Hey, Answerman!

by Zac Bertschy,

Ever had a song stuck in your head so badly you can actually hear it playing? That happened to me this week with that Alvin & The Chipmunks Christmas song. You know the one: "Me, I waaaant a huuula hooop!".

Actually, that's a lie, but I'm willing to bet you have that song stuck in your head now.

Anime in America is expensive.  You've certainly addressed this phenomenon in your column plenty, but I've been wondering what accounts for the enormous fluctuations in price from retailer to retailer.  As an example, I recently ordered the Eureka SeveN Vol. 1 boxset.  Had I ordered it from Suncoast's website, I would have paid $59.98.  Alternatively, ordering from Amazon.com would have run me $47.99.  I ultimately ordered it from deepdiscountdvds.com for $36.50, and free shipping  (Feel free to remove the name of the website, I promise I'm not part of some undercover advertising scheme).  I got my product, it's perfect quality, and it's not a bootleg, unless someone out there is bootlegging Gekko State tshirts.

So how can this be?  Is Suncoast simply marking their products up by a huge margin, or are other sites selling at a loss?  I don't think my boxset "fell off a truck," since with a little effort, a person can find similar savings on most anime releases.  What makes this particular medium so susceptible to price discrepencies?

A lot of people like to think that Suncoast is marking DVDs up, but that isn't really the case; they just rarely offer discounts on anything past the first week of release. Generally, the store will offer a new release for $5-$10 off the MSRP for around a week. Immediately after that, the price of the DVD rises to match MSRP, which is, as we all know, the price the manufacturer suggests for the item. Normally for anime, it's $24.99-$29.99 for a single disc, and anywhere from $34.99-$59.99 for a volume one plus box set. Most other brick and mortar stores - giant chains like Best Buy that stay out of malls in order to avoid paying high rent - set their standard retail prices lower than MSRP to attract business. Best Buy can afford to do that, since they're a giant retailer (like Wal-Mart).

The reason online shops are generally cheaper is because they have less overhead cost to begin with - Deep Discount DVD doesn't have a retail location, so they don't have to pay any of the costs associated with having one, which helps. That particular site offers nearly everything at a huge discount; their prices are barely above wholesale cost. I have to assume (since they wouldn't answer my questions about how they're managing to make a profit this way) that they're aiming for quantity of sales, a'la Wal-Mart or Best Buy. They're only making a dollar per DVD, but they're selling thousands and thousands more than most other stores. I'm not sure if this approach is actually working for Deep Discount DVD, but the store is still open, so I have to assume it's not a terrible failure.

In any case, the prices you're seeing for anime online really aren't much different from the discounts you see on other major DVD releases. Most major new theatrical films are released on DVD with a $29.99 MSRP tag and are sold in the first week for $15 or less; the following week, they're priced around $19.99 or so. It isn't just anime; %40 discounts are entirely common on relatively new releases.
To further illustrate this point, let's take a major new release - say, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The week it came out, it was $14.99 at Best Buy, $17.84 at Deep Discount, $14.96 at Amazon and $19.99 at Suncoast. The MSRP was $26.96. Although your cost on the E7 box was lower on Deep Discount, you can see how the same stores generally apply the same discount. It all depends on the retailer's bottom line and what their profit strategy is.

I watched the ENTIRE saiyuki series on DVD. I thought it was fun and the action was good, so now I'm interested in this whole Reloaded and Reloaded: Gunlock. Is Reloaded a legitimate sequel, or is it the retelling of the same story in the original series? It was hard enough keeping up with a 12 DVD series, I don't want to waste my time if Reloaded doesn't continue where the first show finished.

If you're asking whether or not Reload and Reload Gunlock are direct sequels to the original Saiyuki series, then the answer is "yes, they are". If you're asking whether or not they're worth your time, the answer is "your mileage may vary". The two sequel series are largely regarded as vastly inferior to the original(and, according to some, downright silly and ultimately very repetitive). I've never heard anyone but diehard Saiyuki fans praise either series, and even then they admit they're not as good and they're simply watching for the cute guys.

Then again, you might love 'em, so you may as well check it out for yourself, right?

do u know if the manga "Tough" is licensed in the US yet?

Yeah, Viz released it a while ago. You should be able to find it in any bookstore. Not sure why you'd want to, though. Tough is pretty terrible.

That's really all I have to say on this subject, so here's a baby bunny.

