Friday, June 26, 2009

State of the R1 Industry - Less Bad is the New Good

Comic, Anime, and Game industry rag (and I say that lovingly) ICv2 reported this week on the state of the R1 Anime Industry saying the following:

"the long slide in American anime sales nearly halted in Q1 2009, with only a 2% decline in sales of anime DVDs vs. the year ago period. That 2% slide is a substantial improvement from 2008, when anime sales dropped 11% vs. 2007. Consolidation of anime companies is also continuing"

HEH. :-) They used the word 'decline' and 'improvement' in the same sentence. In business we call that sort of slight of hand analysis 'focusing on the Second Derivative', meaning that rather than looking at the actual comparative total sales levels, you are measuring the state of the industry based on the "rate of change in the rate of change" by saying that the downward slide was 'less bad' this year than the year prior to. They also don't go on to indicate that if the industry continues to drop 2% a quarter all year, it will shrink by another 8% this year (which would be another major decline). It's the same way the government is reporting the jobs numbers these days (or the NAR's national real estate numbers for that matter), in that the rate of unemployment has 'decelerated' last month, rather than focus on the fact that people are still loosing their jobs in record numbers (vis-a-vis downloading torrents and scanlations in record numbers). It's an exercise in rhetoric, but I just despise hypocrisy. I'll feel better when the numbers actually 'improve' and not until then.

ICv2 also reported that FUNimation's market share topped 40% in Q1 2009. Frankly I'm surprised it's not 60% or 70%. Based on our sales numbers, I think if you throw out anomalous unit sales (like anything sold at Walmart - cough 'Naruto' cough) from the calculation then Funi's numbers in the core market would show much higher. Having dedicated the last 12 years of my life to the R1 Anime Industry, I guess the only thing I really want to know now is if the industry should be compared to computer chips or digital buggy whips... -_^

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Funimation's September Releases Now Available for Pre-Order!

Funimation sent over their September release schedule earlier today, and we now have the following available for pre-order on the store site:


Re-Releases: Reprices & Combo Boxes

009-1 Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Price)
Black Lagoon Series 1 & 2 Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-24) (Both Seasons!)
Case Closed Season #2 DVD Box Set (Eps #27-52) (Uncut & Unedited) (Viridian Collection)
Dragonball Z: Feature #1 Bardock The Father of Goku DVD
Dragonball Z: Feature #2 The History of Trunks DVD
Ergo Proxy Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Price)
Fate/Stay Night Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Price)
Ghost Hunt Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-26)
Heat Guy J Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set
Hell Girl Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Viridian Collection)
Jinki Extend Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Release)
Jyu-Oh-Sei (Planet of the Beast King) Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Viridian Collection)
Magikano Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-12)
Negima Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Thin-Pak) (Viridian Collection) (Re-Price)
Origin: Spirits of the Past the Movie DVD
Red Garden Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set
School Rumble Season 1 + OVA Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-26) (Viridian Collection)
School Rumble Season 2 Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-26)
Shana (Shakugan no Shana) Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Thin-Pak) (Re-Price)
Wallflower Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-26)

Re-Releases: BluRay

Burst Angel (Bakuretsu Tenshi) Complete TV Series + OVA Boxed Set [BluRay]

New Releases / New Content

Big Windup! Season 1 Part 2 DVD Boxed Set (Thin-Pak)
Dragon Ball Season 1 DVD Boxed Set (Uncut)
Kaze no Stigma Season #1 Part #2 DVD Boxed Set (Eps #13-24)
Nabari no Ou DVD Season 1 Part 1 DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-12)
One Piece Season 2 Part 3 DVD Boxed Set (Eps #79-91) (Uncut)
Sgt Frog (Keroro Gunso) Season 1 Part 1 DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-12)
Sonic X The Egg Moon, Emerl & Homebound Sagas DVD
Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Vol #6 DVD

Nozomi / Koch

Astro Boy DVD Mini Collection 1 (Eps #1-25)
Astro Boy DVD Mini Collection 2 (Eps #26-52)
Gigantor DVD Collection #2
Kimba, the White Lion DVD Mini Collection 1 (Eps #1-25)

While a disappointingly large percentage of the scheduled releases are just re-prices or re-issues of old material, there are a few welcome new releases sprinkled in like Sgt Frog (at last!) and the first uncut DB episodes released in several years. We're even going to get the first half of Nabari no Ou, which was an unexpected surprise, so they did give us a few things to look forward to! :-)

UPDATE: Funi has informed me that the first DB boxed set will contain Eps #1-31 Uncut, so it's going to be a great value.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Viz's September Releases Now Available for Pre-Order

I've made no secret of our consternation regarding Viz's switch to Warner for their DVD distribution as Warner is rarely shipping us new DVD's to arrive in time for us to cross ship them for arrival by the street date, but the process continues and we are making our complaints known. So all that said, here is Viz's September new releases. It's a really good schedule including the final Naturo Box, the 2nd Bleach Movie, Honey and Clover part #1, AND the first volume of Naruto Shippuden.

