Saturday, September 30, 2006

Updates - September 29th, 2006

Hey guys and gals! We're knee deep in the move for the next two weeks, so I'm going to have to make this a brief update.

This week we heard that the new Robotech production 'Shadow Chronicles' was named the Best Animated Sci-Fi Feature at the 2006 International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, but unfortunately the DVD release that was originally scheduled for November has been pushed to Spring of 2007. Figures. We received some more of the Voltron tins so it finally came off pre-order status as I think we have enough now to say that's it's in stock. The Shana DVD/CD combo pack experienced a last minute delay from Geneon (they missed the street date of 9/26), but we've confirmed that they are now on the way and we should have them in a day or two.

I've noticed lately that Funimation's limited edition boxes REALLY ARE limited, and that we have been unable to go back to them for restocks (on the popular ones) after our initial shipment. Because of this we're ramping up our initial orders for these types of items to make sure we can keep them in stock longer. A couple of recent releases that come to mind are the Negima Limited box #1, and especially the new Trinity Blood DVD box, both of which are sold out at Funimation's level and are getting in short supply in our warehouse. We have also run out of the Samurai 7 collectors art boxes and Funimation will not be pressing anymore. With this in mind, my advice for everyone out there that wants a new Funimation limited release is to go ahead and pre-order it so that your place in line for one is secured.

We have been working on some site enhancements that you have requested, along with upgrading some of our backend functions. We changed the software that monitors site statistics, and as a result went ahead and reset our counter back to 10 Million from 12 Million unique visits. The new software keeps track of visitors more accurately, and I felt the reset was probably indicative of the margin of error with the old software. We are also changing the layout for our upcoming releases page to make it more manageable. We're also experimenting with features that will allow that list to be sorted by date and title. I'll let you know in a few weeks how that's coming along.

A few new DVD releases in this week, most notably Speedgrapher #3 and the final volume of Ichigo Mashimarof, and a lite manga update that included Berserk #13 and a new series 'Line' which looks really good. We received another nice new figure shipment including two Ex figures of Rei and Asuka, and a truly lovely figure of Asa Shigure from Shuffle, plus several others. By the way, Sega is calling the Rei figure 'Rei Matsuri', and several people have written in thinking that's a typo. Matsuri just means 'festival', so Rei Matsuri basically translates to 'festival version Rei'. We do indeed know her last name is Ayanami. -_^ Finally, our cheap-skate of the week is devoted Anime fan John S., who by way of our e-mail conversations this week is taking both 'Frugal' and 'Perfect Condition' to a new level. Are you reading this John??!! We love you man! -_^ Actually a lot of you guys have written in recently about financial strains and such (the biggest reason we participated in the Geneon sale), so I did a coupon for our newsletter subscribers this week that should help ease the pain a little. :-)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Updates - September 22nd, 2006

Wow! What a week! To the left you can see Ron (at the old warehouse) during a 200+ order pull cycle earlier this week. No, he really is smiling...

In the news segment this week, I want to confirm the we have received our first batch of Voltron tins, however as expected we did not get our full shipment and I don't feel we have enough to make it 'available' yet, so it will stay on 'pre-order' status a little while longer. I'm sure other stores won't hesitate to show it in stock, and then promptly backorder units for customers when they run out, but we don't do things that way.

Just when you thought you had seen everything, someone in Japan has decided to make a 'Ramen Hamburger'. Looks delicious doesn't it? -_^ (thanks to Jerry for sending that over)

Geneon hit us up this week that Sherlock Hound is going out of print, so whatever DVD's we still have in stock will be first come first served and will not be replaced once they are sold out. We also got word this week that the company that owned Manga Entertainment has changed hands yet again,which is maybe the third or forth time that Manga Entertainment has been sold. Aside from GITS SAC, Manga hasn't published any titles of note in several years, but the word is that the new owners may put some more funding towards licensing and production so we might see some good titles start coming out of Manga's studio again - which is always a good thing!

Can you believe it, I have no DVD delays to report this week!? I must not have read this weeks new release mailers very well. -_^

Flash Gordon has offered up another fantastic review of a Studio Ghibli title, and he also discusses the legacy of the late Yoshifumi Kondo in the studio's productions.

