Friday, August 21, 2009

Rant: What Do You Mean It Costs Too Much?

Welcome to the first Rant here on Blog of a Heretical Dub Lover. Please give me a moment to switch borrowed personalities.

Pst. Minoru. You're up.



Oh. We're doing a Rant today?

I'll be your raging Minoru today, Richard J. Today's Rant is about the cost of anime.

Like the title says, what do you mean when you say it costs too much or a new boxset set is "premium pricing" at $59.98 or even $49.98 for HALF A FREAKING SERIES!

I know, I know. Arguing about the price is pointless. Anime effectively has no value due to all the illegal free subbing. So, while you can argue that the official releases have come WAY the hell down in cost, you can never quite convince people that they are getting their money's worth. R1 companies used to use premium packaging and physical extras to entice buyers but now that doesn't work well enough and the number of anime consumers has dropped.

They've cut costs as much as they can and in the cases of several of Funimation's competitors, tossed out the English dub which is one of the very few features that actually counts as 100% value-added content versus fansubs/bootlegs of the Japanese release. They've cut the disc count and gone for cheap packaging, dropped on disc extras for the most part and all of it to bring the overall price down. According to Robert of the Anime Corner Store, keepcases can save a studio 2% or 3% in replication and transportation costs due to their lighter weight and thus are cheaper to ship in bulk. We also know that the costs of anime dubbing have actually dropped below the often quoted $10,000 an episode number. (Which is good to know as I intend to one day use any spare thousands on paying for dubs to be made for shows I love. Yes, I'm serious.)

So what is going on? People still complain about the cost because it's still more expensive than free and, since Funimation is now the only company really licensing a lot, they get to be called an evil monopoly. For managing to not massively cut back on releases, and even expand a little, they're labeled that way. People still complain about the prices and always will. They'll complain about companies not running themselves into the ground too. It only makes sense if you're brain is wired wrong but run with it folks!

Meanwhile, the number of anime consumers continues to drop, not only here but in Japan too! According to ANN, sales in Japan for the marketplace of games, music, manga, films, etc. fell for a second year in a row in 2008. The market fell 2% to $136.357 billion. (Yes, I know that sounds like a lot but remember, that is not the net profit, that's the value of the industry. Little of that is liquid assets. Traditional income sources like DVDs and such fell 3.9%, after having already dropped 3.6% in 2007. Some good news on TV and the net though with television and broadcast revenues increasing 2.9% and Internet sales increasing 12.5%. Unfortunately this doesn't make up for the falling DVD sales and, no, Blu-Ray doesn't either. In other words, the Japanese costs are going up on a product that many people don't even want to pay for.

On the US side of things, the economy has gone to hell and if the economists are right, either we're getting set up for another big drop or we're still not going to see enough jobs coming back. So anime consumers look at the price for a half series set, say "wow, expensive" and just download it. Even though the cost is demonstrably lower than it used to be. Plus, falling sales in Japan mean that eventually there will be increased licensing fees while the value of the US dollar has dropped so low, foreign governments are losing confidence in it.

Geneon prices? DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THEM? Over a $100 bucks for a 13 episode series? TODAY'S PRICES ARE NOT PREMIUM!

A big part of the problem is that no one actually cares about the costs to the company. They just want it cheap, fast and perfect. Period. No exceptions, no concern for reality. You see this kind of mentality everywhere nowadays. People simply don't care about the logistics of things.

Another part of the problem is that corporations have been made into a modern day bogeyman by the general media, with people being told that they are all extremely wealthy and just charge people apparently for giggles because it could all be free if not for the evil and corrupt corporate executives. Look at the "Funimation is a monopoly" line that people are using in many places now. They suggest that their prices are higher for no logical reason other than they've managed to not shrink while others have all but vanished from the market place. (Dear goodness, heaven help us when success is rewarded with paranoid delusion.)

If Funimation qualifies as a monopoly at all (it doesn't under the classic "only one firm produces the good" definition though it does under more modern ones) it may be considered a "natural monopoly" because anime distribution costs a lot to start up, has marginal at best profit and has numerous natural barriers to entry, such as the need to form a relationship with people from another country as well as to convince anime fans to become anime consumers. The fact is, however, that if Funimation is a "natural monopoly," then they are actually considering their competitors price-structures, which is the exact opposite of what bad monopolies do! Do a price comparison on MSRPs for them and other companies and you'll find that when both titles have an English dub, the prices are more or less the same and can be better than their competitors.

Look at the MSRP for half series sets of Sasami Magical Girls Club originally at $39.98. Compare them to ADV's Clannad release MSRPs at $39.98. Sasami has a dub. Clannad doesn't. Does anyone actually believe Sasami sold better than one of the most highly fan-anticipated series of the year? (Oh and Sasami's come way down in price too.)

Yes, that evil Funimation, charging so much more than their competitors for anime sets! Fiends! (Yes I'm aware that $49.98 and $59.98 are also used but again, consider the presence of a dub and compare. They differences in price are just not significant.)

Moving on, the vast majority of anime fans/consumers simply do not know what it actually costs to make anime, distribute anime or do anything legally with anime except buy it. $59.98 is a fairly typical MSRP for season box sets of live-action series that are out of the mainstream. Supernatural season 4 has such an MSRP. It also has a lot of bonus features but it already made back many of it's production costs in commercial sales while it aired on US TV and product placement. Anime sales in R1 represent virtually the only profit the R1 company gets for the series. Also, complaining about the half-series sets: 13 episodes is considered a cour in Japan, though it can vary dramatically. That's the equivalent of a full season over here. So in my opinion, current prices are in line with many live-action TV series releases so, frankly, I wonder what exactly fans are comparing the current prices to. A theoretical price? A price of Free? Bootlegs?

