We lived together for two years, I’ve known him for ten, he’s in his forties, and he’s never been interested in Japanese cartoons. Which was why I fell off my chair when a friend confessed to buying some anime last month.
So what was it? Statistically, this year, the chances were one in five that it was the Animatrix, one in three that it was the first Pokémon movie. The odds were 5000 to one that it was Kimagure Orange Road. But will and opportunity are two different things. Statistically, if you take a random sample of 1250 UK anime tapes, one of them is likely to be a copy of the baseball soap opera Slow Step. But that hasn’t been on sale in the high street for ten years. If my friend has bought an anime in the last 12 months, then store racking policy and promotions start to have an effect. He is more likely to have Memories or Evangelion #7 than a lot of other titles. But I should have known…
“It was a box set, actually,” he said. “Something of Darkness.” And because he was hoping for boobies, I am sure. Although the heyday of hentai is long-gone in the United Kingdom, it still forms a substantial part of the anime market. I call these people Phantom Fans, because although they inflate the sales figures for certain titles, they mainly don’t come back for more. Twenty thousand people bought The Gigolo, making it one of the Top Fifty anime ever in the UK? How many people do you know who actually own a copy?
“It wasn’t very good,” my friend confessed. “Like porn with all the nudie bits cut out. Don’t know what you see in this anime lark. It was only three quid, though. Do you want it?”
(This article originally appeared in Neo #9, 2005)