I've been asked a few times recently why some of the street dates we show for new manga don't jive with the publishers release dates. There are several good reasons for this, one of which is that we regularly get e-mails like this one that came this morning:

'Broccoli Books apologizes, but due to a slight delay with printing KAMUI v5 has been pushed back 2 weeks to 10/25/06'

We had already set the street date for KAMUI v5 on the store at 10/31/06, and it's not because we're psychic. It's been my experience that manga street dates set by the studios are more guidelines than hard fast dates that they actually try to meet. Any particular manga volume can come in as much as a month early or a month late (or more) to the actual release date that was set by the publisher - with late being the case more often than not. We just tend to set the street dates we show on the store by our actual experience with that publisher as opposed to always showing the exact date they have set for it - you know, the one they probably won't meet anyway. That's why some of our street dates that show on the site are set 2 or 3 weeks after what the publisher originally announced. We're probably the only store around to think about it this way, and I'm sure it causes some consternation among fans that want a particular volume out as soon as humanly possible. If a release comes in early, great, we go ahead and post it to the site, but otherwise we try to keep our dates for manga set a little more, um, realistic. :-)

The Geneon sale is now about 10 days old, and we have sold over 50% of our total sale stock, and have already sold out of about 30 titles. We'll continue to run the sale until all our current sale stock is gone. I think the guys over here that package your orders will be glad when the rest is gone! Props to them for the great job they have done this week, they have been busting their butts!

New arrivals this week include the previously late My Hime #4 DVD and the 'rescheduled' early arrival of Seed Destiny #4. We also received Inu Yasha #46 early, along with several more new boxed sets and thin-paks. We received a more manageable manga shipment this week that included two notable new releases from DarkHorse: 'Satsuma Gishiden' for samurai action lovers and 'Banya' which can be put in a category all it's own! We also received a new batch of imported figures (and have yet another batch inbound) including the highly anticipated battle 'damaged' version of Ryofu Housen (which is incredible), and two large and gorgeous swimsuit versions of Rin and Sakura from Fate/Hollow Ataraxia. Finally we received a new batch of import books with several new artbooks including Murata's Robot 5, and two artwork anthologies by one of my favorites Toshihiro Kawamoto - they are keepers!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Updates - September 15th, 2006

Rome was not built in a day, and nor is our new facility. We've been working very hard recently getting both our new place ready for business as well and keeping up with your regular orders, and it's been quite a challenge!

This week we started the fall Geneon sale a little sooner than we had anticipated as Geneon shipped us our sale inventory a bit early. Order volumes since the sales started have been huge, and I had to call all the folks in that were working on the new place back to HQ to help process the extra orders. Also this week we've seen a dramatic increase in the amount of e-mail inquiries that have been coming in and we've had to par our immediate responses down to mostly store business only. Still, we're making good progress and should be ready to start moving our actual inventory and operations during the first week of October. Several folks have asked about new addresses for mail in payments and such, however nothing is going to change right now and we'll let everyone know when the time comes in a few weeks.

In the news is another group of date changes and a few other interesting tid-bits. First, here are the changes we've been able to confirm so far:

Changed From 9-12 to 9-26
Gundam Seed Destiny 4 DVD

Changed From 9-12 to 11-14
Clockwork Fighters 1 DVD

Changed From 10-17 to 10-24
Elemental Gelade 3 DVD

In addition to these changes, most of Bandai's 9-12 titles are shipping late and are not expected to arrive until early next week. This includes My-Hime Vol #4 which a very large number of you have on pre-order, in many cases holding up other items to ship complete. Rest assured we'll get these shipped as soon as our copies arrive.

Racking is first Pre Assembled in the receiving area and then is lifted up to the mezzanine level for installation in the warehousing area at our new fulfillment center. Our custom installed steel mezzanine from EquipTo was installed by my good friend Robert Lebeck and virtually doubles the floor space available for our pick pull area and allows 85% of all our products to be stocked and pulled without step stool or ladder assistance. This enables orders to be pulled more quickly and accurately.