Heck, I've been buying for years now and by any rational and objective standard, the prices are at a low for anime. To consider the current pricing to be premium is just. . . well, I'd very much like to know exactly what a fair price is under this scenario because even sub-only half-series sets aren't that much cheaper than this when they are cheaper and if Bandai is any indication, they're going to be LESS cheap going forward. In fact, this is almost a certainty as maintaining profit margins with a continually diminishing number of actual anime consumers and the rising costs of doing business. (Taxes are going up and so are utility costs! Damn I love paying more for my electricity so some bureaucrat whose got millions can feel like he/she's "saved the planet" don't you? By the way, guess what a confirmed "natural monopoly" is? You're local power company! Don't like your power bill being so high? Your SOL! Oops, didn't mean to get political, won't happen again in this Rant!)

So, to bring this Rant to a conclusion because it needs one at this point, anime is NOT premium priced and is in fact MUCH CHEAPER than it used to be. English dubbed anime is especially cheap when you consider the cut profit margins for the R1 company. Cut profits that have led to ditching artboxes and sweet on disc extras.

Now, does that mean we shouldn't want more bang for our buck? Should we not expect extras on disc or better packaging? HELL NO! We should want them. We should demand them! All I'm saying is we have to expect to pay more for them and, for now, we shouldn't expect anyone but VIZ, Funimation, Bandai (when they have a TV deal) and Media Blasters (when they feel like it but don't expect them to get back prior casts because they aren't doing it with Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny and NO I AM NOT BITTER ABOUT IT AT ALL) to do an English dub and as time goes on, none of them will provide bonus on disc content unless they got a really great deal on it as a standard feature for a release. (Why do the Japanese charge for extras separately from licensing? They can so they do because they need the money too!)

I suggest a new take on Limited Editions: Extremely small runs, less than a 1000. Very expensive, totally tricked out, for the HARDCORE fan of a series. And sold online only because that cuts the price too. Direct to consumer from the company too, they can have an unpaid college intern handle it.

That's it for this Rant. I'm sure you're all hoping to never see another one. Back to you Akira-sama.


Hmm, she's stunned. Well, this has been Richard J. in Minoru mode ranting at you. I would have gotten it up sooner along with some more reviews but I've been sick this week and only really started getting back on my game yesterday. Expect two reviews this weekend though. One anime complete series set and a complete manga series. Ones from a favorite company and ones from a company I am now only finishing already begun series from as I have vowed to never again start a new one from them!

By the way, I think an Ame-warashi must be hanging around my house because it's been raining daily for about three weeks now. Seriously, I am not kidding, the house of Richard J. has been rained on daily for weeks now.

Bye! Akira-sama cute mode will be back next time!


  1. Oh wow, that rant was epic.

    Because I'm such a lurker at AOD I can't say I myself learned anything new from this, but this is something I feel a lot of people really need to read to understand the situation of the anime industry.

    *clap clap clap*

  2. I find its sad that people whine about the small things about anime. From the dub being bad, price being to high, to they changed the box. To me, if you download it, you should buy equal to what you download.

    But I think anime disc is reasonable priced, on average you get about near 2 hours of DVD. To me that is about $8-$11 an episode, depending on the price of a DVD for 4. I think that is pretty reasonable. Heck even a season (half) they are still very reasonable.

    Anime is hobby (or a way of life), either way, having one of them means it will cost you money. So people shouldn't complain, because it is hobby (or way of life).

    So in short, I think anime is very reasonable, since I have brought other series for gifts to other people and see how they are priced.

  3. Hooray for rants.

    People certainly will complain about anything. Didn't like singles? Box sets, and half season sets come out faster. "Half Season sets are stupid, I want full box sets NAO!!" Didn't like to wait? Legal streaming comes out, to tide you over until box sets come out, and stuff like that. There's even simul-casting now, and people complain about that. "Serves Funimation right for not upping their security." People probably still wouldn't be happy if you brought their favourite shows to them, gift wrapped, and sang a jolly tune for them. "What, it took you this long to get here?! *Slams Door*"

  4. @ bal-anime: As an AOD lurker, you may be able to figure out which thread inspired this rant.

    @ Yuu Anime: I'm not a downloader anymore and was never a big one but with reasonable exceptions (no dub for the release, release not available) I've bought everything I downloaded.

    @ Brazzlefrazz: It never ceases to amaze me either how much people can complain about things that are irrational. I mean, there are plenty of things to complain about in this industry but complaining about improvements because they aren't perfect? Makes me shake my head.

  5. I was sort of relieved of how immensely CHEAP our anime DVDs are compared to Japan. Some time ago, I checked the DVD prices for Lucky Star in Japan, and the price is, on average, 4,700 yen (or approx. $52.12). Multiply this by 12 (yes, you heard right. TWELVE. Meaning TWO EPISODES PER DVD) and you're pretty much paying $625 for ONE ANIME WITH A SET OF 24 EPISODES. Contrast this with the dub DVDs selling for $20 per piece on average and that's a whooping $505 difference between what the US has to pay and what Japan has to pay.

    Another mild case is for Bamboo Blade which is recently going to have an English dub DVD release on November 24. In Japan, the DVDs go for 4,000 yen (roughly $44.36) on average and hold 2 or 3 episodes. Multiply this by 9 and you're almost paying $400 for the series purchased in Japan. Contrast this with the $60 per cour (13 episodes) for the English dub and you have a $280 difference.

    Maybe when the people complaining about prices look at this figure, people will start thinking twice about whining about the price of anime in America. Japan has it WAAAY harder in this situation, and an Amazon JPN contributor even rated one of the Lucky Star DVDs with a 1, citing the price AND quantity of the US version as a criticism. Even the Japanese are completely aware of how relatively inexpensive localized anime is.