Animate International about COVID-19 changes, expansion plans and the past year

For years, Animate has been the place to go in Japan for all kinds of otaku merch. I asked the staff behind Animate International questions about Corona, the past year and many other topics. Check out their interesting answers here!

Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you. Please tell us a little bit about what Animate is and explain what anime fans can expect when they visit your store.

Thank you very much for inviting us to speak with you.

At animate, we sell anime related character merch, comics, magazines, Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, games, art supplies and such.

If you visit one of our stores, you will of course find all kinds of products, but we also play anime trailers and anime theme music videos, and decorate with other content. Anime fans can spend a whole day there without getting bored. Customers can also enjoy hand-made signs and displays created with care by our staff.

To help fans outside Japan get official Japanese merch, the cross-border online shop animate International was opened in 2017. If you visit the animate International (cross-border online shop) site, you can pre-order and purchase many different kinds of products.

Opened in 1983 in Ikebukuro, the store chain has expanded to over 119 outlets not only in Japan, but also in other countries across Asia. Now the company is about to mark its 40th anniversary. How will this be celebrated?

The animate Ikebukuro Flagship Store is indeed about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, the store is being massively expanded and remodelled, the grand opening of which is scheduled for spring 2023.

For many years, we have walked the same road with everyone who supports Japanese anime culture. From now on too, we plan to connect anime fans around the world, and continue to evolve our stores as spaces where fans can experience anime culture with all five senses, especially our home store in Ikebukuro.

Besides Japan, there are also offices in Taiwan, China, Thailand and the USA. When can we expect a store in Germany or France?

There are currently no plans for a physical store. However, fans in Europe can shop online via animate International (cross-border online shop), which can ship products directly from Japan to Europe.

Would a collaboration with foreign figure/merchandise dealers be an option?

It is not completely out of the question. Some of our overseas physical stores import products manufactured members of the industry in those countries back into Japan.

As people have been less able to go outside due to COVID-19, the concept of shopping itself has definitely changed – not just for animate customers, but for society as a whole. It seems that certain shopping trends have grown, for example, shopping online rather than going to the store, shopping online and arranging to pick up the order from a nearby physical store, etc.

However, we were so grateful to see that once the state of emergency was lifted in Japan, customers returned to our stores. It seems that our physical stores also provide something necessary for anime fans.

Has the Corona pandemic slowed down your expansion plans? Has there been any other major constraints, such as delivery or shipping?

At animate International (cross-border online shop), we implemented various ways to overcome shipping issues. We built a new system that allowed us to switch individual shipping methods on and off for individual regions, so that we could update our customers‘ options as soon as we received any news. We also began using the service of international express delivery companies with private planes, such as DHL.

However, with many delays and service restrictions, and some services even charging extra fees and changing rates due to COVID-19, we know that our customers were inconvenienced nonetheless. But, thanks to anime fans‘ kind understanding and dedication to supporting official releases, our store has survived. We are so grateful to our customers.

Which anime or manga was really successful for Animate in 2021?

At animate International (cross-border online shop), among the otome genre, Obey Me! And Ensemble Stars! were very popular. For other genres, Tokyo Revengers and Jujutsu Kaisen were also very popular.

Until 2017, the Animate Online Shop was exclusive to Japanese customers only, but now with Animate International you can also order limited or exclusive items from Germany. Will the product range grow?

Yes, we are introducing new products nearly every day, and are constantly investigating possibilities for new manufacturers and line-ups, so we recommend checking our store often.

Recently, we started handling manga sets at animate International (cross-border online shop), that allow you to buy an entire manga series in one.

Recently, a manga service was introduced for Animate International, which allows users to read translated manga digitally & legally. Can you tell us anything about the service, will there be a subscription model?re/strong>

The Animate International digital manga service company is registered under the animate group, but it is actually a different company from animate International (cross-border online shop).

According to a representative from the digital manga service company: they have future releases in the works, and although the titles are in English, they should be available without any region lock.

Is there anything you would like to share with the fans?

We have so much gratitude for animate customers who continue to support us. We are working hard to bring even more official merch and audio/visual products to fans overseas. It is thanks to you that animate International (cross-border online shop) has been able to survive and grow to where we are today. We hope for your continued support, so that we may keep expanding our services in the future.

Many thanks for the interview! You can shop at Animate International through this link. Enjoy browsing!

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