Why is Canada Being Gipped?

An Editorial on Anime Distribution.

In my spare time, I do a lot of activism relating to Anime, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I stop at no end to make my voice heard. For example, two years ago when reckless actions from an independent retailer nearly caused anime to be banned from sale in my province, I fought back by writing to the Government and the Film and Video Classification Board. I wrote and visited stores and got the word out to other otaku to do the same to fight this. And it was successful!

Make no mistake… if you think about it there are a lot of issues with anime that need resolving, especially in Canada. And I think many of these issues are under reported. Sure we have all heard the recent news stories about channels in Canada adding anime to their schedules. Blocks such as YTV’s Bionix, Razer’s Kamikaze, and G4/TechTV Canada’s Anime Current have improved the anime programming landscape. The addition of The Anime Network to nearly most of Canada and Gong Anime to Canadian Joost beta testers is also adding to this revolution! But while everyone has an opinion about what they can and can’t see on TV, not many really talk about another big issue.

Which brings me to the bigger issue of anime distribution in Canada. Unless you live in a bigger city, the chances of you finding your favorite title is slim. If your city has an HMV , you may be in luck with new releases. If your city has a London Drugs, you may be able to find some rare gems. If you’re a bigger city with lots of independent comic book stores and big box stores like Best Buy and Future Shop, you probably won’t have a problem finding your favorite title. However if you live in a small town, your local Best Buy and Future Shop probably don’t have large anime sections, and aside from special ordering or ordering online, you may be out of luck. Or, if your local comic book store has a large selection, you may have to pay a lot more than the MSRP due to comic book stores needing to pay more to carry a product. It’s really a sad day when a person who wants to buy an action, drama or a comedy flick can go to their entertainment store of their choice no matter where they live, but anime fans almost always have to go to great lengths in many cases, just to get what they want.

Anime Retail in Small Town Canada versus Small Town America:

The following is a comparison between two cities. We’ll call my current city of residence Town A. Town A is in Canada, and lies in a province with barely a million people, and Town A’s population is approximately 175,000 people. Town A has had a Future Shop for at least 10 years, and a Best Buy for nearly three. For those who are unfamiliar, it is worth noting that Best Buy owns Future Shop in Canada and the prices of anything at each store are the same. It also has 3 HMV locations, and three independent stores (of which two are sister branches), for purchasing anime. HMV is a Canadian chain which sells music, movies, and now, some video games. The lone independent store is quite large, and not just devoted to anime, catering to gaming, sci-fi, and comic crowds. The other two have smaller locations and cater to the same crowds as well. If worse comes to worse, an otaku in Town A has the choice of traveling to another town or city, or ordering online from Amazon.com (not .ca since they barely carry anything) or their online store of choice. Not bad, you would think.

Town B is approximately 6 hours driving distance from Town A. Town B is in the United States, in a state with a population of 635,000. Town B has a population of below 60,000 people. Town B has a Best Buy, a small F.Y.E. boutique, and one independent comic book and card store, that does not sell anime. Otaku in Town B also have the option of ordering from their online store of choice, or travelling to another town or city.

Just over a week before my excursion to Town B, I went on a shopping trip looking for some anime. More specifically, I was looking for two volumes of a series that had been released in the last three months, and I figured I was able to find them here. I went to my local Best Buy and Future Shop, and did not find them. What dismayed me even more was that Best Buy had less than 20 DVDs in stock (mostly carrying things like InuYasha and a few volumes of Ghost in the Shell and Eureka 7), and Future Shop had slightly more in stock but it was more odds and ends of other animes that were older (such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Akira) and barely anything else. I found this to be very odd. My next venture was to London Drugs which probably had about 20-30 titles in their stock, but mostly odds and ends again from ADV, Funimation and Bandai. I then went to two independent stores. The lone store did not have it, but had a selection that was twice as large as London Drugs and with a bit more variety. The other store had a vast and large selection, but there was a problem. They had one of the volumes I was looking for but the price after taxes was nearly $36 Canadian. This shocked me. I shouldn’t have to pay nearly $40 for a DVD containing only four episodes. This price seemed a bit ridiculous to me. My final shopping destinations consisted of 2 HMV locations, which were selling older volumes of the series for that same high price. I had to wonder why this was happening. And it wasn’t just this series. “Mainstream” releases such as the Miyazaki releases from Disney cost anywhere from $30-35 in Canada at nearly every retailer. I was more than shocked when I saw these price tags and wondered of this was a general trend or if this was just in Canada. May long weekend was approaching, and I decided to pay Town B a visit.

