One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed about anime from the last several years is how many of them passive-aggresively promote brand name products. What do I mean by passive-aggressive promotion? Just think back to some of the anime that you’ve seen recently that take place in the actual world. I’m sure there’s at least a few scenes of characters eating in a restaurant or using some electronic device. Now, have you ever taken a closer look at the names of those restaurants or the labels on those devices? If you have, you might have noticed that they say things like “Parasonic”, “McDymaid’s”, and “Sudohbucks”, and I’m sure you can make out what real-life brands those are supposed to be.
With the exception of a few series like Code Geass, which shamelessly promoted the Pizza Hut brand, every other anime seems to beat around the bush when it comes to advertising. My question is, why? Why would an anime studio go to the trouble of making something just like real-life and slap on a parodied name? Why not just make a fictional brand, or even better, get actual brands to sponsor the anime so that they can use “Panasonic”, “McDonald’s”, and “Starbucks”. The latter option would also give them a higher budget to increase animation quality.
I have a few different theories as to why studios do this. My first one is that they want to make their anime as realistic as possible so that it’s easier for viewers to relate to it. I know that if one of my favourite characters ate at the same McDonald’s that I eat at, that would at least bring a smile to my face. You just have to look at what happened to Washinomiya Shrine after Lucky Star aired to see the effect that using actual places/things can have on viewers. Having been there myself, I can tell you that it’s literally out in the boonies, but thousands of people still go there just to see where the Hiiragi twins work.
My second theory as to why so many anime series use fake names is so as not to get into any legal trouble with the brand they want to show. From what I’ve heard, many people in Japan still look down on anime so it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that some companies would not like to be associated with certain series. That brings into question why anime companies use real-life places and products in the first place. If you’ve ever taken an art class, you will know that it’s far easier to draw something you can see than to create something using your imagination. With deadlines to meet, not using your imagination sure saves a lot of time.
The last theory I have as to why anime uses parody brands is because someone on the production team is a big fan but can’t get the approval to include the actual brand in the series. Maybe the director really likes Sony, or is an Apple fanboy, then it wouldn’t be too hard for them to get products from such companies into an anime. My guess as to why they still use fake names (and logos) is that they still have to deal with the legal issues of using someone another company’s name.
That about sums up what I think is happening here. Since I am not familiar with the anime production process, I can’t say for sure why they have to make up new names for existing products, so if anyone has some thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them.
PS: A cookie goes out to whoever can correctly guess the series these screenshots are from.