Geneon let us know that all Toei partner products (Air Master and Slam Dunk) have now been officially discontinued and won't be repressed. For anyone interested we have sale stock on all the Air Master and Slam Dunk DVD volumes that were released last year before the Geneon/Toei distribution deal fell apart.

After comments by me and some other key retailers were published two weeks ago, TokyoPop has announced that they are going to relent a bit on their direct marketing plans for certain manga titles. This is good news as there was also a great deal of fan backlash to their plans and I'm glad to see that they have taken some of that to heart. See the news blurb below for more details. We're not sure yet how the new plans will shape up and TokyoPop still has a long way to go to fix their problems, but this latest development is at least encouraging.

I want to welcome aboard our newest recruit, Jennifer Judd, who joins the pick and order preparation team in the warehouse under Ron's tutelage. Jennifer comes to us with an great background in order fulfillment, retail, and warehouse operations, she's a lot of fun to have around, and we look forward to 'indoctrinating' her into the 'way of the Anime Corner'... :-)

Part of the shipping production area being built out at our new location. The new loose fill dispensers will hold 120 cubic feet of packing material each which means refilling them less often. Less time spent refilling means more orders shipped.

From the IT Desk: We will be conducting platform upgrades on Monday evening 9/18 from 11:00pm to 3:00am (EST). You've probably noticed that the store has been running a bit slow on an intermittent basis recently, especially after the high traffic increase due to the Geneon sale. One of the things that will be worked on will be improved server load balancing that should take care of these recent issues. You will still be able to place orders as normal on our front end during this period, however Gift Certificates and Coupons will not work while the upgrade is in progress.

I'm sure you are all aware of our Geneon Fall sale by now as there is scant an Anime web log or blog that has not picked up on it in the last couple of days. In addition to the sale we actually have had a pretty lite week in terms of new releases, though we did get in two key new titles in Trinity Blood and the final GIT's 2nd Gig DVD. The Limited version of Trinity Blood includes a really neat 'split opening' art box and a set a tarot cards, and the final volume of 2nd Gig is available with a Gorgeous tin art box that we were not expecting considering the original box art Manga video sent us. Ellcia is back out on DVD again after being off the market for over a year. Only a handful of new manga and books this week which actually is a welcome relief) the most notable being the 5th Vampire Hunter D novel and the 2nd Ghost in the Shell SAC book. We have another pretty large figure shipment inbound, but we did already receive the new Hajime Sorayama Silver Bobbed Replicant figure which is pretty expensive but absolutely gorgeous in both size and detail - plus she comes in a sumptuous collectors box to keep her safe.

And you can't imagine how long I've waited to use the word 'sumptuous' here! :-) Have a nice weekend everyone!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Updates - September 8th, 2006

Between us coming off the long holiday weekend and working out at the new place it's been a very short week for us and the whole crew has really been busting butt to get everyone's order filled. I think we are finally caught up filling new orders today. Phew!!

I wanted to mention again that while we are trying to make the move process as transparent as possible, there may be some delays filling a few orders here and there as we will be giving special attention to making sure orders go out complete this month in order to cause us fewer backlogs. This is complicated further when companies like Bandai do not print enough of new items like the .Hack//Sign DVD boxed sets and we have to hold some orders for a few days until we can make arrangements for copies from somewhere else to fill the gap in the interim.

So please be patient with us during this period of time as we will have the move completed in the next 3 to 4 weeks.

Speaking of companies not printing enough copies, my comments on TokyoPop last week seem to have created quite a stir. I'm not sure what the folks at TokyoPop are thinking about, but making some titles direct only and moving to an 'on demand' model for reprinting manga is probably the worst idea anyone in this industry has ever come up with. For folks in the direct market like us it means we will have to take deeper stock of non returnable new releases (which raises our overall cost on TokyoPop's line), and fans will see a higher number of blackout periods on manga volumes that are backordered because they are in reprint. Of course, what this boils down to is that direct sales only = no competition, scarcity = higher demand, and increasing retailer costs to carry a product = lower margins...