Bleach, Vol #20 DVD
Bleach the Movie #2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion DVD
Honey and Clover DVD Boxed Set #1 (Eps #1-12)
Naruto: Shippuden , Vol #1 DVD (Eps #1-4) (Uncut)
Naruto DVD Collectors Boxed Set #16 (Uncut)
Naruto DVD Collectors Boxed Set #16 (Uncut) (Limited Edition)

It's pretty clear that Viz has pretty much abandoned the niche market and is only going to go forward with DVD releases that have the potential for mass appeal (and mass market sales) and that they will no longer be publishing lower sell through fetish shows (I think I's will end up being the final 'fan centric' show they release with the Nana and Honey and Clover releases being sort of hold overs from prior planning). It's also clear they will probably not resurrect Hikaru No Go into boxed sets as we originally had hoped. Someone asked me on Friday if they will be packaging Shippuden to match the original 16 Naruto Uncut boxed sets, and while we don't have specs on the release yet, I think the answer is almost certainly no. They will most likely be standard double DVD packs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blast from The Past

For all you youngsters out there, here's what we watched Anime on back in my day:

Now that's some serious equipment! Big screen analog TV complete with top loading Betamax VCR all in a gorgeous wood grain console. There is no date on the ad, but it's probably circa about 1982/83 (I was about 12 then). Well worth 4 months pay.

When not watching flicks I would have been jamming on my Apple IIE (which was already 3 years old), which had dual 5 1/2" floppies and no hard drive, but I did have a slick cassette tape drive for it as well.

This would have been right around the time that I installed my 80 column card for my green screen monitor. At some point I actually got a color monitor for it with a color card, and I also added a Winchester drive a little later, which I think was 5mb and seemed at the time to have more space on it that I could ever use. I had, and used, that computer for 12 years, and we did everything on BBS's over a 9600baud modem - the kind that had a coupler you had to set the phone handset into. No e-mail. No WWW. No My-Space. No I-Pods. No X-Box. No Cel Phones.

Mine is the last generation that will ever live knowing what life was like when there was NO Internet or any of this other stuff that just Vampires our lives away. Oh well, now you can just read about it in the history books - you know, how people once actually went outside from time to time... LOL! -_^

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

New Ikki Tousen & Queens Blade Figures Available for Pre-Order!

We received several new solicitations for 3rd and 4th quarter figure releases over the past few days, and we now have them on the store site available for pre-order. Here's what we've got:

Ikki Tousen: Great Guardian Sonsaku Hakufu SMC 1/8 Scale PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Great Guardians Chou'un Shiryu SMC EX Color Vesion Non-Scale PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Great Guardians Chouhi Ekitoku SMC EX Color Version Non-Scale PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Great Guardians Kanu Uncho SMC EX Color Version Non-Scale PVC Figure
Muv-Luv Alternative: Meiya Mitsurugi UN Troop Version Figma Action Figure
Oh! My Goddess: Skuld w/ Themed Base 1/8 Scale PVC Figure
Queen's Blade: Reina Exiled Warrior DX Variant Non-Scaled Figure (Cast Off)
Queen's Blade: Elina Captain of the Royal Guard Non-Scaled Figure (Cast Off)
Queen's Blade: Airi Ex Model Core Special Edition Non-Scale PVC Figure
Queen's Blade: Allean Ex Model Core Non-Scale PVC Figure

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Good God almighty! Steven Den Best is watching Pokemon - and liking it!

"One of the surprising things about the series is just how much creativity went into developing all the various monsters. Presumably they were all inherited from the game, but it's still obvious that someone put a lot of work into it. Creating that many different monsters and making them visually interesting, plus assigning them such a wide variety of different powers, is pretty impressive.

All in all a pleasant surprise."

Doesn't he know that Pikachu eat's children!? This is more than I can bear. Next thing he'll start buying card packs for the CCG. Detonate the EMP's! Hurry!!

Will Sony Ever Release Blood Plus Season 2?

