Anime has certainly changed a lot since 1979, when I encountered Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato, the first animated series from Japan awesome enough to actually have stories that were resolved, with characters who did cool stuff like falling in love and dying. The industry has moved through several phases since then, including the the period of “proving” when Akira and Robotech/Macross established that widespread interest in the genre existed, followed by the wild growth phase of the 90s, when content creators could reap huge profits selling the broadcast and DVD rights for shows that had already recovered their investments. The last decade has been harder on anime, what with the rise of the Internet and maturation of the market, and fans no longer spend $600 for a box of laser disks for a single series. (Yes, we actually used to do this.) Anime studios have had to come up with innovative ways to make profits, including new ways to tie the characters we love to different products. This is why you suddenly see product placement for Pizza Hut or Family Mart cropping up in anime, and why you can buy limited edition K-On! Christmas Cakes at Lawson. Some might lament anime studios “selling out,” but I support any efforts that helps the medium I love flourish in the future.
Anime has gotten good at marketing itself, which is an important thing.