Well, this is a topic that has been much commented on and blogged about before, but with Aniplex of America's recent announcements today (actually yesterday now...), I have thought a good deal about it and wanted to post my own thoughts. I make no strong judgements about AoA itself. There are no angry rants here, or, worst of all, insults tossed at people legitimately excited about the releases (as I've seen from some of the more uncivil posters in the ANN talkback threads).

While it's a somewhat rare occurrence among their full library, Aniplex of America occasionally sells imported versions of some of their titles at (extremely high) Japanese prices through RightStuf. They're not the only company to have done so, with Bandai Visual USA (on its own, and then on rarer occasions as part of Bandai Entertainment later) doing import or pseudo-import style releases in the past. I've seen the debates over these prices before on anime forums, but for the most part no titles I really wanted to own have come up. It nearly happened before, as I was seriously considering Sola (Shigofumi might have been considered had I known how much I would love it too), but BVUSA's demise put an end to that dilemma. Several Aniplex USA import-style releases have come, but none of them have been the kind of series that interested me. But now, Oreimo, a series I really love and would like to upgrade to BD on, has come up.

Frankly, when I look at the price of $278.98, there's absolutely no way I can consider the actual product I'll be getting to be worth that amount. I can't wrap my head around it all. Maybe if all the extras were impeccably translated (which I doubt will happen), I could stretch it to being worth $100 to me. Yet I was seriously considering buying it. Why? The way I see it, that huge chunk of money remaining (65% of the cost, likely more since that $100 was the high end value for me) is essentially a donation in support of the anime. So what makes a series worth giving a "donation" for? When does it really need such support? Thinking it over, there's really only two things to consider: 1) how much I love the series itself, 2) how much I perceive it to be an "underdog". Oreimo may not be on too bad of a footing on the first point. It's certainly a high favorite. But it does fall a little short. I have only rewatched it during its original airing, so I don't have a clear idea if it's enduring favorite of mine. It falls very short on the second point, as it's well known the series has already sold like hotcakes in Japan, enough to support a second series. I could close the gap on the first point if a rewatch gets me extremely enthusiastic (or even if I view the upcoming second series favorably, as that will enhance the franchise), but still, $180 is no easy sum to give away for me... I've watched the ANN stream and later purchasing the LE DVD set, so it's not as if I've shown zero support, either. What would be a hypothetical counterpart? There are many I could think of, but the first thing that come to mind is if Princess Tutu got a deluxe bilingual BD release. I could see myself splurging for that even for a sum that makes me uneasy, because it fulfills points 1 and 2 of my "donation" requirements rather easily.

This way of thinking doesn't just apply to these special import releases (through a US distributor) though. It could apply to "regular" Japanese imports too of course. The hurdle is much higher with many of them, though. The singles style of release is more expensive, and without any English translation, the perceived value of the product on my end is rather minimal, so essentially almost all of the price would be a "donation". It's just too unaffordable for me to even consider at this point in my life, for various reasons. I can see myself doing it eventually, and certainly appreciate why others do. On a smaller scale, this is really how I've felt even with purchasing "normal"-priced US releases. The lack of dub, extras, and pleasing packaging features greatly lessens the release's value for me, but I'll still buy barebones anyway when it's one of my highest favorites. It's just the "donations" in those instances are comparatively small. Well, that's it for tonight. I think I've made up my mind on the dilemma for the night that brought all these thoughts on. It's not in the favor of Aniplex USA, but I don't begrudge them as others seem to often do.