The Value of Cheap Anime
Walk into Electronics Boutique and you'll see dozens of them. Player's Choice, Greatest Hits, whatever the label, they all spell one thing: good and cheaper games. These reissues of popular game titles are great values for gamers as some of the most popular games at a cheaper price. Game companies sell more games, video gamers get cheaper titles, and everyone wins. So why don't we see more "Greatest Hits" anime?
During the 90s, there was a good excuse for not having a budget line of anime: anime wasn't as popular as it is now, and distributors were rushing to put older titles from the 70s and 80s on DVD, as effectively "new" anime. The 21st century, however, is far different than the 90s, as anime is widely distributed, and both anime and manga are big sellers. Most of the "classic" anime series from the 70s and 80s that has any chance of an American release has been released domestically already. Those fans who grew with anime fandom during the 90s have already bought their copies (sometimes on multiple formats!) of Tenchi, Ranma, Urusei Yatsura, among many other titles.
Knocking ten or fifteen dollars off of retail prices of older anime makes a lot of sense. With the rise of the Internet, it is relatively easy to download episodes of just about anything. At a certain price point, however, that doesn't make sense. Sure, some fans might download anime in order to not buy a $30 DVD, but at ten or fifteen dollars, it makes more sense to buy a DVD rather than to spend a day or two (or more!) downloading from the Internet.
DVDs themselves are cheap to manufacture, and American anime distributors already have the rights for many anime series. In a simple DVD case, the cost of the DVDs for the manufacturer is low, so why not pass that value on the consumer and sell more DVDs. Special packaging can make the buyer feel like he or she is really getting a deal and it will drum up interest in an older series.
Cheaper value DVDs could also have a great effect on the anime community. Many old fans of anime feel that the medium is stagnating. Japan's post bubble economy doesn't facilitate creativity like the 80s golden age. Instead, anime producers are making sequels and knock-offs that are more commercially safe. Also, new anime fans only seem to care about the latest, most flashy new series. Cheaper DVDs could help introduce new fans to the series that started anime fandom in the West. As mentioned above, getting new fans into old series also makes financial sense. At current prices, just about anyone who is going to buy a Maison Ikkoku DVD already has. However, with flashy new packaging and a cheaper price, a whole new generation of fans might be brought into the series.
Though it seems to me that the cheapest way to sell older DVDs is to simply knock down the price, anime distributors do have other options. Long time readers know that I'm a huge fan of Criterion DVDs, re-releases of classic films. They are known as the Mercedes of DVDs. They cost a bit more than other DVDs (30-40 dollars more), but usually they come with a myriad of extra features, including documentaries and commentaries. Anime can come bundled with many things: full box sets, plush toys, soundtracks. I don't think there's anyone in the world whose room doesn't need a P-chan doll, for example. All of these would add value to DVD releases and help to move merchandise.
So Bandai, Animeigo, VIZ, where's my Viewer's Choice line of classic anime? I don't care if you put new Greatest Hit packaging on it, but a budget line of anime DVDs will definitely be a great benefit for the anime community.