The first store I ventured to was F.Y.E. – which before I had known as a Sam Goody. Sam Goody usually carried everything under the sun. If I was looking for anything, I knew I would find it here. I would have thought the turnover of Sam Goody and Suncoast to F.Y.E. would have been smooth, but I was in for yet another disappointment. The store had moved to a much smaller “boutique” in the mall, and had approximately a selection that was on par with London Drugs. This is a specialty retailer with about as much variety as the electronics section in a drugstore. Something is drastically wrong here! The prices though seemed anywhere from $8-10 cheaper after conversion to Canadian Dollars. I still left the store dismayed after not finding anything I was looking for and decided not to renew my membership to their loyalty program. My expectations were very low for my visit to Best Buy. And when I got to that blue and yellow behemoth, boy was I surprised!

Town A’s Best Buy had one shelving unit with four shelves devoted to anime. At best, this unit was stocked ½ to ¾ full. Town B’s Best Buy had an astonishing (and fully packed) three shelving units full. Moreover, the prices were a lot cheaper compared to prices seen in Best Buy and Future Shop in Canada. Lo and behold, I had found several copies of the two volumes I was looking for! The price? Each one was 23 US dollars, which converts to 25 Canadian dollars. This was ten dollars cheaper, and a much more reasonable price to pay. There was no way I could afford two volumes in Canada with only $50.

So What is Going On?

Still, this doesn’t make sense. This has left me with many more questions. Town A is 3 times the size of Town B. Therefore it only makes sense that Town A has more otaku. Why are stores in Canada just not stocking as much anime as their US counterparts? Why is anime so much more pricier in Canada compared to the United States? Why are many titles harder to find in Canada than they are in the United States? If Best Buy and Future Shop are owned by the same company which owns Best Buy in the United States, why is there such a drastic difference in the stores’ stocks and prices?

Nearly three years ago I had the opportunity to meet Roland Parliament (Melvin and ADR director) and Stephanie Morgenstern (Sailor Venus) at the CN Anime Expo in Toronto. Both had stressed that Sailor Moon had really put Canadian talent on the global map, in a world where it is much harder for Canadian stars to be seen compared to stars from other countries. A lot of anime is also dubbed here in Canada, in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The studios that dub these series and movies use talent from all over the country. And it’s probably worth mentioning that two series that really started the anime boom in the mid-90’s; Dragonball and Sailor Moon were dubbed in Canada! On another note, many of the Sailor Moon DVD releases never made it to small town Canada. I remember I saw the odd ADV or Pioneer/Geneon videos in a store. Only after Best Buy opened did I see the Geneon DVDs, and luckily I was able to purchase all of the Geneon releases of the series. I never got to own the ADV releases of the series in entirety, I got very lucky when I found two volumes of the dub at a con. It’s a sad day when stores in Canada don’t support their own talent as much as their American counterparts.

I don’t have any answers to these questions. I have heard stories and rumors that it is a lot harder for companies to get their anime up here, but at the same time I do know that some of the companies have Canadian distributors. But Canadian Anime distribution is shady at best. Some stores will order direct from the distributor in the US, others will go through distributors in Canada. We’ve all heard the stories of Bandai changing their distributors a few times over the years in Canada but things aren’t improving as much as they should. Buena Vista Home Entertainment is responsible for shipping out Ghibli titles but a lot of the other , non-Miyazaki releases like Pom Poko and My Neighbors The Yamadas were never found in a store here. Sometimes you can’t even find bigger hits like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle in a department store! Things like Porco Rosso, The Cat Returns, Nausicaa, and Whisper of the Heart were found on release nearly everywhere , but now are scarce and over priced if they are found. More popular Funimation releases and ADV releases can be found in small quantities at HMV and London Drugs. No matter what company is putting out the anime the prices are a lot higher than they should be. And it’s not fair that Canadians have to pay the price.

I can’t answer for the stores themselves – sometimes “small town otaku” can get lucky close to the day of the release of a DVD if they go to an HMV. I know the ones in Town A at best get 2-3 copies of an anime DVD on a release date, and once they are sold it takes a long time to restock. And as for prices, I could understand a couple of bucks here and there. But 8-10 dollars is too much.

So What Do We Do?

