The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: October 1st, 2000

A Study of Economic...Wait, Where'd You Get That Plushie?

By: Gramarye

Recently, I haven't been feeling too well. I've been feverish and twitching, incredibly irritable, and ready to snap at people without warning. And do you want to know why?

I lost an auction for the second Sailormoon art book--a Chinese printing. Sure, I bid slightly under what I was willing to pay, but sniping someone within three seconds of the auction's close doesn't sit right with me.

And it's not just auctions. Something has been driving me to find special Sailormoon and other anime items. An art book here, a pair of chopsticks there, a used CD single that's been out of print for almost two years. Recently, my purchases have been adding up. I don't understand it. My last big obsession with merchandise related to a series was with the Care Bears--nearly fifteen years ago. So why am I irritated when the S season film book I ordered is out of stock? Why does it bother me so much to discover that a decent copy of the Sailormoon Piano Sheet Music can't be had for love or money? Why do I stay awake at night worrying that some jerk on eBay is going to snipe me and get that Galaxia Stars CD Single before I wake up the next morning? What is wrong with me?

I've talked to many people who feel the same way. Anime lovers purchase items that no one else in their right mind would want. How can you explain your recent acquisition of a 1/8th scale Sailor Mars vinyl model kit to a casual acquaintance? Or ask your family to share your joy when you find a faded nth generation videotape from the middle of SMR--unsubtitled, filled with static, and with about thirty seconds of audio missing from the beginning? What is it about Sailormoon-related merchandise that makes it so irresistible?

Think about it for a minute.

Scarcity - The TV series has been off the air in Japan for several years now, and good quality merchandise is getting harder to find. Finding the jewels of Sailormoon stuff on the Internet is getting more difficult nowadays, wading through the junk that you can get almost anywhere. It's not such a big deal to get a bootleg Son May copy of the Pretty Cast CD, but just try to find the La Soldier CD single and you'll see what I mean. Many fansubbers have pulled their copies of S and SuperS, making it even more difficult to introduce fans of the dub to the original version (while Pioneer's recent announcement of their plan for S and SuperS commercial subs is promising, I'll wait and see). And according to the basic principles of economics, scarcity causes prices to rise. That's why you see people paying outrageous prices for used toys, and fansub auctions on eBay that soar to astronomical figures.

Out of Print - This ties in to scarcity, but it has a few interesting points. Most of the early CDs and nearly all the CD singles are out of print. The original Japanese art books and fan books are all but gone (except for auction sites, and even then you can't really tell if you're buying what my grandfather used to call a "pig in a poke"). The laserdiscs aren't being manufactured anymore (as far as I can tell), and LD players aren't as widely available as VHS or DVD. If you'll settle for a used version, you can be satisfied, but people who can only be pleased with CDs in the original plastic wrapping will be sadly disappointed.

Cost - I admit it. I'm cheap. I like to shop around for bargains. But the problem with Sailormoon merchandise is that there are virtually no bargains to be had, unless you find a secret place to buy stuff and don't tell anyone else about it. If the cost of original merchandise doesn't frighten you, then the exorbitant cost of overseas shipping and handling will almost definitely put you off. Spending over $US120 for all 18 volumes of the Japanese manga can really put a dent in your financial status.

Language - I don't like the English dub, and I don't like the English versions of the manga or the fan books. Unfortunately, the places that I'd normally buy my books from don't carry the Japanese versions. You can only get the Pocket Mixx, with its confusing translations and inaccuracies. The art books are okay, since most people buy them for the pictures and not the liner notes, but I would still prefer to have it in the original language. And the only commercially subtitled versions are the movies on DVD and VHS...subbed episodes have never been commercially released. If you understand Chinese, or Korean, or Italian, or German, you have a greater choice of items, but English-language merchandise currently dominates the general market.

Cuteness (the "kawaii factor") - Can you resist the urge to hug a Sailor Moon plushie? Or, if you are a rabid fan of Ami-chan, would you sell your soul for a life-size poster of her in Senshi gear? While Sailormoon doesn't have the "kawaii factor" of, say, the Sanrio product line, many items are appealing because fans think they're adorable.

I'm not an economics student, but even I know that there's a big demand for Sailormoon merchandise right now. And the good stuff is going fast. So, my friends, if you've been hesitating about purchasing that pair of pink chopsticks with Eternal Sailormoon on them, get them now before they're gone for good.

Comments on this article can be sent to: Gramarye.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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