With so many people writing in an asking about it, I thought I'd make a short post regarding Blood Plus Season 2. Frankly, we haven't heard anything regarding future Blood + releases in several months. Sony Pictures owns the series here in the US (they distribute the DVD's through Columbia), and made the odd decision last year to release the first season up front in a boxed set, and then release the singles through main stream outlets during the course of late 2008 and into 2009. So far, Sony has managed to get 4 of the 5 Season 1 Blood + single volumes released, but vol #4 was out in January and as of June there is still no word on Vol #5. We had expected (hoped) Season #1 Vol #5 would be released in April, and an announcement on Season 2 by May, but it seems future volumes are stalled for now.

Sony has been doing quite poorly in the economic downturn, and rumor has it they may have to sell off their studio business to raise capital. 24/7 Wall Street recently reported:

Sony (SNE) is in trouble, and it is very deep trouble. For the fiscal year ending March 31, the conglomerate lost more than $1 billion on $79 billion in revenue. Sales were down by over 12%. Nearly every segment of Sony’s business did poorly. Revenue in its huge electronics division dropped 17%. The LCD TVs, PCs, and video cameras that it manufactures and markets have come under intense price pressure. TVs are close to being a commodity and almost every large consumer electronics firm is in the flat panel screen business. Sony’s video game division had an 18% drop in revenue to $10.7 billion. The business lost almost $600 million as sales of the aging PS2 dropped and the newer PS3 did not pick up that slack. The PS3 is never going to be the smashing success that Sony hoped it would be. It has fallen too far behind the extremely profitable Nintento Wii and the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360. Sony will have to drop the price of its PS3 machine eventually if it wants to have any chance to gain market share.

The one large business that Sony owns that bears no relationship to its core consumer electronics operations is it movie studio. In the last fiscal year, the business earned $305 million, down 49%, on revenue of $7.3 billion, down 16%. The studio operating financial results are highly cyclical based on both the economy and the box office results of its films and sales of its DVDs. The concern about the premium content assets of any large company is that they will slowly lose their value over time as the Internet gives consumers access to movies and television for free, or at much lower prices than the current income from theaters and DVDs. If this is true, the value of a studio will fall further and further over time. On the other hand, if two of the largest feature film businesses were put together, the cost savings would be considerable and the marketing clout of the new entity would probably improve. Sony’s studio may be a bright spot in its earnings now, but there is very little chance that profits from the division will go up sharply and stay up. The turnaround of Sony does not depend on the studio. The turnaround of Sony depends almost completely on its electronics and game operations which make up the great majority of its sales.

Interesting analysis, and very relevant to where we are today. Sony is experiencing the same problems as US and Japanese Anime studios facing competition from free digital content. A company with the size and scope of Sony, there is probably little incentive to expend resources releasing anything in this environment that has limited sell through potential (eg - Anime).

Still, we do hope that they will eventually release the second season of Blood + on DVD, hopefully as a boxed set all at once. For now we'll just have to wait and see and try to be patient.

Image Server Update / Store Images May Be Down for a Short Time

Just FYI folks, we're updating the server that provides most of the images to the store site during the wee hours of the morning, so it will be up and down all night. Should have everything back up and running before morning, but if you are on the store site and the images aren't loading you'll know why. This will not prevent access to the store site, nor placing an order and will not effect the secure server, though you may have a heck of a time seeing what you're buying. :-)

We'll get the store images back up and loading as soon as possible, and we appreciate your patience. This maintenance is long overdue.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Now I Understand Why...

Here it is folks - after millions upon millions of 'Epic Fail', someone has finally posted a video that puts to bed all doubts as to why YouTube should exist:

Coolest video ever. Unbelievable. Detonate the EMP's...

Funimation Bumps the Dates for Two July Releases

The saga continues, and this morning Funimation let us know that two of their July releases are getting rescheduled:

Kyo KaraMaoh!, Season 2, Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set
Paradise Kiss Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Viridian Collection)

The street date for both are being bumped up from July 7th to July 21st.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Even Shipping Charges Below Our Cost Can't Satisfy Everyone...

It's no secret that shipping and freights cost have been rising way above the inflation rate for the past 5 or 6 years, and much of the big cost increases have been hidden in the way freight carriers break down their charges. For instance, where the postal service used to just charge one rate to move X lbs from point A to point B, a couple years ago they started 'zoning' the rate table so parcels to far away places became much more expensive the ship. Then they started 'DIMing' boxes, so now a shipment of 3 figures going to that far away place that actually weighs 3 lbs ends up shipping at the 14 lb rate due to the 'dimensional weight' calculation of the box.

The commercial carriers like FedEx and UPS do all this as well, plus they add a few more things, like a couple of bucks extra to deliver to a residential address, and a couple more bucks to deliver to a residential address that's outside of a metro area - which also allows them to quietly increase actual shipping rates each year without increasing their base rate table by just adding to the number of zip codes that qualify for that 'remote zone charge'.

