Whenever I can, I buy anime in a box set. Typically, a six DVD series as a single box set will have five DVDs for the price of two individual DVDs. Extras may be stripped out, but otherwise it’s a very good bargain.
Sometimes, there’s a series with a little bit more than six DVDs. Cardcaptor Sakura is an 18 DVD set (not counting two movies). This alone means the series will be costly to purchase.
At least there are a few options out there.
English Subtitled US Release
The first English subtitled release in the United States by Nelvana was released for sale roughly in the year 2000. In all, 18 DVDs were released, as well as two 9-DVD box sets. There were also two movie releases, each with English subtitles and English dubs (by different companies).
A company licenses a Japanese series for only a number of years. This is why the American releases of the Sailormoon cartoon and comic are no longer produced. This is also why Disney could not dub My Neighbor Totoro earlier than it did, as Troma Films still had the rights from a decade earlier.
The licence for Cardcaptor Sakura expired, from what I’ve read, at the end of 2006. Nelvana did not renew the license, so there’s no chance of them reproducing Cardcaptor Sakura DVDs for sale.
Because the USA distribution has discontinued, it’s almost impossible to get the box sets anymore (for anyone interested, I have the first 9 DVD box set available for anyone willing to pay a decent, yet reasonable price). You can buy all 18 as a set of individual DVDs from Anime Corner Store’s Cardcaptor Sakura page, but it’s
US$247.98 at the time of the writing (with free shipping within the US). This amounts to US$21.67 per DVD, which is quite the price to pay, let alone to pay for all at once. And once supplies run out, that’s the end.
There are a few other options for buying Cardcaptor Sakura episodes. If lucky, you can get all 18 DVDs for about US$100 to US$150 through eBay. Expect to see the sell-prices for complete sets only go up.
Japanese Remastered Release
Back in 2005 or so, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) (or perhaps another company working for them) remastered the Cardcaptor Sakura series. They converted the series to a digital format (via negative telecining), for use on NHK’s “Hi-Vision”, a hi-definition digital satellite television service. This release boasts 5.1ch audio, and remastered audio and video. It also means a three-box DVD re-release, in Japan.
The first remastered box set came out in Japan 2005/04/01, and contains episodes 1–23. The second box came out 2005/06/25, with episodes 24–46. The third box set came out 2005/07/22, and finishes with episodes 47–70. There is also a movies box set with both movies.
These re-releases are, again, remastered, and contain 5.1ch Dolby sound. The first box set contains 575 minutes of episode content, but also 235 minutes of bonus materials. (This is 9 hours 35 and minutes of content, 3 hours and 55 minutes of bonus, for 13 hours and 30 minutes total.) The bonus material includes: textless opening; textless ending; what may be a Kero-hosted segment on the birth of Cardcaptor; two “Cardcaptor Sakura SPECIAL” segments, one Clow Card chapter and the other Sakura card chapter; and various other “Leave it to Kero” (ケロちゃんにおまかせ) shows. I’ve read that bonus material includes a lot of “flashback” scenes to episode content.
Putting a Price on the Remastered DVD Box Sets
The box set releases are Japanese language, no subtitles (maybe Japanese subtitles?) The list price is ¥34,650 per box set, with the movie collection listed at ¥15,540. This is ¥10,3950 for the episodes and bonuses, or ¥119,490 to include the movies. Because the English-subtitled movies are still easy to find, I’ll focus on the cost of the episode box sets.
According to Google near the end of 2007, ¥10,3950 is about US$930. That would be roughly £632, AU$1,007.
I’m all for buying an available series, but some prices just seem to be too much. This is why I buy the official Taiwan releases of Ojamajo Doremi. I’ll buy legit, or skip over a series if it’s too expensive to buy legit.
One reason for the high price is because the box sets come with other little goodies, items I could live without if it meant a stripped down box set for a lower price. The length of the content and bonus material together (the later of which containts clips from the episodes) for the first box set is 13 hours and 30 minutes. Working my current job at my current pay, I make over US$160.00 in 13 and a half hours, but since I put half of my earnings into savings, and I have other costs to consider in life, I would price 13 and a half hours of content at being worth US$80.00 to me. Assuming the same content length for the other box sets, I would be willing to pay US$240.00 for the three box sets. Unfortunately, the boxes are more along the lines of US$310 each. Even allowing for any “extras” in the box, and that these are “remastered”, I have trouble going over $350 for all three box sets, let alone one.
There is a cheaper route for the remastered DVD box sets, which is to buy via Amazon.co.jp. The three box sets are priced at ¥25,641 for box set one, ¥27,720 for box set two, and ¥27,720 again for box set three.
Using Amazon’s prices, this takes the cost down to ¥81,081, which Google gives as US$725, £493, AU$786. These prices are almost reasonable, although not as reasonable as, say, US$250 for the eighty episodes. This excludes the movies and shipping, and doesn’t take into account that Amazon.co.jp probably only ships DVDs within Japan.
Play-Asia’s price for the three total comes to US$989.70, which not only is more expensive than the Japanese listed price, but would take someone with a decent job at least a good two months to save up for (considering other expenses). Remastered Sakura is quite a force to be reckoned with.
I’ve seen the box sets sold on Yahoo! Auctions (Japanese version) for ¥20,000 or less, but these are for shippig in Japan only. This could be a good route for anyone with a friend in Japan willing to buy and ship the product.
Licenced Releases, Bootlegs, and Beyond
With the US release no longer produced, and the Japanese remaster insanely expensive, many people may look to either downloading fansub releases of the series or buying bootlegs. While I don’t condone either when there’s a valid purchase available, I plan to follow with a series of posts comparing the US licensed release with various other licensed releases (if I get find them on eBay; being outbid at the last second is no fun) and bootlegs.