food you like – but that’s not relevant here), but if the café is for women, then there’s no need to worry about that and whoever makes the menu can sell whatever they like.

Sidebar: For more of me rambling about the gendering of cafes and sweet food, see this Rokuhoudou post.

I definitely haven’t covered every facet of this topic within even 2 posts, so over to you. What’s the weirdest bit of merch you’ve ever seen produced for an anime? (I half expect the Evangelion merchandise to come up in the comments…*thinks about Evangelion fishing equipment*)

One thought on “On the Gendering of Merchandise

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  1. as a tokusatsu fan, it’s interesting how gender plays into marketing and merchandise. especially for sentai and kamen rider, the merchandise is mainly aimed at kids – but kids aren’t the ones buying it; their parents are. Thus we got jetman’s unprecedented popularity and the odagiri effect, where handsome men pushed up figure sales because of the housewives who loved them. I wish it were easier to see the statistics for anime and tokusatsu merchandise, becuase it’s definitely a very interesting subject. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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