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Anime is Too Expensive in Japan
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
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April 19, 2006 11:47 JST
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The last few days I have been saying, "I should find some anime." I've been here two weeks and I've seen barely a snippet of anime. Anime is definitely one of the main things I like about Japan. I rent anime nearly every week in Seattle since we have such an awesome source. In Japan, it is quite a different story. Oh, they have anime rental. I was pretty impressed with the rental store. But you need to speak enough Japanese to get a card. Then after that, you need to have some sort of Japanese ID to rent probably (I don't know since I can't read or speak Japanese well enough).
Tsutaya DVD/CD/Video Rental

So the obvious solution is to buy anime. There's no problem spending a bit of cash. In fact, I have 10000 yen ($100) burning a hole in my pocket for the specific purpose of entertainment. So I go to Akihabara to find some anime. A bunch of places have anime for sale. But when I look at the major retailers, all I can see are 4500 yen ($38). They aren't 1000 minutes long, they're normal DVDs, 2-4 episodes, 120 minutes. In fact, the only difference they have from the ones I can get in the US for $25 is that they lack subtitles and English dub. WTF? American companies add sub and dub and sell for half the price? What's more, the anime is on tv, so anyone who is buying the anime has possibly had the chance to watch it on TV for free. Double WTF.

Trader 3 Used Anime
Eventually I find a place that is a bit north of the main Akihabara. It's a used DVD place, Trader 3. Surely used DVDs are cheaper. Sadly, there's a pricing scale. Items that are the first dvd of a series and 40 minutes long (1-2 episodes) and unpopular are 500-900 yen. As you go up in the volumes, length, and popularity, so does the price. All the full length (140 min), dvd #2-N, popular anime DVDs are 4500 yen ($38). WTF?

People headed across Akihabara's main strip
Then I find a place called リバティー Ribatei (Liberty). It's off the main strip by half a block. It has a better pricing scale, yet still too expensive. It translates to 500-900 yen per episode. That means you can get 4 episodes for 2000 yen ($16) for unpopular anime and 3 episodes for 3000 yen ($25) for popular anime. It ends up being the same price as a DVD in the US. It's still too expensive.

Why is it that anime is more expensive over here than in the US? Manga is cheaper or the same price over here. But it must stand to reason that anime DVDs should be cheap. Who in the hell is buying these overpriced DVDs? From the selection, not very many people. Perhaps the economists have figured out the sweet spot for anime dvds is 4500 yen in Japan and $25 in US. But that can't be correct. Really that means that some smart entrepreneur could buy DVDs in America and sell them in Japan for a massive profit. No fucking way. (Hasn't anyone thought of this?) By the time that it gets back to Japan, it'd be as cheap to get the DVD over there.

The selection is also lacking in many ways. Making a survey of nearly every story I could, I found a lot of stuff that I've seen in the US, a few things that I've seen a glimpse of before, and only a few other things. Initial D Fourth Stage volumes 1-12 are out in Japan while in America it's still at Second Stage. Naruto is on whatever Nth chapter and America is just a dozen DVDs behind.

The rental place had a lot of stuff I didn't see in the stores. Lack of shelf space maybe. If I look at a fansub torrent site, I see 30 or so animes that I have never heard of. The reason is because they aren't licensed in America yet. Why isn't that stuff on store shelves in Japan? Stuff like Bleach was being fansubbed a years ago and now it's being licensed (2006-03-15).

What's the deal with buying anime DVDs in Japan???

Just today alone, I spent $28 on one manga and $40 on 2 CDs. I only spent $5 on anime. Here I am saying that anime is expensive. The manga was very special and came with a DVD, so it's no big deal that it cost so much. The CDs are expensive in Japan for no reason also, but I was willing to spend money on music that isn't very available in US. The anime was only 25 minutes plus a 15 minute interview with the cast. That's the difference and it illustrates an important point: I am willing to spend a bunch of cash that I shouldn't on rare things that I will only buy one of. I am not willing to spend a bunch of money on anything if it can be bought cheaper elsewhere or if it's unnaturally expensive.

I ended up getting 2 more dvds at 1500 yen each (2 episodes per dvd, 50 minutes per dvd). I liked the anime, I just need to rent anime because there's too much good stuff. To buy 2 anime DVDs per week, it would cost $50 per week. To rent 2 anime DVDs per week it costs $3.75 per week.

The high price probably doesn't matter much in Japan because everyone watches or records anime off TV. It's just a pain for me because I am a bit limited. Another possibility is to go to an anime cafe (250-500 yen per hour) and watch some anime. It's not exactly convenient, though. I can't take it with me, either.

From their site, TV Tokyo Analog 12, Digital 7 has a bunch of really good anime like Suzuka, Naruto, Bleach, and in the past Love Hina. Suzuka is on Wednesday 1:00-1:30 pm. Naruto is on Wednesday 7:27-7:55 am. Bleach is Tuesday at 7:30-8:00 pm. MAR is on Sunday 10:00-10:30 am. Idaten Jump is on Saturday 9:30-10:00 am. School Rumble is Sunday 1:30-2:00 pm.

If you want, click the link below to get this same front page with the Rising Sun logo at the top.
Rising Sun Sakura

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