Or, How I Learned to Save Money and Love the Thinpak
Like many Americans, I'm currently in a mad dash to accrue as much debt as possible. I've never carried a balance on a credit card beyond the month that the charges were incurred, but I currently still have my student loans from college, a car loan, and as of October 27th, a mortgage.
What's even more exciting is the fact that after I marry my fiancée, I'll be sharing her debt for medical school, which is greater than the sum of all of my debts put together. Even if most of it is relatively low-interest "good" debt, it still makes for far more restrictive budgeting than in the good old days -- when my expenses consisted solely of anime and video games.
As a result, my buying habits have changed dramatically. I've always been a frugal shopper, but where I once used to order forty or fifty items in a single sale, I now order three products. I avoid purchasing DVDs unless they're discounted at least half off of the MSRP, and I no longer opt for sets that include the first volume and an art box. I will get a collector's edition, but only if it comes with material extras (such as a shirt, CD, or plushie), beyond a simple cardboard box.
Since I no longer work at Waldenbooks, I no longer can claim to own every single manga that has been published to date. After losing my employee discount, I rarely go into bookstores at all anymore. It's hard to pay full price for stuff that I used to buy at thirty-three percent off of the MSRP, after all. Plus the store ended their frequent buyer program, thus completely removing any sense of store loyalty that I might have held towards the chain.
Even a “Buy 4, Get 1 Free” sale is no match for the deals that I can find online, but then to buy books or DVDs online, you have to know what you're going for, so I save even more money by simply not knowing what's out there anymore. While the various forms of media covering anime and manga do a fairly respectable job of covering new titles, the sheer volume of new releases forces a significant number of items to slip through the cracks.
I don't buy anything used, so I can't hope to save money there, and I never download fansubs if I don't intend on paying for the official release. It's the principle of the thing; even if I don't have the money to get as much as I used to, I still want to help the industry, not to plunder it. Buying used goods is great when I simply can't find the item anywhere else, but it tends to mean nothing more than a large profit for the reseller and nothing for the people who made the product in the first place. I'm actually one of those people who tend to prefer fan subtitles to some of the more heavily localized English translations, but I can't justify downloading every series that I like and not financially supporting its creators. It's just not right.
Even with such self-imposed moral restrictions in place, there is hope for people like me who find themselves on a similarly limited budget.
After a series has been out for a year or so, it is common practice to repackage all of the discs together and sell them at a heavily reduced price. What's even better is the fact that the reduced MSRP still leaves retailers plenty of room for additional discounts, meaning that if you look hard enough, it is entirely possible to score a ninety dollar thinpak set of eight DVDs for forty-five dollars. Thus, what would have cost $240 (thirty dollars per disc for eight discs) has been reduced to an average cost of five dollars and sixty-three cents a disc if you find the right sale.
I can afford that. I mean, I am ALWAYS able to eventually find the right sale.
Now, no one has ever mentioned this to me before, but from my spending habits, I really don't support the industry as much as some people think I do. Between licensing fees, cost of domestication, and production costs, if I'm paying $5.63 a disc for say, Neon Genesis Evangelion, I seriously doubt that any significant percentage goes to GAINAX.
Naturally, this is a bit annoying, since I never really listen to the English-language version of any DVD. Sure, domestic companies deserve credit for bringing the discs over here legally, but let's face it -- if we didn't have any legal means of procuring anime, we would turn to less-than-legal methods more often.
However, even if only one percent of the amount that I spend on DVDs goes to the original creators, and considering the fact that I spend $10,000 a year on anime and manga, I'm still contributing far more than the person who only downloads fansubs or who rips copies of their friends' DVDs.
Besides, it's the thought that counts, isn't it?
So if you aren't quite sure what to get, just do a search at your favorite online retailer using the keyword "thinpak." You'll find the popular classics (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Chobits, Noir, Those Who Hunt Elves), criminally not-as-popular gems (Kaleido Star, Kino's Journey, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Super GALS), and panty parties such as Najica Blitz Tactics and Mezzo.
For other, non-thinpak bundles that have been lurking around the net, I'd definitely recommend anything by Yoshitoshi ABe (Lain, Niea_7, Haibane Renmei), Trigun, Vision of Escaflowne, Slayers, and even Rurouni Kenshin.
If it's more than a couple of years old, you can be pretty sure that it's floating around somewhere at a far better price than what you would expect. Just remember -- no matter how little you pay for legitimate anime, you're still supporting it. Don't make the children of anime producers cry; support your favorite shows!