If you wanted to buy those Yuri!!! on Ice Blu-rays, you might be out of luck.
You don’t need a college degree in business administration to understand that the goal of each and every organization that calls itself a business is to make money. Yet Avex Pictures, publisher of anime including the phenomenally successful TV series Osomatsu-san and Yuri!!! on Ice, is refusing to sell its products to would-be buyers outside Japan.
Online retailer CD Japan, which offers a variety of Japanese products to customers around the world, has announced that Avex Pictures “is restricting exports of Blu-ray, DVD, and CD titles” as of February 15.
▼ Here’s the official announcement for the Yuri!!! on Ice Blu-rays going on sale. Not that you can buy them outside of Japan (though if you are in Japan, they’re sold right here).
The move has been particularly disheartening to supporters of Yuri!!! on Ice, which has been extremely well received in the international fan community. The series’ home video release is just getting underway in Japan, with only two of the planned six Blu-ray/DVD discs currently available. Since overseas home video releases for anime don’t even begin until the entire series has had time to entice domestic buyers in Japan, that means it’s going to be several months, at the very least, before foreign fans will have a chance to buy locally licensed Yuri!!! on Ice discs.
So the question is, why would Avex Pictures choose to do this? Money is money, after all, and if overseas customers want to buy Avex Pictures’ titles, and at their Japanese prices (which are routinely higher than locally licensed versions’), no less, why stop them?
The company hasn’t released any statement spelling out its rationale, but just about the only logical, albeit speculative one, is that Avex Pictures has loftier overseas ambitions for its products than indirectly selling them to anime fans who’re savvy and dedicated enough to import the Japanese discs. Before it became a player in the anime industry, parent company Avex was (and remains) a successful youth-oriented music publisher with plenty of marketing talent, promotional clout, and shrewd business sense.
As the anime market becomes increasingly globalized, overseas license fees, whether for physical releases, streaming services or broadcast rights, become a sweeter plum. However, these fees aren’t standardized. All else equal, the license Aves Pictures grants its overseas partners is arguably more valuable if the product in question is, to that region’s consumers, brand-new, as opposed to something they’ve already been able to import for months. And of course, the more valuable the license is, the higher the fees Avex Pictures can negotiate for.
The counter-argument, meanwhile, is that limiting foreign fans access to a series, in whatever capacity, dampens the local community’s enthusiasm for that show. By not allowing its discs to be exported, Avex Pictures could squandering opportunities to build excitement for its titles on the table. That’s a risky move, especially considering that with the anime industry as a whole pumping out more content than ever before, it’s not like overseas fans can’t get their Japanese animation fix from other publishers if Avex Pictures won’t let them purchase their wares.
Still, it seems that whoever the authority to make the decision lies with has weighed the options and decided that refusing to export discs is the best business decision for Avex Pictures.