I could go on and on, but basically domestic small package freight rates have pretty much doubled in the past 5 years, and overseas rates have tripled with the postal service having discontinued the cheaper surface mail services, and the commercial carriers tacking on all sorts of extra fees including variable fuel surcharges of up to 20% of the cost of a shipment. In spite of all of this, we have not increased our outgoing freight rates for nearly three years, so it's easy to see why I found an e-mail that came in from an Australian customer last month a little disconcerting:

On May 12th we shipped an order to Daniel M. in Whyalla Australia. That's in South Australia, and while it's not the Western Dessert, it's not Sydney either. The order was for 6 DVD's and shipped at the 2lb freight rate via FedEx International Express. It traveled half way around the world, cleared customs, and was delivered to Daniel on May 18th (the first delivery attempt was actually made on the 15th). His order total was around $130 US, and we charged him $36 for shipping, which he clearly saw when he checked out and also when he setup the paypal payment. So the order shipped complete in 1 business day, was delivered 1/2 way around the world in 4, and we thought everything was fine. Then on May 20th, the following e-mail came in from Daniel out of the blue:

On Wed, May 20, 2009 7:09 pm, Daniel M. wrote:
US$36 for postage & handling?! You've got to be kidding!?.. provide fedex receipt.
Daniel M., Whyalla Australia

So now we have to start proving our actual freight cost for parcels. Of course, in the spirit of good service, I answered the e-mail myself, so rather than a canned customer service style response he got one of my trademark personal e-mails:


$36 for FedEx International Express? That's a total bargain.

The retail cost for a 2lb FedEx International Express shipment from Virginia,USA to Whyalla Australia is $78.67 (US). We get a significant discount off of FedEx's commercial rates because we have a contract with them and do alot of volume, but $36 is still a steal for that service and destination. I'm showing that parcel shipping on the 12th, was in AU in 2 days, took an additional day for customs clearance, and the first delivery attempt was made on the 15th. That's pretty good service half way around the world. Airmail would have taken at least 2 weeks. I haven't seen the actual billing for your shipment yet, but I'm sure the shipping charge you paid was actually a little below our cost.

Hope this helps,

As it usually works out, 15 minutes of my life gone and that's the last we ever heard from Daniel as he didn't bother to reply to my e-mail (hopefully he's satisfied), but I messaged Jamie (here) to flag the bill when it came in just to see what the actual freight charge ended up being for that shipment. It came in today, and here is how it broke down:

Package ID: 953829495353
Shipped Via: FedEx International Express
Shipped: May 12
Delivered: May 18th
Delivered To: Whayalla Australia
Rated Shipping Weight: 2 lbs

Transportation Charge: $78.67
Remote Delivery Area Surcharge: $22.00
RACS Contract Discount: (-$58.22)

Total RACS Freight Cost: $42.45

Even with our huge contract discount our cost to ship the parcel was actually $6 more than we charged him (which is not unusual these days), though I'm sure Daniel probably would not have been happy no matter what we charged him. Sometimes we just get folks that we just can't satisfy no matter what we do - but we still try to give folks a good deal AND good service (even if they don't know it is), and I guess that's what counts. :-)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

August Releases From Bandai / ADV Now Available for Pre-Order!

Bandai sent over their revised August release schedule to us today, and we now have the following releases available on the store site for pre-order:

Gundam 00 , Vol #2 DVD (Eps #10-17)
Gundam 00 , Vol #2 DVD Special Edition (Eps #10-17)
.Hack//GU Trilogy DVD
Lucky Star OVA DVD
Sola Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-13 + 2 OVA's) (Anime Legends)

And as announced previously Bandai has also re-scheduled the following July releases into August:

Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 DVD Bundle #1 (DVD #1-2)
Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 DVD Bundle #1 (Limited Edition)
Ghost Slayers Part #3 DVD Bundle (Eps #21-30)

I'm very happy to see Sola finally get onto the lineup (even after a year, it should be worth the wait!), as well as getting a firm date for the Lucky Star OVA. And we're also getting the .Hack//GU movie, which was unexpected! Don't get your hopes up about the 2nd volumes of Gundam 00. The scheduling doesn't feel right, and I suspect the listed dates are mistakes and it will end up being shifted back into September. I've inquired on that to see if we can firm that up a bit.

