If you're an aspiring otaku, a hard-core fan, your home should reflect your passion. A person should be able to walk into your living space and say, "An otaku lives here. This person is not a newbie." One way to make your dorm room/apartment/house/whatever a true otaku-den is to put up posters. To enjoy posters, however, you don't have to be a hard-core fan, just someone who likes looking at pictures. If you're like me, one reason you watch anime is to enjoy the fabulous artwork. For us image enthusiasts, posters provide maximal image at minimal cost.
You can find posters for most of your favorite anime shows, though posters for some titles or specific posters for any given title will be more difficult to find than others. That's okay, though. The thrill of the hunt is what drives us as we search for the posters which best suit our individual personalities.
In this article, I'll describe traditional paper posters as well as other similar items such as wall scrolls and pencil boards, since these items can be put up on walls and displayed just like posters. Here's a brief rundown:
Import Japanese Posters: These are of excellent quality in terms of printing, paper, and subject matter. They can also be rather expensive, ranging from $7-$30, with $15 being a good average price. These import posters generally have a small foil sticker on their lower right- or left-hand corner.
Release Posters: These posters are generally of the same quality as standard Japanese posters, but are advertisements for anime-related products, whereas standard anime posters simply feature an illustration without advertising anything in specific. Release posters do not have the foil sticker. Release posters often include brief product descriptions and indicate release dates, e.g. for anime videos, CDs, video games, etc. The pricing on these posters is variable depending on supply and demand. I've seen a random Evangelion release poster sell for under $10, but I've also seen an Escaflowne Playstation game poster sell for over $30, and I bought a Tenchi Muyo! Sega Saturn game poster for $45. Since these posters often indicate specific release dates, they have greater historical significance than standard posters, making them true collectors items.
"1,000 Editions" Posters: Made in Spain, but widely available in America, these posters are also of excellent quality, especially in terms of their large size and the high quality art paper used. Officially licensed, these are some of the best anime posters produced outside of Japan. So far, this company has produced posters featuring the art of Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell), Kosuke Fujishiima (Ah! My Goddess), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma ½), and others. These generally sell for about $25.
Taiwanese Laminated Posters: These are of fair quality and can be found in Chinatowns all over the country, as well as comic book stores that have started carrying meager amounts of anime goods. The images on these posters are not printed as vibrantly or as sharply as on Japanese import posters, but the lamination makes these Taiwanese posters nearly indestructible -- no amount of double-stick tape will damage them. Though they mainly feature images of the most popular anime, on rare occasion you'll run across some rare images from rarer anime. For $2.50-5.00, these posters are a good bargain.
Wall Scrolls and Screens: These Taiwanese imports feature a variety of images, similar to the ones found on laminated posters. The advantage of wall scrolls is that they are sturdy, and damaging them is difficult. They are also easy to transport and put up. They tend to be larger than most posters. They generally sell for $12-16.
Pencil Boards (shitajiki) and Art Crystals: Japanese pencil boards are notepad-sized plastic cards which have anime images on them (front and back). I guess you're supposed to use them as a hard surface to write on, but I prefer to put them on my walls as mini-posters. The images found on pencil boards are often as good as those found on import Japanese posters. They are also quite inexpensive, ranging from $5-10 per board. Even though they are very durable to begin with, pencil boards come in a transparent plastic sleeve. I generally tape the board, sleeve and all, to my wall. Art crystals are essentially glorified pencil boards, in that they are larger and printed on a transparent surface instead of being double-sided. Art crystals can cost between $20-30.
Calendars: Calendars are pretty straightforward, but Japanese anime and J-pop calendars are a great bargain. There are all numerous calendar formats, of course, but the two most common are the 12-page 1 month/page calendars and the 6-page 2 months/page calendars, the latter having significantly larger dimensions. The 12-page calendars can cost around $15-20, and the 6-page calendars generally go for $25-35. On a side note, I don't actually use my Macross 1999 calendar, since I like the cover page so much. =)
Computer Printouts: This is the DIY (do-it-yourself) method. It may sound cheap, but it's efficient and the results can be very satisfying. If you have access to a good color printer and glossy printer paper, you can print out truly awesome images. There are plenty of high quality anime images on the Net, or you can always draw or scan your own. Even black and white printers can generate good images depending on what you're printing.
Cels, Sketches, and Autographs: Original animation cels and artist sketches could be covered in their own articles, but I mention them here because you can put them on your wall. Cels are desirable in that they allow you to own a tangible piece of your favorite anime. Sketches are desirable in that they're done by the original artists and are truly one-of-a-kind, and they are usually autographed. Of course, cels and sketches, especially if they are autographed, can be very expensive (which is why people flock to have things sketched and autographed by guests of honor at anime conventions). The one downside of cels and sketches is that they lack the detailed backgrounds, color, and general composition that one finds in posters (and artbooks).
Miscellaneous: One can also put up pictures of seiyuu, posters that come free with magazines such as Animage and Newtype, cutouts from those magazines, posters that come with artbooks and laserdiscs, etc. It doesn't even have to be anime. Decorate with what you like; I have a few J-pop posters up for good measure, as well as a few American and British posters.
Although one can purchase posters from online anime stores, they often neglect to include images of the posters that they're selling. EBay, the online auction service, however, is a good place to track down posters, and images are often included. (Just make sure that you read up on EBay before using it to avoid being ripped off.)
The best places to buy posters, however, are real anime stores or conventions. I prefer anime conventions because the best poster dealers travel to the various cons around the country. At cons, I often buy from the Nikaku Animart people, since they have a good selection, reasonable prices, and an easy way to scan their entire catalog (they put photographs of their posters in a binder).
So if you feel confined by blank walls, or can't imagine waking up in the morning without seeing something anime-related, posters are a good way to go. You can buy just a few to add color to your room, or you can go all-out, striking fear into the hearts of non-otaku. Whatever you do, have fun and buy whatever makes you happy.
[12/2/04 Update: For further articles by Lawrence Eng, see his anime page.]