Okay, so licensing companies might cry and fans might whine, but it is where the retailers are that rubber meets the road. All that talk about internet distribution offers a glimpse of another world, another way to do business; but that’s not today. At least when it comes to anime anyways.
My question to you is: who and where do you go to get your fix? When you’re buying DVDs in the US, they are abundant and cheap. Places like DeepDiscount consistently provide margin-killing prices for a wide selection of videos on discs. I pretty much go there for anything that I’m not in a hurry for. Well, maybe between that and Netflix.
The licensee RightStuf operates their own store, and often they also provide good prices. Granted it’s not often and their normal prices are not exactly exciting, RightStuf is a candidate to an one-stop shop. I wonder how much money they make off a copy of Piano… That said, I use RightStuf only because it is cheap, and because they have the selection for some of the less popular wares that catch my eye. I suppose the only notable thing about this Iowa-based retail operation is that they almost hired Lawson for something. For better or worse.
There’s also this other licensee, AnimeNation. They are also one of the earliest entries into the US regional market to provide both imported and locally licensed goods. While they don’t do the same kind of margin-killing sales, they do offer a much wider selection with more imported goods. Maybe ‘wider’ is not so accurate of a description as more, different kind of stuff go through their inventory than RightStuf, which tend to stick to some relatively exclusive goods that are hard to find elsewhere. Yet, for an import junkie like me, the fact that RightStuf doesn’t sell imported CDs means they’ll only get a couple hundred dollars (at best) of my sales each year. AN plays the import game very conservatively so I rarely buy from them, at any rate. I don’t blame them–it’s not easy and I’m not sure if a FL-based company can pull it off.
Fair enough. The only “real” one-stop shop for anime, as an importer, is Amazon Japan. And I do spend way too much money on them (when I have said money to spend). They even have a complete figure store, but I guess they’re too high profile to sell that stuff as exports. What the hell, right? I mean, ok, blocking exports of video games make some sense (not much more, but at least they are controlled much more tightly by a handful of licensors), but why figures? They part with CDs and DVDs without a care, so I don’t see the problem. Maybe a customs issue? Anybody knows?
There are a few other near one-stop shops. Animaxis, if you can put up with how annoying they are and how much more things are marked up, is a potential option. Akadot retail and Broccoli’s AnimeGamers (currently dot-anime.com) are also good options online, but neither is that cheap and their selection is spotty at best. They are good places to go to get some exclusives, though.
That brings me to the final potential of an one-stop shop: Kinokuniya. Now I’m not sure what you can buy from them over the internet, but their local stores are chock full of imported CDs and DVDs. And of course books and manga and artbooks and random trinkets. Kinokuniya’s selection is not great, but it isn’t stale. They get the new stuff, the popular stuff on the shelf. I can go in on a Friday and expect to see the new singles that came out that week displayed there. The markup is notable, unfortunately. Now the American Kinokuniya stock tons of the region 1 anime and manga, and it has transformed into something more like a B&N or Borders. But when it comes to the somewhat more hardcore fanboy stuff, there’s traces of it to be found.
Admittedly, my simple survey skips a lot of nuances. If you want to buy anime porn, well, don’t ask me where to find them. Certain some goods like doujinshi and specialty imports like bishoujo games and indie fan CDs and the like require a specialty outlet. A lot of the figures you can buy (and almost all the ones I buy) also require a specialty outlet. There’s stuff like Y!JA and other special order stores. Still, that is not to mention only AnimeNation, out of the stores I listed, deal in used goods. There’s a healthy division of labor to avoid competition?
And of course I must’ve missed some stores out there, too. Anyone care to add?