Interview by: Aki Naoe Photo by: Kazuya
In this special first article, we talked with Hoshino, a product planner working at Movic, a company that makes merchandise for various anime.
She worked on merchandise for Detective Conan and Bungo Stray Dogs
── Please tell us about your job.
── Can you tell us how one piece of merchandise goes from conception to market?
At the same time, we're promoting products and have to keep an eye on how interested our customers are in certain items. We also hold fairs at stores like animate to coincide with new products going on sale. My job isn't just product planning, but also figuring out how to sell our merchandise, too.
── What's the hardest part of the production process for you?
── How long does it take to go from the planning stage to having your product on store shelves?
For example, I'm in charge of merchandise for Detective Conan. The premiere date for the merchandise has been postponed, but we've been planning since fall of last year.
── You're working on merchandise for Detective Conan. Do you feel any pressure when working on merchandise for such a beloved series?
After merchandise releases, I always spend a lot of time checking the response on social media. I'm so happy when I see customers saying "This is so cute" or "I'm definitely going to order that."
── Does the type of merchandise you make depend on the fan base?
For something like Bungo Stray Dogs, where the characters each have devoted fans, we make things like badges and the like.
── Have any of your recent products had a big reaction on social media?
We put them up on the official Twitter page, and got an incredible response from the fans.
── You must be busy producing all this merchandise.
Right now I'm in the License MD department. The person in charge of each new project is decided based on the work and company involved. As a result, I have a lot of personal discretion at my job, which I think suits me quite well. They decide who's in charge based one everyone's personal expertise. For example, if someone is into anime marketed toward men and has a lot of ideas for those shows, they'll be put in charge of projects mainly in that area.
── So, what is your area of expertise?
As for the merchandise, the designer working on the Detective Conan products is a huge fan of the show. Her feedback as a fan is invaluable.
Using her experience as an idol otaku at Movic
── You say you're not an anime expert, but why did you choose to work at Movic?
Actually, when I was in college, I would make my own merchandise, like stickers and stuff, for my favorite idol. That was a lot of fun, so I figured I might enjoy a career creating merchandise. So, even though it was a different genre, I've been able to make my hobby into my job. Also, I'm applying what I learned studying logistics and marketing in my commerce courses.
── Since you started your job, has the way you watch anime changed?
When you're planning a new product, you get a lot of feedback from the team who created the anime about what aspects were really special to them. I've come to see the emotion that I couldn't understand just by watching the anime.
I hadn't watched that much anime and I had never bought anime merchandise before. So when I started this job, I studied what kind of preferences our customers had and what kind of merchandise the fans wanted.
But, I had a lot of experience with merchandise made for idols, so that perspective was helpful. Right now there is a lot of anime about idol groups, and I think anime fans see their favorite characters in the same way someone might see a celebrity. Because of that, when I'm working on anime merchandise, I'm able to take inspiration from popular idol merchandise as well.
── Can you give an example of anime merchandise that takes inspiration from idol merchandise?
Polaroids, which were originally popular among fans of idols, have also entered the realm of anime merchandise. At Movic, our polaroid-style trading cards, called Pashacolle, are selling really well. Some other companies have started selling merchandise with that polaroid look, too.
── Were you surprised by the kinds of merchandise that anime fans want?
But everybody loves mini character merchandise. The Yuru Palette series at Movic is very popular.
── Have you found a balance between work and hobbies?
── The copyright holders of anime are very busy, so that means merchandise companies must also be very busy. Please tell us what a day at your work is like.
The factories we work with close around 5:30pm, so we try to finish up our work within that time frame as well. There have been many times when I'll call only to be told that they're closed already. I always take my breaks, too, and this work style really suits me.
What kind of person is suited for product development?
── On the company website, it says you guys are "surprisingly like a sports team." What is the company atmosphere really like?
── What kind of person is suited for a job in product development?
People who like anime a lot might join thinking that they can make the kind of merchandise they want, but that's not really the case. The anime belongs to the copyright holder, and they're the ones supervising the whole process. People who are too committed to their favorite character being portrayed in a certain way aren't a good fit at the company.
Of course, it's not as if liking anime is a bad thing. Having a lot of knowledge on the subject is wonderful. If you have a lot of input, you can make a lot of output, and you can pull from your previous knowledge. That really comes in handy.
But, people who don't know a lot about anime can also use that neutral viewpoint to their advantage.
── Are a lot of the students applying to Movic hoping to work in product development?
Actually, I originally applied for the sales department. I wanted to apply for production, but at the time the production and sales departments were separate, and the application for the production department required you to draw up a plan for a design. That was intimidating, so I entered the sales division. But now the two departments were merged together, so I'm involved production, haha.
However, I heard after the fact that they weren't really looking for people who were good at drawing, but rather people who could more or less draw something neatly. In reality, product development doesn't involve drawing illustrations for the most part. When you're trying to explain your ideas, you need to be able to roughly sketch them out, but that's about it.
Anime is really popular right now, so there are a lot of different companies trying their hand at merchandise production. So, for people who want to give product development a try, now is your chance.
── What makes Movic stand out?
What's in your bag?
── As a product developer, is there any item you can't live without?
── It's nice that you were allowed to decorate your company laptop with stickers.
── Do you use any of the merchandise you've made?
── You have a lot of candy with you, too.
── What cover are you using for your smart phone?
── As expected of a product developer. Instead of using a case with a pre-existing design, you made one you can customize yourself. Thank you for your time!