I think almost every anime fan goes through a phase, especially if they start watching at a younger age, when they figure out that most merch are actually bootlegs, simply because it was hard to find out where the legitimate sources are. With easier online shopping and pre-orders at sites, such as RightStuf or AmiAmi, it’s easier than ever to determine how to go about shopping for yourself, or a friend. It’s gift-giving season any time of year, but as a basic guideline — don’t buy bootlegs to give to me. As my pocket money grew, I tended to wait for the yearly Anime North convention in order to make big manga purchases, as most sellers will use U.S. cover price, no tax, and possible discounts for bulk purchases. The flea market soon became one of my favourite places, as I often arrive into the fandom of a show long after its popularity peaks, and I can cheaply purchase legit things. The drawback is that my purchase doesn’t go back towards the creators in the anime industry. It’s starting to get to the point where information on bootlegs is widely available, and you aren’t likely to run into the issue of accidentally buying fansub discs anymore if you know where to look. Conventions do have anti-piracy and anti-bootleg policies, but if you read into it, they only take action if someone can prove that the items at a vendor aren’t authentic. Companies like Good Smile have taken to social media to point out bootleg stalls and have a sporadically updated blog on spotting fakes of their products. But for the most part, either you’re fully aware that you’re buying a fake figure/item/DVD, or you’re willing to take the risk for things that could be either. But back to the original topic. Figures and legitimate items are often expensive, with small rubber straps going for around $15 to 1/7 scale figures that can go for $250+ with shipping. Anime merchandise can be hard enough to buy for yourself, but what if you wanted to buy something small, cheap-ish, but also meaningful for a friend? Depending on what their preferences are, maybe they don’t care where it came from, but in the end, I think it’s best not to force bootlegs on people. Databases like “My Figure Collection” help document what legitimate merchandise looks like, by using official blog posts and photos by the company that releases the items. Most of the time, if its price is too good to be true and it comes from a questionable vendor, it’s most likely a bootleg. You can observe print quality, paint jobs, holographic stickers, labelling; all these will help in identifying a fake. By voting with your wallet and buying authentic merchandise, you’re helping to bring more of the things that person likes from that creator. What I mean to say is: you should think carefully about your gift purchases. Most people, if they knew 100 per cent what they wanted, they’d most likely just get it for themselves. Online wishlists are more prevalent than ever, if you’re not up for using design thinking to observe your target. If you can’t figure out what the person wants, maybe you could fall back the original intention of your gift, which is to have something memorable that represents your relationship. Maybe go out and get a nice meal together? Or go smaller, if you’re a student budget. Charms, straps, desk mats, clear files, useful character goods are good; you can’t quite go wrong with those, especially if you know who their favourite characters are. Happy gift-giving! For more anime ramblings, follow me on Twitter @kaitou_al.