Nice, but a bit too steep for many.

I’m guessing that many have already caught the news that Aniplex is releasing the Kara no Kyoukai – Garden of Sinners films in a single Blu-Ray boxed set. Everything sounds great about it. The seven original films, a translated fan-book, and an exclusive OVA that only appears in the set it atop a gaggle of exclusive extra goodies. To top it off, the states will get it just one week after the original release! It sounds like a fantastic package, all said and done.

Then the sticker shock sets in.

Aniplex is charging $398.98 in the US market for the set. This is a hard number to swallow, from any angle. In realistic terms, that’s two thirds of a rent payment, a month’s worth of groceries, or five to six other anime Blu-Ray titles. Fans are already making parallels between Aniplex and short-lived distributor Bandai Visual USA over this. Before I raise the pitchfork, I’d like to just look at this from both sides.

Side 1: Importer’s Delight

From one angle, one could look at this from the perspective of those who were going to buy the identical imported set, which will retail for 52,500 yen (about $628.44). From that angle, this is a $200 dicount. At 30% off, this is beyond a steal. While the detractors have a point, it’s still much less expensive for an anime Blu-Ray set that’s being released just a week earlier in the homeland.

Side 2: The General Public

From the other angle, this is expensive. $400 is too much. Especially in a recessed economy, nay, even in a good economy, this is enough to prevent a sale from all but the best-off or most devoted fans. This screams “out of touch”, and reeks of yet another Japanese company that doesn’t understand the US market.

My Two Cents

Frankly, I don’t see this selling outside of the importers. Fans that are on the fence will undoubtedly get scared off, and the (financially) less well-to-do fans that are interested will most likely pass, unless they’re willing to do without other titles released in the near future. I’ll absolutley be passing since $400 is too much for me to drop in one installment. However, I won’t grab the pitchforks right away. At its price point, if we divide the price by the number of features, it averages to roughly $50 a disc. While that’s a tad pricey, it’s not completely unfeasible for an anime film on Blu-Ray.

The more interesting part of this equation is that Aniplex shopped the Kara no Kyokai films to publishers for a few years, now. The films aren’t unknown by any stretch – in fact, there is a good amount of buzz and fan-demand for them. However, this leads to a few interesting possibilities regarding the license. Considering that the title’s been on the market for so long, one can surmise that the license was either prohibitively expensive, or had draconian clauses written into any potential agreements. Considering that many companies dealt with Aniplex in the past, I’m willing to wager it’s not the latter reason. Instead, the cost issue seems to be more likely, given that it’s a big title that’s done well for Aniplex as a whole.

However, it’s these license costs that also kept End of Evangelion from reaching western shores until 2005, and still keeps a large number of titles trapped in Japan. It’s unfortunate, but it’s business.

Personally, I can’t help but hope that this gets broken up, or released in singles in the future – I’d honestly love to see the films, but I simply cannot justify dropping so much, when there are so many other priorities and so many more important expenditures to worry about. Aniplex really needs to realize that, while there’s room for premium editions, every consumer in the US has limits on what they want to spend and, with this set, it looks like they crossed it for a lot of people. I can’t help but fear that this will hurt the company’s image in the eyes of a lot of fans.