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We're In Ur Marketplace, Overpricing Ur Anime PDF Print E-mail
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Monday Musings
Monday, 20 June 2011 13:51
Some things just give you a sinking feeling when you see them. I was ploughing through the overnight tweets this morning, when this little titbit appeared in the @animevision timeline:

@jlskun: MadokaMagicaUSA.com is now a registered domain for Aniplex of America.

I'm not a morning person, so had almost scrolled on past before realising what I'd read. Given that domain name registration is a fairly good indicator of licensing, my reaction to this news was simple:

Noooo!

I see Aniplex of America in much the same way that I used to view Bandai Visual USA: an effort by the Japanese to bypass the usual process of bringing anime to the West (via licensing to R1 distributors), so that they can bring Japanese release practices and - more importantly, and relevantly - pricing to the US market. I don't like this, one bit. I'll grant that there's one major difference between the two companies: BVUSA stuck to niche titles that very few people actually cared about, whereas Aniplex of America tends to work with higher-profile shows that do have wide appeal. And therein lies another problem.

On one level, you can't blame Aniplex for trying to up their return on their investments. For several years now, the pricing trends on anime in the west have been firmly downwards, with a typical 12- or 13-episode series having gone from a DVD RRP of around $120 (4 volumes at $29.98) to nearer $70 or less (and that's before preorder or online discounts take another 30% - 40% off that). We've gotten used to anime on the cheap, and with that there's a not unreasonable expectation that the gravy train will continue.

In Japan, though, two episodes of Madoka Magica on DVD will put you back 6,000 yen (approx $74) plus tax, and Aniplex in recent times has been experimenting with simply importing their Japanese releases at similar-to-Japanese pricing. Witness Kara no Kyoukai - Garden of Sinners, a snip at $400 for the seven-movie Blu-ray box set. The wails of anguish from certain sections of fandom were hard to miss. (For comparison, the US Evangelion 2.22 Blu-ray has a list price of $34.98 - seven movies at that price would put you back $245, before discounts.) The aim is clearly to swing the pricing pendulum back the other way, and then some distance beyond it, and bring Japanese pricing - which treats anime as a collectible rather than as disposable entertainment - to the west.

Personally, I would hate for Madoka Magica (or any other series that I had an interest in) to suffer such a fate. Partly because I then couldn't afford to buy it (and it's right at the top of my want-to-buy list at the moment), but also because it's one of those shows that you want to get the widest possible exposure.

The hope, I guess, is that Aniplex will allow someone else to handle the DVD release while doing the Blu-ray themselves (as happened with Baccano! - and in that case, the existence of a comparatively cheap DVD set seems to have kept the price of the Blu-ray down to reasonable levels), or that a UK licensee will pick up the series here and release it at 'normal' UK pricing. I can but hope. In the meantime, though, Aniplex of America remain the company that I dread seeing associated with any series that I care about.


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