The president of a Yokohama-based wholesaler was arrested for allegedly violating Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act by selling millions of dollars worth of knockoff Demon Slayer merchandise.
Demon Slayer is hugely popular in its native Japan. In 2020, it was the country’s biggest-selling manga and continued to do brisk business this year. The anime feature film was also a smash hit, and the movie’s home release broke sales records in Japan. The country is gaga for Demon Slayer. And when something becomes massively popular, unscrupulous types move in to make a quick yen.
NHK reports that 52-year-old Yuki Saito, president of wholesale operation Red Spice, was arrested along with her husband and two other accomplices. All four have denied any wrongdoing.
At the company’s warehouse in Aichi Prefecture, police confiscated 37,000 knockoff goods believed to have been made in China. The goods were confiscated in April, and the Japanese police made arrests this week.
According to CBC News, the items featured Demon Slayer-style designs and expressions that were emblazoned on clothing, wallets, scarfs, backpacks, pillows, and more. None of the items were officially licensed products, nor did they necessarily have the words Demon Slayer or its Japanese title Kimetsu no Yaiba (鬼滅の刃) on them. Instead, the knockoffs evoke the franchise.
For example, the confiscated hoodie picture above has the same pattern worn by Demon Slayer hero Tanjiro Kamado. The knockoffs also use words or phrases that are reminiscent of the popular franchise, such as the kanji metsu (滅), which refers to “destroy” and is the same kanji used in kimetsu (鬼滅), or the phrase oni taiji (鬼退治), meaning “demon extermination.” Phrases like these combined with patterns worn by the demon-slaying characters could make the goods seem official. Authorities in Japan decided that even evoking the franchise was enough to move forward with charges.
According to NHK, the four suspects sold around 1.67 billion yen (15.2 million U.S. dollars) worth of goods up until this past spring. The company sells merchandise to game centers across Japan as redemption game prizes as well as at general retail shops. This means any potentially fake items could have circulated widely throughout the country. Police are currently investigating the extent to which the alleged operation’s circulation expanded.