We also have the following August titles from ADV Films:

Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Collection #1 DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-13) (Re-Release)
Dokkoida Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Release)
Kannazuki No Miko (Destiny of the Shrine Maiden) Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Release)
Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden 'Full Metal Maid' Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Eps #1-27 + Summer Special)
Orphen Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Orphen & Orphen II!) (Re-Release)
Sakura Wars TV Series Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Re-Release)
Saiyuki Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Re-Re-Issue) (Eps #1-50)

ALL re-releases. Well, what can I say. I'm so disappointed (and not because it will be available cheaper) to see a Mahoromatic complete box announced not two months after the release of the two half season boxes. That strategy may work for new material, but ADV should really re-think it for their re-issue of these older titles. After all, they pretty much just stiffed everyone who recently bought the two previous boxes for twice the price. It goes to show how unimaginative their thinking has become. And yes I know, I should not make light of their little 'errors' in judgement, but it certainly is the low hanging fruit of the industry these days. As promised Daphne, Dokkoida, and Kannazuki No Miko (retitled in it's English name 'Destiny of the Shrine Maiden') will be released in August. A third iteration of the Saiyuki two season box will be coming, though we still have two previous versions in stock, at least the new price will be more palatable to fans on a budget. The only really exciting thing is the re-release of an Orphen two season box. While the second season has been available for some time, the first season has been out of print for several years, so this will finally give folks the chance to acquire both seasons together in one package. I'm glad it will be available again.

Finally, we have a welcome September release coming up from Sony:

Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set (Anime Legends)

It's not the second season of Blood Plus, but at least we know those guys over there at Sony still have a pulse. :-)

ADV to Re-Release Three More Former Geneon Licenses In August

ADV Films (now the grand champion of recycled Anime DVD's) has announced that they will re-issue three former Geneon licenses under it's Sentai Filmworks trade name in late August: Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Dokkoida, and Kannazuki No Miko.

I hope these aren't included in the big new title announcements that Matt Greenfield promised were coming a couple of weeks ago. But hey, they gotta re-re-re-release something to keep the lights on down in Houston. -_^

Seriously though, we'll have these available for pre-order on the store site shortly.

Even though all three of these titles were discontinued in September of 2007 when Geneon's North American unit went under, there was so much excess inventory of the old DVD boxed sets left over at Ditan we have been able to keep these available to customers throughout the out-of-print period, so it's almost like they were never really gone. :-)

Funimation Drops Prices on Two More Current Releases

Funimation is continuing the trend to drop prices in place on some key items rather than recall them for re-release later. I had talked about this in the last newsletter as a much better method by the publishers to reprice an existing product in place rather than trying to reschedule it as a re-release (ADV could take some notes here).

The following items are now available at the new lower price:

Baki the Grappler Season 1 & 2 DVD Complete Collection (Viridian Collection) - Now $36.98!
DragonBall Z Season 4 (Eps #108-139) (Re-Mastered) - Now $25.98!

Funi dropped the price of the Baki box from $69.98 to $49.98, and the 4th DBZ box from $49.98 to $34.98, so we've changed our regular prices accordingly (see above).

Bandai Delays Code Geass R2 / Ghost Slayers 3 To August

Bandai just sent over word that the releases of both Code Geass R2 and Ghost Slayers 3 will be delayed a few weeks:

The street dates for Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 DVD Bundle #1 (DVD #1-2) and Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 DVD Bundle #1 (Limited Edition) have been moved from July 21st to August 4th, and the Ghost Slayers Part #3 DVD Bundle (Eps #21-30) has been moved from July 7th also to August 4th.

Bandai did not specify this time what prompted the bump in dates.

Griffon's December 09 Figure Lineup Now Available for Pre-Order:

We received four new December solicitations from Griffon today, and we now have them on the store site available for pre-order. Check them out!

Ikki Tousen: Kanu Unchou Damaged China Dress 1/7 Scale PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen: Ryomou Shimei Damaged China Dress 1/7 Scale PVC Figure
Queen's Blade Ancient Princess Menace 1/7 Scale PVC Figure
Queen's Blade Combat Instructor Alleane 1/7 Scale PVC Figure

Monday, June 01, 2009

Familiar of Zero: Nekomimi Louise Figure Will Be Available After All!

Last month after Jun Planning Japan went under, they had canceled our pre-orders for several imported figures, however, I'm ahppy to report that one of them has been rescued.

The Familiar of Zero: Nekomimi Louise 1/8 Scale PVC Figure will be available, and is in fact, on the way to us from Japan now. Through an odd arrangement (and aren't they all in Japan), Jun Planning had selected Taki corporation to distribute the figure in Japan, and Taki was able to export the figure into the US through Yamato USA once the arrangements with Jun Planning's US division fell through. We've re-posted her to the store site for pre-order, and all previous pre-orders for her are still on the books and will be filled once our inventory arrives.