The most important achievement of the 1977 Yamato movie was to categorically disprove the prevailing notion that anime was merely kid stuff. Along with that notion went the stigma of buying anime merchandise after you were supposed to “grow out of it.” Once merchandisers understood that their audience was older and had money, entirely new product categories shifted into this new marketplace.
When we sort through the archive of Yamato movie products sold in theaters and at special events over 1977/78, we start to see that evolution. Compared to what was offered for the the first TV series in 1974/75, there are many more items you would expect teens and some adults to carry around. The generic term for them was (and still is) “character goods.” It didn’t matter that these exact same products may have previously been sold with other branding on them; what mattered is that fans could now add some Yamato flavor to their daily lives and they no longer had to feel embarrassed by it. It was the first step toward a more mature and expansive anime world.
Collected here are the products you could get during the meteoric rise of the Yamato movie from August 1977 on through the following summer, when Farewell to Yamato boosted everything to the next level.
Tokyu Recreation products
Tokyu was (and still is) a giant conglomerate with a specialty in entertainment and leisure. Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s partnership with this company was the key to Yamato‘s breakthrough, since Tokyu was the first to book the movie into its Tokyo theaters. They also specialized in related products, so they were the first to make souvenirs sold in theater gift shops.
The Tokyu ad shown at right promotes a product lineup called “Yamato Stationery.” Interestingly, the topmost headline in the ad reads “Yamato Be Forever,” which is the first example of it ever appearing in print (in this case, November 1978). It would next appear as the title of Yamato 2‘s final episode in April ’79. The list of products to the right of the red silhouette is comprehensive and a good terminology primer: can bank, can pen stand, free note, turn note, character memo, loose leaf [paper], color loose leaf, gum eraser, keyholder, holder, enpetsu (pencils), pass case, drawing paper, fancy box, tissue paper bag, present (gift) bag, clear holder, clip, deskmat, file, and tray.
Many of these items are pictured below, and many were decorated with a triple stripe inspired by the crew uniforms. Other manufacturers would pick up on that motif in later years; Tokyu was the first to apply it.
Tokyu’s can bank was a simple metal tin with a coin slot; ideal for saving up all the yen you’d need to buy everything else they made.
Their deskmats came in two varieties, presumably one for boys and one for girls.
Their metal trays followed a similar design, but with a unisex Yamato image for crossover.
Who wouldn’t want to whip out a Yamato pencil to impress everyone else in your class? Tokyo offered them in packs of six, or a giant box that would last you an entire school year.
Of course, the more pencils you own, the more you’ll need a pencil cup to hold them all.
Their gum erasers came in small and large batches; about a dollar for the first and three dollars for the second.
And if you want to actually USE those pencils and erasers, Tokyu had Yamato paper ready to go, too.
If you carried around a school notebook, Tokyu offered three different types of notebook paper to fill it up.
They also produced these loose leaf dividers to separate your school subjects in style.
If you needed a binder, they had you covered there as well.
This was a different style of binder that held everything in place with a single clip. It also repurposed English text from the movie program book.
Next up, a “flip” notebook with two covers; Kodai on one side and Yuki on the other.
There were also four different styles of notebook depending on your personal preference.
Each contained several images to go with the top subject, all using production art that only diehard fans had seen before now.
A line of smaller note pads was also released. These measured 3.5″ x 5″ and came in several colors.
These oversized paperclips came in sets of six, mostly color-coordinated to match their characters.
For those who carried keyes, Tokyu’s keyholders all featured a single image set into a small plastic case.
And finally, several different styles of wastebasket to toss your pencil stubs and disposable wrappers.
As we know now, no self-respecting fan would toss anything into these that said ‘Yamato’ on it, but those who did only made the surviving merchandise more valuable to collectors.
The Doi Company was another early merchandising partner with a large product lineup. This may not be everything they made, but it’s certainly a representative sampling…
For starters, Doi had three different styles of apron: a Kodai/Yuki version, a Yamato version, and a Starsha version. They were among the very few apparel items sold in the beginning.
There were also several different styles of wallets and pass cases to put a Yamato in your pocket.
You could also get pen cases, and a handy vinyl bag to carry all your Yamato loot home from the theater. (Smart move, Doi!)
Or, if you had a LOT of loot to take home, Doi offered two different sizes and styles of tote bag.
And if it was a notoriously hot summer day (Augusts in Japan are quite toasty), Doi had a couple of different Starsha towels to keep you dry.
Next up, three different styles of note cards that opened vertically, and stickers to match.
Doi also had different styles of notebooks and binders, separate and distinct from those of other companies.
Travel toothbrushes! Because hygiene matters on a spaceship. Like, a lot.
And finally, these items look alike but were quite different. Those are plates on the left and buttons on the right.
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