...which all will equal higher prices for fans and that IMHO sucks. I bite my thumb at anyone who says differently. -_^

In the news this week we've received word of several release date changes, which is very typical for the fall Anime season. I would expect this to be the norm for the next 2 or 3 months.

Here are the changes we've been able to confirm so far:

Changed From 8-29/9-6 to 9-26
Green Green 2 DVD
GaoGaiGar 1 DVD
GaoGaiGar 1 DVD w Art Box
Trinity Blood 1 DVD
Trinity Blood 1 DVD Limited

Changed From 9-26 to 10-3
Basilisk 2 DVD
Basilisk 2 DVD Limited

Changed From 10-3 to 10-10
Hare + Guu 5 DVD

Changed From 9-26 to 11-14
Fullmetal Alchemist Movie Limited

[UPDATE] As fate has it, we received Green Green Vol #2 in a late afternoon shipment arrival on Friday 9-8, so they will begin shipping on Monday 9-11. As to if it's actually arriving late or early, I'll let you guys decide... -_^

We have LOTS of preorders booked for the FMA Movie Limited edition - in fact about 75% of youpre-ordered the limited version of the movie, and many of those orders include other items that are holding for it's release, so if anyone has one on order and would like to change it just drop us an -mail (include your order number please) and we'll take care of it. It seems that the Zatch Bell movie got on a solicitation spreadsheet by mistake and is not even on Viz's 2007 schedule yet, so we have removed it from the site and cancelled any prebook orders for it that were placed during the short time it was up. Finally, Brocolli has let us know that they are sold out of all copies of the old pressing of the three FLCL DVD's, and that it will not be repressed as it is being replaced with a new edition in November (we'll have that up for pre-order shortly). We still have a few copies of the old FLCL DVD's for anyone who doesn't want to wait.

After some feedback on my search terms posting, we did a little experiment recently regarding who buys Yaoi titles, and the results might surprise you.

Not directly related to Anime, but Sony announced a couple days ago that they were delaying the launch of the PS3 game console in Europe from Nov 2006 to March 2007 in order to have enough units available for the Nov 2006 launch in Japan and North America, though they only expect to have 2 Million Units available for shipment in 2006 rather than the 4 Million they originally estimated would ship by years end. The problem is mainly that there will not be enough Blue Ray drives to go around because Sony has fallen way behind on their original manufacturing estimates. This does not bode well for the near future of the Blue Ray DVD format, as a serious shortage of components will limit the number of players available over the next few months and will keep the price high.

I've never been fond of Sony's predatory business practices which date all the way back to the 80's, so if this helps HD get a leg up on Blue Ray, that's fine with me. The sooner a single common standard is adopted, the better it will be for future high def Anime releases.

Even though it was a short week there was no lack of new early item arrivals. Some of the new volumes that came in on the manga side were not slated for release until October, which offsets the August Infinity titles that finally arrived 3 or 4 weeks late. This kinda stuff drives us nuts you know! :-) We also received the first part of a nice new figure shipment that included the absolutely gorgeous Yoakemaeyori Ruriirona Feena statue that is even bigger than I originally thought - so you know where the first one of her went! Finally, sorry we haven't updated the front page for a couple of weeks - that will be done next week for Sept along with adding about 80 new prebook items for November and December that have been accumulating in my inbox. Also I'm currently finalizing our choices for 2007 import calendars, so look for those to start going up on the site soon for pre-order. There is some great stuff coming later this fall, and I'll let you know the whole scoop on it right here over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who Buys Yaoi?

As a follow up to my recent post about our top search terms, specialK was wondering about the demographic split for Yaoi titles - recently the word is the 4th most searched for term on our site - even more than 'hentai'. We've always had a general feeling that the audience for Yaoi is mostly female, but we've never done any kind of formal analysis on it and specialK's comment raised my curiosity, so we pulled the data for the last 200 orders that contained at least 1 'Yaoi' or boy love manga item and did some database sorts.

