The changeover is finally happening. One of the community’s long-standing favorite online shops will become “The Crunchyroll Store” next month. Nick and Steve reflect on the change and what it might herald for the anime community at large.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Steve, we’ve got to act quickly. There are only two weeks left that we can post this video:
“Despacito,” move over; we’re going to have to make Alexa work overtime with this one.
Possibly because we’ll have to start telling her to order manga for us moving forward.
Quite possibly! Or maybe not! There’s a lot of uncertainty swirling around in the wake of the recent announcement of RightStuf’s complete and final absorption into the Crunchyroll brand. This is writing we all saw on the wall, but now that its eleventh hour is here, people are (understandably) upset and confused. But don’t worry. That’s why we’re here to take your hand and guide you through what this all means, with our impeccable grasp of corporate antitrust law—sorry, I meant with our propensity to make jokes at the expense of stuff well beyond our expertise.
That news certainly set my Twitter feed on fire when it dropped on Friday—and you’re right about the uncertainty. While Crunchyroll—under the umbrella of the Sony mega-corporation—bought out Right Stuf last year, this is the first highly visible shakeup, and it has people with a lot of large question marks hovering over their heads. Is TRSI being shuttered? Are they shutting down its warehouses and shipment processing? Is this just consolidating two separate online web stores? All questions the short press release sent to publishers and other anime companies failed to answer.
You’d think a giant corporation serving a consumer/end-user base full of huge nerds would grasp the importance of distributing a detailed press release that addresses or assuages the easily foreseeable concerns such a heavily online audience would have. But then again, we all saw what Unity just did.
Truly, corporate myopia knows no bounds. However, the way this news dropped didn’t help its reception. It took several hours for any official public statement from the involved parties. During that time, that brief letter spread around and inspired panic, confusion, and no small amount of anguish.
It may seem like an overreaction to new kids (on the block) who aren’t familiar with Right Stuf or aren’t particular about where they buy their anime paraphernalia.
In this case, children, it’s time to sit down, shut your yapping, and pay attention because it’s Grampa’s Story Time. Right Stuf is a gosh-darn institution in the American anime market, and y’all gotta learn to appreciate your elders (including elder websites). Or so help me. Alternatively, you can just read this post on RightStuf’s blog before it potentially goes away forever.
Now that I think about it, we may need to Archive.org that whole section of the site soon. The short version is that Right Stuf was the place to order anime and manga-related stuff online for ages. Sure, there were—and are—other outlets, especially for folks outside the U.S. and Canada, but they often had the broadest range of products from home media to figures to accessories—anything an aspiring anime nerd with a pre-paid debit card they got for their birthday could ask for.
They’ve been my go-to for the past ten years. I just checked my purchase order history last night, and my first one hailed from 2013, which was right about when I was seriously getting into anime again. It was also my first holiday season with real disposable income from a real adult job. So, I went to Right Stuf, not Amazon. Why? Well, many reasons that we’ll get into, but a big one was that they were selling a couple of the Utena soundtrack CDs for two bucks a pop. You’re only getting that kind of deal at a place that truly caters to the most cultured anime fans. Jeff Bezos could never.
Genuinely, he could not. Amazon may be the omnipresent emperor of online shopping, but it’s also targeted at literally everyone. Can you find anime merch on there? Sure. But Right Stuf was a site that specialized in anime and actively sought out as wide a selection as possible. If something was being released in the U.S.—and sometimes even if it wasn’t—you could order it and probably get a good discount. While I hesitate to call any business truly “for fans, by fans,” TRSI was about as close as possible.
Let’s look at it this way. In my millennial cohort, it takes a hell of a lot for people to feel any loyalty to a business, let alone one focusing on retail. Yet still, most weebs I know (myself included!) would choose to order at Right Stuf over other online storefronts. You have to be doing things right to provoke that kind of response.
Granted, it’s probably not healthy to develop a personal attachment to a business because it takes your money and sends you boxes of anime crap. Yet there was always excitement whenever they started hyping up those big holiday sales. My favorite memory was buying one of the site’s famous blind boxes, where they would send you 30 random DVDs from their clearance bin. Was it worth 30 bucks, strictly speaking? Not at all. But it was the online retail version of sifting through a garage sale, and there was a thrill to seeing what kind of forgettable mid-2000s crap from Geneon you would find.
They had so many good, weird tchotchkes in that warehouse. Sometimes, I was just a few bucks shy of free shipping, so I’d throw in a random ’90s Sailor Moon keychain or something. They even had randomized $1 or $5 blind buys just for this purpose. Little touches of authenticity like that add up.
Their customer service is (was) legendarily good too. And not just because if you called their number, you’d get Captain Tylor on the phone.
I can’t attest one way or the other on that one since I never had to deal with returns or replacements—which I suppose speaks well of the regular service. Anyway, the point is that within the admittedly cynical scope of The Industry, Right Stuf has historically occupied a sweet spot of large capacity and amiable reputation. So you can see why people were less than jazzed when the ever-growing mass of corporate consolidation that is Sony/Crunchyroll bought the whole thing up last year.
