Fans of the anime baffled by backgrounds for Rei Ayanami posters.

Generally speaking, the idea behind bootleg anime merch is that it’s supposed to be a win-win, at least for the buyer and seller. The seller gets to widen their profit margin by dodging licensing fees, and the buyer gets the item they want (or a substitute copy, to be precise), at a price below what they’d pay for the official product.

So it’s hard to see how a 45-year-old woman from Tokyo, who has a day job as an office worker, managed to convince a 60-something man at a flea market to buy a single bootleg Evangelion poster from her for 7,900 yen (US$76), but somehow she did, and she now finds herself in trouble with the law.

According to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department’s Yokosuka precinct, the sale took place on September 12, and involved an unlicensed poster of Evangelion’s Asuka Soryu Langley. In late November, a search of the woman’s house in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward turned up 52 other bootleg posters, the bulk of which featured various members of the Eva cast.

▼ The investigators’ evidence display looks like a dealer’s table at a small-town anime convention.

Rather than exact duplicates of official posters, some of the items appear to be a mix of copied official artwork on new backgrounds, while others look like straight-up fan art renditions of the characters. Charges have been filed against the woman for violation of copyright law, which she has admitted to, saying “I sold them to earn extra spending money.” Investigators say that the woman bought the posters in bulk online from an “American artist” who printed them, then resold them at inflated prices, earning roughly 1.2 million yen (US$11,600) since the start of last summer.

Online commenters found the numerical data involved with the case, as well as the aesthetics, puzzling.

“Wait, there’ actually someone who’d spend 7,900 yen on one of those?”
“[45 and 60-something.] Aren’t they a little old to be getting into this kind of trouble?”
“Maybe the guy was buying it for his grandkids.”
“The style of those posters doesn’t fit with Evangelion at all.”
“Dude, what’s up with all those flowers in the background of the Rei posters?”

If those smiling flowers look familiar, it’s because they’re pretty blatant copies of the signature motif of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, because why just rip off one artist when you can rip off two, apparently.

▼ Murakami’s flowers, as seen in their afternoon tea set.

While the anime industry in Japan does have a long history of leniency towards fan artists, as proven by the massive crowds at doujinshi events like Comiket where comics and illustrations of copyrighted characters are openly sold, there are a couple of criteria sellers are generally expected to meet, such as having produced the artwork they’re selling themselves, offering it for a limited time, and a revenue stream that, at least ostensibly, is meant to offset costs and allow the artist to go on creating. With none of those boxes checked, it seems there’s no fan art goodwill to get the seller of the hook.

Sources: Kanaloco, The Sankei News via Otakomu, YouTube/FNNプライムオンライン
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