First, we simply counted the number of female vs. male names (obviously there will be some margin of error as some are more ambiguous than others), and we found that buyers were:

67% Female
33% Male

Then, using the same name data we sorted the list in terms of
Shonen Ai vs. Yaoi titles. Around the office we refer to these titles two different ways: titles for audiences 13 and up is classified as 'Shonen Ai' (boy love), and for 18+ only audiences as 'Yaoi' (explicit content). Here's how that turned out:

Shonen Ai

79% Female
21% Male


56% Female
44% Male

(Customers that ordered both Shonen Ai and Yaoi on the same order were counted in both categories.)

So you can see that the audience changes a bit when we break the titles out by age rating, with guys buying more of the explicit titles while the gals are favoring the romantic stories that leave more to the imagination. Of course these stats are not scientific, and the data would be more accurate if we choose a larger sample, say 1,000 or even 10,000 orders, or if we had included DVD data, or sorted the list better - but we just didn't want to stay up all night trying to figure out if 'Jordan' or 'Taylor' is a guy or gal.

In the end, I really don't think it matters much anyway.... :-)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Updates - September 1st, 2006

Our Ranson, WV order processing center will be closed on Monday, September 4th for the labor day holiday, and again for part of Thursday September 7th for relocation activities. We will be spending most of the long weekend working out at the new facility, and will be moving some of our infrastructure to the new warehouse on Thursday the 7th. Since our facilities are far to large to relocate in one or two days, we will be moving our operations to the new location in stages over the next several weeks, and we are going to structure the move to cause the least disruption to our shipping operations as possible.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it! -_^

Saturday, Sept 2nd: Jamie can be seen helping to assemble the upper tiers of some of the pick/pull
shelving units at the new facility. She's such a trooper!

It's going to be a wet weekend for us as the remains of tropical storm Ernesto passes through our area today and tomorrow. It's already raining heavily and the wind is really picking up outside, and the guys in the know say we might get 5 or 6 inches of rain over the next 24 hours. Sounds like a good time to kick back and catch up on a few Anime flicks that are in the backlog pile!

A couple of new release tid bits this week. First, rumor has it that the Limited Edition version of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie has been delayed until November. I should have confirmation on that next week from Funimation, and I hope this is not going to be the case as this would be a really big deal, as about 75% of the folks that pre-ordered the movie ordered the limited version, so we'll try to get some definite word on that as soon as we can. We also received a retailer recall notice today from Geneon for the Trigun Remix Vol #2 DVD, though they did not indicate why - I've inquired as to what the actual problem is with the disk, but they are closed today and Monday for the holiday so we won't know until next week.

[Update: The rumor has been confirmed, release date for the limited edition version of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie has indeed been bumped to November 14th. That info comes right from our guy at Funimation.]

TokyoPop announced this week a rather half baked plan to go direct with certain manga titles, including One, Neck and Neck, Heaven Above Heaven, Sorcerer Hunters, Soul to Seoul, Dragon Head, Dragon Voice, and Arm of Kannon (for starters). Chip Meyers, who is the VP of marketing over there explains that the move is to drive fan traffic to their website so that it can become a 'fan portal' per say and allow them to sell more advertising.

ICV2 recently published 'MY' personal opinion of the move by TokyoPop. You can read it here.

Here on the RACS side Blog, I recently posted the top 50 search terms for the store over the last 30 days. It may be a bit of a surprise what some folks are looking for.

Gordon gives us his latest review this week, and reminds us that Fans of anime are always fans of Hayao Miyazaki however, fans of Hayao Miyazaki [and other Studio Ghibli productions] are not always fans of anime.

Good updates all around this week with the Alchemist movie and the IY Season 3 boxed set arriving early. Another really huge manga update this week - we put in a lot of extra hours getting all those new volumes posted to the site, especially considering there were 13 brand new series mixed in there. A couple new shipments of statues and figures arrived and I must say for the price both the Bome figures (Kiddy Grade and Jingai Makyo) are really excellent. The paint scheme used on the Kiddy Grade set is exceptional and I was a little surprised at just how nice they are. We also received an extremely cool figure of Hikaru from Peace at Pieces which I immediately took home for my own collection! :-) We also have lots of new character merchandise in this week including new hats, patches, posters, keychains, and more.

There is something for everyone, so make sure to check it all out while you are lounging around this weekend!