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Also acceptable is the first anime to have body pillows (or dakimakura) as merchandise.

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Anime body pillows are a big part of anime otaku culture - but this can't have always been the case. I doubt there were body pillows of the characters back in the 60s.

When did body pillows start being sold as merchandise for anime and who was the character to get the first pillowification?

I'm interested in officially licensed body pillows only - and specifically body pillows as opposed to normal pillows (if the line is vague though, that's fine).

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What is considered Japan's first body pillow (dakimakura) was created in 1996 by a company called Lofty. Although the definition of what a dakimakura is may vary depending on the person.

The precursor to life-sized full body pillow covers likely originated from the "Goodnight Sheets" bedsheets from Tokimeki Memorial released on January of 1997 by Konami. People wrapped the bedsheet around the body pillows and slept with them. Influenced by this a person custom ordered a body pillow with the bedsheet processed as a pillow cover and that popularize the trend due to his influence among Tokimeki fans.

2023 re release of the sheets

Prior to that Elf had released smaller hug pillows (about 90cm long) featuring characters from Doukyusei 2 in 1995.

"Virtual IDOL" Vol.5 (PC Engine Fan November 1995 special issue)

The first ever mass distributed dakimakura covers to feature a full-body sized character originated as a doujin work from an doujin event called Leaf Fan in 1997. It is alleged that the circle named 江戸主水のお店 was the first to do this, creating a two-sided (with a lewd side) cover for Multi from the To Heart series.

non-lewd side

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I can't find a specific character, but I can give you a company!

According to this Wikipedia page, the company Cospa was one of the first companies to begin printing anime characters on Dakimakura. They started in the late 90's, however it's notable that non-anime Dakimakura have been around for a long time, in the form of what the Wikipedia page calls "security objects" (some object providing psychological comfort, especially in "unusual situations"). However I cannot find any pictures of cospa's early pillows.

That said I feel that the Wikipedia source on the country is probably reliable, because it cites Patrick Galbraith's "Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan" which, along with his book "The Moé Manifesto" are great sources for answers to any other questions you might have similar to this one.

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  • It seems cospa are early 00's rather than late 90s according to their website anyway cospa-creation.co.jp/company/english.html I might see if I can get a hand on those books Jun 17, 2015 at 5:27
  • I wonder why there's a discrepancy between Galbraith and the official site then? I strongly recommend the books. I used The Moé Manifesto for a research paper last year actually.
    – anonymous
    Jun 17, 2015 at 19:24
  • Ah, seemingly it was part of a company called Brocolli for a while (1995) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broccoli_(company) Jun 17, 2015 at 21:44
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    Broccoli was responsible for Di Gi Charat, which I always think of as one of the earliest moe series, so it makes sense that one of their subsidiaries would be the originator of anime dakimakura.
    – Torisuda
    Jun 17, 2015 at 23:17
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Inside of anime:

Urusei Yatsura (1981-1986)
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The character Megane is likely the first otaku that featured inside of an anime.

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officially licensed body pillows only

Keep in mind that the entire fandom started inofficially producing merchandise long before any official sources even existed. Doujinshi, figures and body pillows all started out as being made by fans for fans.

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