It’s no secret that I love anime. Anime has been in my life for fifteen some-odd years and I don’t plan on changing that. My induction to anime was Speed Racer, but I didn’t really know what it was. Then Pokemon and Sailor Moon came around and it peeked my interest. Then Digimon came around and I was hooked for life. This was around the time where dubbed and cut anime was airing on Cartoon Network’s block, Toonami and even Fox Kids had a block of programing. Uncut and/or subbed anime was only available at Suncoast and on VHS and were $25 a piece for 3-4 episodes. Back then, with VHS, you could either get sub only, dub cut or dub uncut. Anime gradually got more popular and made its way to DVD and it bumped the price up to $35-$40 a disc for 3-4 episodes.
It was hard being a fan in those days. It wasn’t as available and when you did find it, you’d spend a lot of your hard earned money on it and by the time you had a full series, you’ve probably spent well over $200 for a 26 episode series.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert in marketing or business at all. But this is the industry according to Krista.
Having anime on TV gave exposure to the sub-culture and that made the licensing company’s very happy. Because of the demand, prices started to fall down as there was more of an interest. A full season set was still a huge chunk of change, but individual discs became a little more bearable. As years went on, I’d like to attribute the very affordable prices of anime to FUNimation. Their slim packaging gave you 12 episodes on two discs for about $35 each. Considering you’d spend that much for 3-4 episodes, that is an episode steal. Once that series is no longer a new release, it’s then released in a full and complete set for a cheaper buy than collecting the sets. As always, patience prevails. Many other companies started releasing Legend Collection sets at discount prices!
So where am I going with this? While anime sales and popularity are fluctuating and there’s more ways to view it, even those currently airing in Japan through authorized streaming sites, there’s one company that just… makes it a little unfair for me – Aniplex USA.
They’ve become a bit of an elitist otaku company and I really don’t like it. They license a series and once it is dubbed and out for release, you can ONLY buy it through them or RightStuf.com. I buy a lot of things from RightStuf, but not being able to buy it from major retailers like Amazon really limits public awareness. Sure there’s advertisement in certain magazines and some sites, but it’s not widely available.
What I hate the most is the price. I’m going to be using Blue Exorcist as the victimized example from here on because I really want this series, but I won’t buy it because of the ludicrous price. These days, you could purchase an entire 26 episode series for around $40 give or take. Blue Exorcist was divided into two sets, labeled as seasons (BTW, I hate it when they do this because in Japan there was only ONE season. just say PART one and two :P) and both DVD parts are priced individually at SRP: $79.99. WhY? Why would something in this day in age for that many episodes need to be that much? There’s a few internal features, but not enough to merit that price. I’m not even going to say I’m biased. But waaaaait! There’s BluRay. Also divided into two sets, they run SRP: $174.99 a piece. This makes me sick. Granted, the BluRay is considered the “special edition” and comes with post cards and the respective soundtracks (which are SUPERB!) a booklet and the DVD, but still? That is quite the mark up. Oh, and then there’s the 90 minute movie that is just about as much as the series on DVD and $30 for the DVD (SOMEWHAT reasonable).
I’m sure there are diehard fans that will pay this price. In fact, I know there are. But like with the limited way to obtain the series, you limit your potential buyers by making it basically un-buyable for the general public. “But we want to make the packaging and features just like the Japanese release!” The only thing Aniplex USA has done in this regard as far as doing a favor for American fans is giving it a dub track. If I bought the Japanese release, I’d be paying that $179.99×2 and the shipping would may or may not be included in that price. If I wanted to pay the Japanese price, I would have. When you license a thing, you’re supposed to be making it available to your audience, not isolating them.
Now whenever I see Aniplex USA has licensed a title I’ve been looking forward to in an English release, I get really mad and sad all at the same time. I want to support the industry. I want to buy things I enjoy. But I do not make enough to spend quadruple the price to obtain it when other companies can release an anime series for so much less.
With series like Sword Art Online and Blue Exorcist airing on a cable network, I really hope the fans will speak and ask for a non-special edition/discounted set. but then I know they’ll be like “Why lower the price when there are still many that purchase it like this? *counts the greens from Madoka fans*”