Right Stuf Purchased

While the news is a bit stale by now, I wanted to talk a bit about Crunchyroll buying anime retailer Rightstuf. With this transaction, Crunchyroll’s parent company Sony now owns CR, Funimation, and Rightstuf (and also Aniplex too). That is an overwhelmingly large chunk of the licensing, streaming, and distribution of anime in North America.

Personally, I’m not really an anime fan anymore. At best I’m just a Gundam fan, as that’s all I really have time to watch anymore.

But this news still bums me out.

The collective cynics and armchair experts of the Internet would like you to believe that all business are (or should be) purely rational actors, who not only can, but should pursue pure and maximum profit at all costs.

Those of us who live the the real world know that this is BS. Sure, businesses may not be charities, but sometimes they do right by their customers in hopes of establishing long term financial health via customer loyalty and trust. And I feel that Rightstuf largely took the second path.

They carried tons of stuff, even if it wasn’t terribly popular. Maybe it took up precious space somewhere in the warehouse, but on that day where someone ends up looking for (and ordering) Obscure Anime from the Early 90’s, they probably became a fan for life. Someone who would come back to order Other Obscure Anime from the Early 90’s, Obscure Anime from the Early 2000’s, and eventually Popular Anime from the mid 2010’s.

They had all sorts of insane sales. I don’t know understand the economics of them, but if they were a complete and utter financial loss, I don’t think they would have done them for years upon years. It certainly built a sense of customer loyalty (and I’m assuming it cleared out more of that valuable warehouse space).

And top of all of that, they eventually became an anime licensor in their own right. Through Nozomi (the name of their licensing arm), Rightstuf often published shows that no one else would or could. And all the while, they still sold everyone else’s stuff, because they knew it would be financial suicide to only carry Nozomi-published works.

Rightstuf was small, independent, and largely did right by its customers. It was a feel good buying experience. I’ve known plenty of folks who bought their anime exclusively through themn, not only due to loyalty, but because it felt more ethical than getting it from some bigger conglomerate.

Personally, I felt a sense of loyalty to Rightstuf for a different reason - somehow, some way, they licensed Gundam. All of it.

It took them many years, but over time they released every single major show, film, and OVA on disc, including stuff that had never previously been available in the West. I’m talking things like Victory Gundam, Gundam X, and Turn A. Things that most mainstream fans don’t give a toss about. Yet rather than simply say “we’re going to publish the most popular Gundam titles”, they put in the work so that they could say “we published all of it”1. I can’t imagine that this made a ton of business sense, but it felt “right” to the diehard fans (and I’m certain that it felt right to some of the folks at Rightstuf), so they went ahead and did it anyway.

And now here comes Sony, just scooping it all up to claim it as their own. They didn’t put in the work. They didn’t try and built loyalty by doing right by customers. But now they’re going to benefit anyway. All because they had a bunch of cash lying around.

It just feels wrong, and I can’t support it.

The Future?

If my years of life experience are correct, it’s doubtful that Sony will allow Rightstuf to continue operating as-is. I wouldn’t be surprised if the discounts and sales begin to wane. Nor would I be surprised if they stop selling products from certain publishers that Sony now deems “competitors”.

And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Nozomi must now “reevaluate” all of their current licensing agreements. It’s bad news all around for fans. For all we know, the rights to things like Gundam could shift or revert. Maybe it becomes more accessible - but maybe it becomes less.

That’s why I decided that it was time to “cash out”. I already own most of my favorite Gundam series on physical media, but not all of them. So I decided to go ahead and get the last few things on my “must have” list:

The rest of the “Must Haves”

Even better, I was able to buy them from a third party seller on a non-Rightsutf website. This seller almost certainly purchased their inventory ages ago, long before the Crunchyroll acquisition. That means that Rightstuf already got paid back when they were still independent, and my purchase won’t be reflected on their upcoming balance sheets. In other words, I was able to get my stuff without directly supporting the newly changed company. Maybe it’s a case of “six of one”, but it still makes me feel better.

Eventually, if I get some more spending money, I’ll look to buy what’s left on my “nice to have” list in a similar fashion. But it won’t be the end of the world if I can’t. From here on out I can stop buying from Rightstuf without having to deprive myself of anything I really want. It’s a bittersweet ending, but it is what it is.

The current “nice to haves”

  1. Yes, I know, it’s technically not all of it. For example, there’s lots of SD Gundam content they’ve ignored. But they got all the mainline stuff, so I’m going to give it to them. [return]