Shopping for anime merchandise in Taiwan~
So recently, I’ve decided to go on an “anime merchandise” hunt in Taiwan, which on previous attempts, was a complete bust. However, this time, armed with intel from my trusted bud @TouhouNau, I was able to find a couple of stores.
Before we start, let me just get this straight with y’all. It’s not that Taiwan has a lack of anime merchandise stores, it’s just the rarity of the knowledge of their locations. Unless you’re completely fluent in Chinese/Mandarin, you’ll most likely end up just wandering about aimlessly in a general area.
Anyways, shall we begin?
ANIMATE- Ximen Store
So first off, I was able to find an ANIMATE in the Ximen area, which is one of the two ANIMATE stores in Taiwan. I can guarantee you, it’s a lot smaller than the originals that can be found scattered all over Akihabara or Ikebukuro. However, that doesn’t mean it has a dearth of merchandise.
Though the ANIMATE @ Ximen wasn’t too bad, I noticed they had a very scarce section of original Japanese material. By that, I meant as in that they didn’t have a lot of Japanese manga. Don’t despair though, they have plenty of the usual magazines such as Dengeki G & Newtype & etc. However, that being said, they make it up with a huge section dedicated to doujinshi, which I didn’t really bother exploring since that wasn’t the objective of my visit.
Oh, before I forget, there’s a total of 2 floors in this store. The first floor is packed with Chinese-translated manga, Japanese CDs, Japanese magazines, and Chinese-translated artbooks. Of course, I can’t forget the huge “wing” dedicated to doujinshi and mostly 18A material. In the basement, it’s usually where they keep the anime merchandise. Unlike other stores where you might encounter anime goods, ANIMATE’s inventory mainly consists of Japanese-original goods***. I’ll discuss later on what that means (if you don’t already know).
In terms of a “rating” for this store, I’d say it’s pretty mediocre. I was disappointed mainly because I had high expectations since I just visited Japan in the Summer, but in retrospect, it’s not too bad. I guess I judged how great of an anime store this was, based on the relevance of its contents to my interests. ANIMATE did have merchandise pertaining to airing/popular/legendary anime, but it lacked organization and they were all too general. Nothing “rare” like what you can expect from a MANDARAKE in Japan.
KT Anime Goods- Ximen
KT Anime Goods was recommended by my friend…and it’s one of those stores that I previously mentioned before as “obscure”.
By all means, this store can actually compare up against the quality of items at ANIMATE. As with ANIMATE, KT didn’t really have any Japanese-original manga, but obviously it contained the usual variety of Japanese magazine. However, what sets KT apart from ANIMATE is how KT has a more extensive figure/dakimakura section, which is a lot more relevant to my interests. However, ANIMATE does have that huge doujinshi section, so I guess each store caters to a peculiar type of customer.
Anyways, what truly makes KT stand out from ANIMATE is how you’re actually able to locate more “rare-er” goods than that of what ANIMATE might sell. For example, I was able to come across old Gundam COSPA T-shirts that were long-discontinued and I decided snatch them up right away.
However, going back to the “obscure” concept of the store, it’s located in some odd back alley in the streets of Ximen. While that might seem overly-ghetto and you might be a bit skeptical, but if you were Taiwanese, you’d understand that these “back alleys” are where the true treasures of Ximen can be found. Of course, to anyone who might not be well-informed or is good at Mandarin/Chinese, locating these types of back alley stores would be near-impossible.
Overall, I guess KT just isn’t the same type of store as ANIMATE. One could probably relate ANIMATE as the “Best Buy” of anime goods, while KT is more like a “NewEgg” *(North American reference, sorry Euro/Asian folks). In addition, its location and information just aren’t that easily accessible to the general public such as a Kinokuniya or ANIMATE would be. Definitely visit this store if you’re in Taiwan though! They sell plenty of stuff there that could be worth $$$ on eBay.
In general, these 2 stores obviously aren’t the most prominent ones. I haven’t done a lot of research regarding the location of other stores, since I don’t have that much time nor money to continually pursue this shopping experience. Of course, simply by wandering the streets of Ximen or places near Taipei Main Station, one is able to find decent anime merchandise stores.
Taipei Underground Mall- Taipei Main Station Underground Area
One last place I heard about that I visited, but ultimately went to the wrong section, was the Taipei Underground Mall. It’s a network of underground “shopping streets” that contain a variety of things. However, as I said, I went to the wrong section, and only encountered a scarce amount of anime-related shops.
Based on what I’ve already seen, the shops do look highly promising as they have some of the more “rare-er” merchandise that are often highly sought after. However, one of the concerns I have is the higher pricing (dafaq? I thought it’d be even cheaper than KT, but it’s on the same scale as ANIMATE). In addition, the validity of the products sold cannot be confirmed by a neophyte such as myself, so I shall refrain from purchasing higher value items until I have gained adequate knowledge.
Regardless, since I haven’t actually gone to the heart of the shops, I can’t provide any further information. However, you can get more ideas of what it’s like from Yi’s Listless Ink post regarding Anime Shopping in Taipei.
***In Taiwan, anime is as big of a consumer success as in Japan. We Taiwanese people consume anime as if it were part of our daily lives. That’s why, since Japanese companies recognize this consumption process, there are licensed “reproductions” in Taiwan. These “reproductions” are often referred to as “bootleg” or “fakes”. However, that’s no the true case. Bootleg and fake connotates illegal methods, while “licensed” is legal.
These reproductions are often cheaper than their Japanese counterparts. For example, my Satellizer (Freezing) dakimakura cover only costed about NT 1.5K, which is about $50 USD. However, in Japan, these covers usually cost around 10K yen, which is $100USD. That’s quite the big price gap, eh?
However, the key point is that these products aren’t the Japanase originals and thus, have less value and in the eyes of true collectors, not even worth their time. It’s easy to know which products are imports or recreations, thanks to appropriate labelling on the packaging (ex. A reproduction would say “Proware licensed by Broccoli”, while an original would just say something like “copyright ASCII”).
Anyways, now that you understand how there are Taiwanese reproductions, that’s why you’ll understand the shock & awe I had when I showed up at ANIMATE and KT. One can often expect Taiwanese reproductions to be sold (in a general anime store) and a very little amount of imports, but to see Japanese imports outnumbering Taiwanese reproductions…is a bit of a stretch…especially since the Japanese pricing is already expensive (for Taiwanese salaries) and on top of that, shipping costs.
For now, I’ll take a break so I can let my resources recover, but that being said, I will do more research regarding where other stores will be. I’ll keep you guys posted if I make any new discoveries.