It’s not important how we got here, but Mike Toole pointed out how it is about three times the price to purchase all of Madoka on Blu-ray, versus how much it cost in the UK. Eventually he asked a more general question about how people feel about reverse importing:
Twitter anime nerds: do you think it’s immoral or otherwise dodgy to import cheaper legit DVD/BD from outside of your local region?
I guess here is my 2c, and it comes down to two ways to look at it.
For the longest time I have lived like an international citizen. I still do. Sure, I was growing up in America but I was also an immigrant. Invariably my access to anime was a little wider than the average American in that I could consume Chinese-subbed/dubbed stuff (I used to have these Canto dubs of MKR somewhere, they’re hilarious). The fact that I could be okay with importing a Korean or Taiwanese release and tough it out is no different than importing the Japanese release and tough it out. I guess I actually never imported from Korea, but I did do the other two. Especially Japan.
The last things I imported from another English-speaking region were the two Studio Ghibli films that are now finally coming over to the US–Ocean Waves and Omoide Poroporo. Well, I probably should pick up the JP release of Ocean Waves because that’s Blu and what I have is the UK DVD. But in this day and age, for someone so steeped in fandom online, region locks are akin to a minor inconvenience in terms of doing what I want to do.
I think anime is invariably something of an international product. It still amazes me how some Americans consumes it so out of context of its international origin, cultural background, and the context of how and why the shows they’re watching were first created. To me that there’s an international market for this crap is as natural as why Mexicans want to work in the States. I think that analogy is actually kind of what I want to get at.
Except unlike illegal immigration, region locking and such is simply the perpetration of a boorish business model predicated in a pre-global economy state of mind. It’s not about sovereign rights or anything like that. There is nothing natural about this; or rather, it’s a human effort to do something unnatural. Moreover I don’t think natural or not matters at all. It’s just a matter of enforcement and doing what is probably the rationally best option.
I said region segmentation is boorish because I kind of read this. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but faced with a new reality of the 21st century as the billions of people in Asia and South America arm themselves with social media, cheap-yet-powerful personal computing devices, wireless broadband, and wealth/spare time, this is just how things will go. Emerging economies gonna emerge, yo. Who are we to say they shouldn’t? It’s certainly the ethical thing to do in my opinion, that we let people buy the stuff as long as it’s legal and isn’t going to hurt anyone. Finally, copyright is ultimately a tool for merchants to make money; why use copyright in a way where that isn’t going to make you more money? And it’s ethical?
The other way to look at it is the practical take. I import from Japan, so when I buy something that way it is a very conscious decision. Take Nadesico for example. I thank Nozomi for not putting out a Blu-ray of Nadesico because I have no choice but to buy that standing collection of Nadesico Blu-ray discs (including the new telecine transfer for the movie). If they had released the same content in a box set oversea and sold it for $200, I would have purchased it in a heartbeat because that is about $150 less than how much I paid, plus it reduces certain amount of hassle.
But if I could’ve gotten the same import from the UK at $200 instead (for example), I probably would have–assuming it’s a similar product, including the video/audio quality, packaging, etc–and feel nothing about it. That’s the reality of the situation. In a similar way I feel this is how a lot of Japanese fans feel about importing anime from America (hello, Infinite Stratos).
The irony of me thanking Nozomi, hopefully, is not all lost on you. The truth I have some major doubt that anyone in American can produce the sort of quality box set that rivals your average premium Blu-ray disc box that Japan sells to their hardcore otaku buyers. Did you ever look inside the Kara no Kyoukai box and touched its interiors? Did you ever look at the bitrate on these discs? Transfers and upscaling aside, Japan just does it better in this category, almost across the board, every time. And for a big spender that sense of value is worth that much extra dough. For a show very dear to me I am more than happy to splurge (when I can) on it to get the proverbial best possible treatment. Nozomi just gave me the reason to spurn them and make this an easy choice.
I think the choice is a lot more serious in the Fate/Zero case. The first Blu-ray box sold at Rightstuf over the cost of importing from Amazon Japan. In that case, do you import? I hounded the Fandompost/AOD forums for a while during those months and found that there are some people who would pay the extra $40 or whatever and support RS. There are also people who think encouraging people to do it at RS sends Aniplex a signal. That may all be true. There is also a compelling reason to do business with RS because they do provide customer service that rivals Amazon, and they can go the extra mile in the case with product recalls and the like, something you are going to be SOL with if you deal with a Japanese exporter.
But you know what? I don’t give much mind to that. I don’t buy something with expectation that I will have to deal with the customer service. That’s just me though. What was more convincing was when I went to the Ei Aoki and Kondo autograph session at AX, they asked me if I got my Rakkyo box at Rightstuf.
The reality continues. I think if you read Clements’ interview I linked earlier, he links to another anecdote about a certain UK release that got reverse-imported. It’s just how that game works, so I understand if the market is set up this way, and people will reverse import, it will lead to the production companies avoiding releases that make them lose money this way. If they can show they’re losing money this way (I think this is a very valid question that nobody has gave me any concrete evidence as to what the answers are).
That’s basically what I mean by consequences. If we’re okay with the Kadokawas and Nozomis of the world, as far as these reverse-import situations goes, then I guess everything is peachy. And to a degree they are victims, as are their customers, of this wretched system that we have in place to extract short-term value at the cost of long-term growth.