It’s difficult to know where to start in trying to get some changes made. Writing to a store may yield a response that would say to contact the distribution company saying the company may not be sending them enough copies. The company may yield a response to contact the store saying that the stores are ultimately responsible for what they carry. And it’s anyone’s guess as to who sets the prices for anime in Canada. Maybe the companies need to get their distribution sorted out hopefully for once and for all in Canada? Yes, there’s always online ordering but then this goes back to a question I posed earlier: if someone who wants to purchase an action, comedy, or drama can go to a store in their town or city, why can’t an otaku have nearly the same amount of access to anime that a non-otaku can have to their films of choice? Anime used to have a fanbase in North America from the 80’s to the early 90’s that was small and secluded, but since then the size has skyrocketed enough to be a good chunk of the entertainment market in North America.

Something is very, very wrong with this picture. And it seems that every year it is getting worse. Readers, feel free to post your comments and thoughts about this issue below! If anything, I hope I have given readers something to think about the next time they go shopping for anime, no matter what side of the border they are on.

Sailor Moon Director to Appear at Con And a Sprinkle of Sugar!

Hey Moonies! Two quick bits of news information!

Anime Expo 2007 will be held June 29-July 2 at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. TOEI Animation will be exhibiting there for the first time, and will feature two directors there! One is Konosuke Uda, who is Toei’s Special Industry Guest. He worked on a several episodes of Sailor Moon, and also was assistant director for the SuperS movie. His other credits include the current hit Lovely Complex, Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy, and the very popular One Piece! The second guest that TOEI will be hosting is Eisaku Inoue, who is the Convention’s Guest of Honor. Eisuke also worked on One Piece and Digimon. Some alarm bells are ringing in our heads when we see mention of Digimon and we wonder if TOEI may be presenting some of their Digimon toys at this convention? Sadly none of us can make it to this con, but if one of you will be attending we would love to feature you as a guest writer!

☼ We haven’t heard a whole lot from Stephanie Sugar Lyn Beard since she moved to Los Angeles. She has been posting the odd video here and there on youtube of such things as her Toronto Loft and her last day at YTV. A few weeks ago she posted this video of her and her magician friend Danny ZZZZ. Danny has performed in the US and Canada and he will be having a new show in 2008 and Stephanie will be in it . She may be his assistant , there hasn’t been a whole lot said about this show since this video has come out.

In the meantime, we also noticed from our initial story that the user had removed the clip of Stephanie’s groundbreaking appearance on the Red Green Show! Luckily, we were able to track down the episode and have provided that clip for you all to watch! Now there’s another thing to watch to help ease the wait of her return!

Does this Look Familiar?

Meet Panchanne Mini!

When we watched last week’s episode of Bishoujo Celeb Panchanne, we were reminded of a certain Sailor Senshi! Yumiko Shinjo’s alter ego is Panchanne, however Panchanne always seems to be around whenever her daughter Risa is in trouble! Well, the six year old finally put two and two together and revealed to her mother that she knew of her secret identity! So, Kami-sama made her a superhero too, and henceforth, let it be known to man that Japan’s newest superhero now has a sidekick: Panchanne Mini!
But does Panchanne Mini’s Shiroganeze Attack Mini remind you of Pink Sugar Heart Attack? You be the judge!

Here’s Panchanne Mini fighting an angry cell phone:

Online Videos by Veoh.com

And here’s Sailor Chibi Moon fighting a Taiko Drum Daimon:

Online Videos by Veoh.com

We have also learned that Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine’s younger sister also gained powers from their Kami-Sama and became her sidekick named Poitrine-Petit!

Since our last update on this series, it seems the episodes have been pulled from Ameba Vision – however we will update everyone with links on YouTube so they can watch this show!

EDIT: Sadly YouTube has taken down all of the episodes.

A Few More VA Sightings!

Per always, our VA’s are always up to something new! So here come a few new sightings, and we have big news concerning Naz Edwards so we will be finishing the article with a larger bit on her than the last update!

Notes from the Underbelly Renewed for a Second Season!

ABC’s recent sitcom hit Notes from the Underbelly has been renewed for a second season, and the new episodes will probably air next spring by some estimates. Robert Tinkler (Rubeus) plays Ben, the slave/assistant to the show’s demanding, workaholic lawyer, Cooper (played by Rachel Harris). This screenshot we have provided is from the last episode of this season. He is on his third date when Cooper calls him asking to pick up a present for a man whose birthday party she is currently attending! Ben is frustrated but complies when Cooper threatens to fire him. He appeared in a few episodes this season in person and in voice (yelling from outside of Cooper’s office), and is probably likely to return when the new episodes roll around. Congratulations Robert, and all of us at Moon Chase really hope Cooper leaves your character at peace for an evening!

Maria Vacratsis Plays Scary Mother in Law!

Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Saskatchewan Production that has received International Attention! The show is about the challenges of Muslim life in the small, fictional, prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. It features an interesting perspective of how Muslims and Non-Muslims interact! At the center of it all is Yasir Hamoudi (played by Carlo Rota), a Lebanese Canadian who runs a construction business , and is married to a caucasian woman named Sarah (played by Sheila McCarthy). Sarah converted to Islam when they married, and they have a daughter named Rayyan who is the most devout to the faith in the family – following prayers regularly and wearing a Hijab. In the seventh episode of the first season “Mother-in-Law”, Yassir’s Mother comes to visit, and Mother Hamoudi is played by none other than Maria Vacratsis (Queen Metallia)!

Mother Hamoudi comes to visit the family bearing grim news: Yassir’s cousin Samira has recently become widowed and is very lonely. As the Mother with all the power, she proposes Yassir take a second wife and mary Samira! This comes to the dismay of Sarah and the rest of the episode tells the story of a culture clash between western society (where polygamy is illegal) and middle-eastern society (where in some countries it is acceptable to have more than one wife). This daring episode can be watched by clicking these links for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Sailor Moon Connection to Barbados’s First Big Hit!

Alison Sealy-Smith (various Monsters of the Day, pictured second from right) stars in Barbados’s first film to ever be distributed nationally, Hit for Six ! Alex Nelson (played by Andrew Pilgrim) is the son of a West Indies cricket star and has a lot to live up to. He has to fight for his spot back on the cricket team after a layoff. This is especially tumultuous as he has to overcome a nasty scandal, and also mend relations with his estranged father who has been living in England for the last 30 years. Alison plays Ianthe (Alex’s mother), in this indie hit which has been a huge hit in Barbados and is headed for international release later this year!

Liza Balkan is Onstage!

Liza Balkan (Sailor Mercury #2) has been appearing across Canada on stage in some very diverse productions! Last March she appeared at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in Manitoba performing in Soap and Laughter. The show featured Liza in her own 20 min comedic sketch. In late 2006 at WJT she also starred as Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony, a play based on the Jewish icon and former Israeli Prime Minister. In April, she was featured in a roundtable discussion on the nature of indie productions and career paths for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts. And in December of this year, she will be directing the Waterloo Entertainment Centre’s production of Bunnicula! This play is a huge children’s hit all over the country and is based on the popular book series.

Naz Edwards to play… a terrible singer?

This is breaking news moonies! Naz Edwards (Queen Beryl) has just been chosen to play a socialite who can’t sing for her life in the play Souvenir at the Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The play is based on the real life story of Florence Foster Jenkins, who was the William Hung of the thirties and forties, so to speak! This should be funny to see and we can’t wait for the date for this play to be announced!

eBay Wrangle #6!

Apologies for the late arrival of this – I have had a couple other articles in the works but unfortunately dealing with a very serious computer problem has hindered my ability to get these going. It is therefore for this reason that this will be shorter than usual. Fear not though, because some items really jived and there is a special section devoted to them! For those who missed it , Amazon has finally removed the Sailor Moon Boxset – Scroll down to the **** around Edit #2. Thanks again to every fan who made their voices heard!

Without further ado…

Most Expensive Items:
Uranus and Neptune Transformation Wands Under $700!
Eternal Sailor Moon Wand!
Chibi-Usa’s Stallion Reve!
Sailor Moon SuperS Doll!

Best Bargains:

A very good, fan-made Sailor Venus Henshin Wand!
A Sailor Venus Puzzle!
A really interesting fan-made recreation of the Moon Kingdom Ruins!
Official Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus resin kits!

Other Neat Finds:
Sailor Moon Sweatshirt complete with Chibi-Usa Iron!
A rare printing plate from DART Flipcards!
This is not a T-Shirt?!
Sailor Moon shorts!
Sailor Moon Markers from Canada!
Neo-Queen Serenity Necklace!
Helios Necklace!
Chibi-Moon Figure Mug!
Princess Chibi-Usa Lunch Bag!
A Sailor Moon Eraser from the 40th Anniversary of Nakayoshi Magazine!
Sailor Moon Cases also from the 40th Anniversary of Nakayoshi Magazine!
A Postcard Book from Europe!
A Rare Sailor Moon Pattern Book that shows you how to knit your own costumes!
A Rare SuperS Board Game with 7 games in one!

Special Section: Have your very own Sailor Moon Themed… Kitchen?
Measuring Spoons!
Veggie Peeler!
Cutting Board and Knife!
Measuring Cup!
Oven Glove and Towel!
A Bento Box!
And another Bento Box!
PGSM Chopsticks!
Oshibori Cloth for Bento!