By David Cabrera
#10 - Pocky Is A Big Deal
This is something of an addendum to the dealer's room post.
If you ever find yourself making jokes about stereotypical American anime otaku for some reason, and you really want your joke to be authentic, say something about Naruto and then something about Pocky. The chocolate-covered biscuit stick made it into the hearts of American anime fans by sheer coincidence, and is now irrevocably associated with them.
Google “Pocky and anime” if you don't believe me: there's an Amazon wishlist called “Things a Pocky-eating Anime fan will enjoy.” The very first Urban Dictionary entry for Pocky defines it as “Primary source of food for obsessed anime nerds.” But just how did this confection connection come about?
In the 90s there were a lot of anime where, in passing, a character would be munching on a stick of Pocky. I can think of Escaflowne offhand: it wasn't a plot point, it was just there and most people didn't know what it was. When they see something unfamiliar like that, anime fans don't just let it go by. They find out what the hell that snack food was, and by God, they eat it.
And so it was with Pocky. People saw it in anime, they found it, they ate it, and they asked for seconds. A time-honored business strategy if I've ever seen one.
Speaking of which, back in college, my anime club made a mint on Pocky. They bought cases of Pocky and ramune soda – people had just seen it in FLCL, which was quite well-received here-- on the cheap from wholesale distributors (who typically supplied Asian supermarkets) and let them go for $4 a box. This little venture funded all our club's events and though I'm years gone from that club, I'm told that it continues to do so.
That racket eventually shrunk: these days Pocky and similar Japanese snacks are fairly easy to come across. However, even more outrageously priced Pocky ($5, $8, and in rare cases $10) is a staple cash crop of the American anime convention scene to this day. So long as someone is eating Pocky in a popular anime-- ten years ago the heroine of Onegai Teacher, today Kyouko from Madoka Magica-- that's how things will be. Call it an accidental success of branding.
(Speaking of Madoka, the same thing happened on a much smaller scale with the Morning Rescue drink from the commercials. That's a story for another day, though...)
If you go back to that Google search, you'll see a Facebook group called “Having Pocky at an anime con is like being a god”. To this person, Pocky is inherently part of being a fan: in fact, the candy evidently has a symbolic significance that makes the eater more a fan. When you think your geek credibility is on the line, no price is too high, right? I think we've all seen that one in action. So it is for the kids paying $8 for Pocky. Well, that and “the pocky game”: you know, the one where two people try and eat the same stick of Pocky at the same time.
And for the record, I prefer dark chocolate. It's Men's Pocky for me.