While broadcasters debate about whether or not girl-skewing anime has the legs to attract a large enough audience of girls and boys on-screen, France’s M6 is moving on to test the genre’s fortitude at retail.
ShoPro/Shogakukan’s Mirmo hit the French net’s airwaves in April as a strip that ran daily for the week of Easter before moving into a weekly Wednesday 10 a.m. slot until the end of June. The show averaged a 30% share of kids 11 to 14 when it aired weekly, scoring a 31.4% take of girls four to 14 and 23.4% of boys the same age. The comedy toon about a wish-granting fairy who’s supposed to help a mortal teen girl win the boy of her dreams will return to M6 this month, airing on Wednesdays (a key broadcast day in France because kids are off school) and Saturday mornings. The channel’s licensing arm M6 Interaction anticipates that ratings will stay strong enough to drive a Mirmo merch program that’s well underway, marking the property’s first licensing spin outside its Japanese homeland.
The program will initially target girls six to 12, with a line of videos and DVDs kicking off a staggered rollout plan in November. Leading French manga publisher Kana will follow up the vids with Mirmo titles in March 2005, targeting readers ages nine and up. M6 Interaction’s licensing director, Pascale Breysse, has just signed on school bag manufacturer Tennessee and stationery licensee Esselte to produce product for fall ’05. And she’s currently on the hunt for apparel, toy, plush and electronic accessories licensees to round out the program.
Apart from the graphic appeal of Mirmo’s cute aesthetic, Breysse says the property’s vast stable of fairy characters – each sporting a unique look and personality – lend it a lot of merch potential, particularly in collectible categories such as action figures and plush. She is, however, taking the program out slowly because the French market on its own will only accommodate a limited number of products.
‘We’re looking very closely at what ShoPro (Mirmo’s licensor outside of Asia) does in terms of broadcast and merchandising in other territories,’ says Breysse, adding that partnering with other regional agents could lead to the economies of scale necessary to support a broader product range.