A common misconception among anime fans in the west is that merchandise for their favourite shows is difficult to come across on the average high street. That would have been true about five years ago, but otaku culture has recently reached new heights and its now easier than ever to find DVDs, Blu-Rays, manga, figures, plushies and other anime merch on the streets of Britain. I’ve travelled the UK extensively and have managed to find some kind of anime-related merch everywhere from Penzance to Inverness!
Nearly all Waterstones locations now have a selection of manga, the quality of which often depends on the size of the store. Larger cities such as Sheffield and Glasgow tend to stock plenty whereas smaller towns like Barrow-in-Furness and Middlesbrough will have smaller collections, usually only offering the most popular manga, which at the moment tends to be shounen series like Naruto, Bleach and My Hero Academia. If you’re looking for manga and haven’t yet checked your nearest Waterstones branch, give them a look!
Manga can also be found at WH Smiths, although they tend to carry a much smaller selection than Waterstones, and its a bit hit-or-miss as to whether they’ll have any at all.
If you’re specifically looking for DVDs or Blu-Rays, HMV and CeX are your friends. HMV stores all over the UK have decent anime selections, both old and new, and their prices are pretty reasonable too!
CeX is a chain that buys and sells second-hand video games, DVDs, Blu-Rays, phones, computer equipment and more, and many of their stores have a shelf section or two dedicated to anime. I always take a look inside whenever I’m near one of their locations and often come out with a fantastic bargain – I got End of Evangelion on DVD in perfectly fine condition for £4, and I’ve seen anime DVDs being sold there for as low as £2!
So far I’ve mostly listed shops that cater to a wide range of customers, but there are plenty of more niche business ventures scattered around the country – the most obvious of which is Forbidden Planet, which is the name of two seperate chains that both stock very similar products.
Your nearest Forbidden Planet store is bound to have something you’ll enjoy. The Sheffield location is pretty lacklustre and just has a limited manga selection plus some plushies, but if you’re in Newcastle you’ll be able to pick up figures, plushies, DVDs and Blu-Rays in addition to a fairly solid assortment of manga. I’ve also been to Forbidden Planet stores in Glasgow and London, and they’re both great places for browsing manga.
On a more local level, Sheffield Space Centre is worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. It sounds like some kind of space agency museum, but in reality its an awesome little sci-fi shop that carries manga, anime DVDs and Blu-Rays, merchandise ranging from posters to figures to bags to coffee mugs as well as role playing games, trading cards, western comics and loads of Doctor Who merch!
Over in Doncaster, you’ll be able to find a small amount of manga at Vault 14 – a comic book shop near the council offices that has dozens of cute Pokémon plushies and often stocks some nice anime merch. I have seen Death Note mugs there, as well as anime Pop Vinyls.
As for Hull? The best thing I can say about that city is it has a lovely comic shop called Amazing Fantasy with a manga collection that they clearly take good care of, even putting plastic sheets around the books to keep them safe.
When you find yourself in York, there’s no excuse not to visit Sore Thumb Retro Games. They don’t stock any manga or physical anime media, but they have plenty of anime-style games on every console you can think of. The shop has an entire section dedicated to Japanese imports which includes a wide range of anime figures.
Further north in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, there is a store called Animez that has more anime merch than you can imagine. Posters, trading cards, figures, keyrings, Gundam model kits, sweets and so much more. Safe to say its an otaku’s dream shop!
For any readers in Scotland, TokyoToys and Geek-aboo are both within walking distance from Glasgow’s Central and Queen Street train stations and are absolutely worth a visit. TokyoToys has anime-themed cushions, manga, keyrings, art books, trading cards, clothes, Japanese sweets and so much more. Geek-aboo is less focused on Japanese products but you can still find some solid deals there.
I haven’t visited myself, but I’m also aware of Levarb’s Anime in Afflecks indoor market, Manchester. It stocks a wide range of anime figures, shirts, plus some body pillows if that’s your thing!
Another shop I know of but haven’t visited is Japan Craft in London, which stocks anime figures, trading cards, Japanese sweets, plushies, manga and more. If I ever find myself in the capital, its certainly on my list of things to do!
Away from the high street, conventions are a great place to find anime merch and the UK has no shortage of them. MCM holds Comic Con events every year in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. Newcastle is home to Sunnycon, and Sheffield hosts the Yorkshire Cosplay Con every year. Take a look at AnimeCons.com for some other anime conventions held in the UK throughout the year!
Of course, online shopping is an option if you’re looking for something rare or don’t want to shift through physical shops, but hunting for bargains in person can be quite exhilarating, and its not as rare as you might think for a product to be cheaper instore than online!