Blu-ray players are coming out soon. The Blu-ray discs obviously have much more memory than standard DVD's. Do you think anime will be distributed on them? And if so, do you think they will have more than just 3 episodes on one disc? Also, while the discs are more expensive to make, is it likely that we will be paying less overall (let's say Blu-ray discs could hold 15 episodes and the anime DVD would be on sale for $70 a disc)?

I can basically guarantee you that anime will appear on Blu-Ray disc. If there's a company out there that sincerely expects anime fans to pay for a Blu-Ray disc that only has two or three episodes on it, they're insane; everyone knows the capacity is much, much higher, so we're all going to be expecting bigger episode counts; I'd expect at least 6 or 7 per disc, if not more than that.
We might be paying less overall but expect to continue paying a slight premium for anime as usual. Don't expect the discs to be the same price as standard American DVDs.

But hey, if you're gonna fork over $600 for a PS3 so you can watch Blu-Ray discs, I have a hard time believing you're gonna balk at the cost of 'em!

Here's this week's rant, courtesy of Kim Cossey. A reminder: the following is in no way representative of the opinions of Anime News Network, Zac Bertschy, or anyone else save the person who wrote it.

I'm getting more and more frustrated with the perception among anime fans that anime companies are trying to gouge them somehow.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of paying upwards of $20 for a DVD which only contains four episodes. I will admit that sometimes, I've been in the store, mulling over whether or not I want to get an American DVD or an anime DVD, and the American show will win simply on price. However, that's because the American company doesn't have to pay for licensing, translating, or dubbing. Sure, many have Spanish and French options, but let's face it - it's not terribly difficult to find a competent Spanish or French translator. It's just expensive to release anime in the US, and downloading or buying bootlegs certainly isn't going to help. 
This actually brings up a related point. American anime fans are actually quite lucky, as the majority of American distributors seem to be interested in retaining the artistic quality of the original while still somehow making money. It's a fine line, and despite occasional errors, most companies do fine…with the notable exception of 4Kids.
4Kids has decided that artistic integrity isn't worth their time. Instead, giant buckets of money are worth their time. I'm certainly not happy about it – an uncut One Piece would be a great thing. Heck, at this point, I'd probably settle for a less butchered One Piece. You can be pissed at them, sure, but you can't blame them for deciding that profit was their number one motive. Especially in the case of YuGiOh, the slicing and dicing of anime has certainly paid off. Unfortunately, taking something from Japan and marketing it to mainstream America is a tough prospect, at best. Americans are especially wary of anything that's obviously different, and sadly many still think that cartoons are for kids. Family Guy and The Simpsons haven't changed that one bit. Importing something like One Piece to the US unaltered wouldn't make the company enough money, in their opinion. I can't fault them for deciding they're in this for profit...but I don't have to like it. So, stop griping at 4Kids for being a typical American company. They're not going to change unless their business model stops working.

Whew. So what do you think? Does Kim have a point? Sound off on our forums and let the discussion begin!

If you have a rant of your own and would like to see your work in this space, just follow the rules below and you could be the next featured fan in RANT RANT RANT!:

Welcome to the newest segment in Hey, Answerman: RANT RANT RANT!

What I'm looking for are your best and brightest rants: no shorter than 300 words, on any topic you like related to anime. I'm expecting decent writing, and a modicum of sensibility. Send me a well-written and thoughtful rant that's a decent length, and I'll print it in this space, regardless of whether or not I agree with it, with no further commentary from me. The goal is to provide a more visible and public space for those of you with intelligent things to say about anime, the industry, anything you like related to the subject; discussion in our forums will surely follow.

The rules? Well, here they are:

1. No excessive swearing. "Damn" and "Hell" are fine, anything stronger than that needs to be excluded or censored.
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4. Your rant must be at least 300 words, and use proper spelling and grammar. Internet speak, like 'lol' or 'u' instead of 'you' will not be tolerated.

Remember, your editorial doesn't have to be negative at all - feel free to write whatever you like, so long as it's on-topic. We're looking for solid, well-stated opinions, not simply excessive negativity.

Send your rants to [email protected], and watch this space next week for our first installment!

We're still on hiatus. Remember, if you've won an Answerman prize in the last month or two and haven't received your item yet, email me with your name, mailing address and the prize you won and I'll look in to it.

See you next week!

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