And that first sign of change there, the offloading of 18+ products onto a separate website, was the harbinger of things to come. Whether you believe me or not, I never bought porn from Right Stuf, but it was still part of the site’s identity to cater to all, including all of the anime/manga spheres. I don’t think it helps anyone when a big corporation like Sony decides what is or isn’t “acceptable” to sell and purchase.
It’s also emblematic of the larger issues at play and how this whole consolidation plays into a much broader trend of enormous corporations squeezing the identity and often functionality out of companies they buy. Like, hey, if Sony doesn’t want to sell hentai Blu-rays, that’s their prerogative. But to buy up Right Stuf for their distribution capabilities and actively purge a portion of their products was an act of pure subtraction that sucks to see. And I’m not just saying that because former host Micchy and I used to send each other porn as prank gifts for Christmas.
Plus, you can draw a line from “begone porn” directly to why this current news provoked a lot of discussion about what Crunchyroll would keep in their store. Would they still sell live-action discs? Would they sell material from other licensors? What about the stuff Right Stuf licensed themselves through Nozomi? What about all those weird tchotchkes from the ’90s I just brought up? Right Stuf‘s interests usually aligned with their customers partly because they had the free rein of an independent storefront. I’m not naive enough to believe that Sony‘s interests align with mine in any way.
The business-side argument would be that making all those changes would be silly. After all, it defeats the purpose of buying this company, incorporating it into your brand, and then actively shedding assets and narrowing its scope in ways that would logically hurt your business. Yet anyone who’s seen the absolute horror show going on with Warner Bros. Discovery knows that the people at the top of corporate food chains rarely operate with normal human thought processes. Their grey matter has been pickled in marketing charts and quarterly reports for so many decades that they are perfectly willing to strip their own company for parts if it means making a line go up for a short period.
Bro, look at this statement from the announcement on their website: “Commerce is an important element of the anime lifestyle that allows fans to proudly display their passion, and we look forward to growing the global love of anime by continuing to expand our eCommerce capabilities.”
Public relations used to mean that execs at least pretended to be flesh-and-blood humans. They don’t even bother with the charade anymore. They have all the money in the world, and they do not give a shit.
To be clear, I know we’re technically throwing rocks from inside a glass house here. Folks are currently reading this on a website owned by a subsidiary of Kadokawa, after all. When that sale happened, folks were skeptical about ANN maintaining editorial independence. While I hope we’ve worked to show that it’s been retained (Read: crapped on enough Kadokawa-published light novels that they would have fired us otherwise), I sure as hell can’t blame them. How many other news and entertainment publications have vanished after being purchased by some company with more money than integrity? At a time when we can watch capitalism collapse under its weight in real-time, I couldn’t fault a soul for expecting the worst when told Right Stuf is being “phased out.”
Total agreement on all accounts there. We’re all trapped in a never-ending cycle of worsening enshittification, and we’re all just grasping for what we can salvage in this whirlpool, But that’s also why I refuse to log off. John Kadokawa himself will have to pull me away from the computer if that’s what he ultimately wants. I’m not going down without a fight, or at least not without being vocally glib about every one of these stories that break.
That’s also why proper messaging and precise, direct announcements would have made this announcement less tumultuous. Pouring over any official information—especially the Crunchyroll store’s FAQ—suggests that this is not, for the time being, a shuttering of the actual business that constitutes Right Stuf. As far as I can tell, it is consolidating everything under the CR online storefront. That’s speculation that I’m confident on, but still, speculation because even a question as simple as “What about my pre-orders?” has a nebulous, non-committal answer.
I think that’s probably the case too. Any major behind-the-scenes changes likely already happened under the Right Stuf branding (and we already saw some ripples of that, like Shawne Kleckner stepping down as president late last year), and from what I can tell they haven’t screwed anything up royally yet. But then that makes one wonder why they didn’t stick with the Right Stuf name, especially considering how beloved and respected it is. I mean, I know the answer why—the suits don’t give a shit—but it makes this whole fiasco all the more head-scratching.
It’s almost surely Executive Brain. I can buy somebody up top saw that they had two different websites where you can buy anime stuff, and decided that was pointless and they should have one. It’s the same reason they did away with Funimation‘s decades-long branding for one that got better SEO returns. From the perspective of somebody who doesn’t use either store and sees them as entries on an earnings report, I’m sure it makes total sense to consolidate behind the name attached to your bajillion-dollar streaming platform.
It’s also entirely possible none of this will matter in a few months. Maybe the products/deals/services/etc. will persist into the Crunchyroll Store without any hitches. Maybe they’ll get a little worse, but it won’t matter because the average buyer isn’t a loudmouth on Twitter and doesn’t care where they get their Blu-rays. Maybe it’ll all get a lot worse, and it still won’t matter because we have no power to change it for the better anyway. There’s no way to tell right now, but I hope it’s the first case primarily because we don’t have many viable alternatives besides other corporate merchant behemoths.
When I think I’ve stricken Anime Strike from my brain, you go and do this to me.
I’d like to continue avoiding Amazon as much as possible. There are many reasons for that, but most practically because I prefer my books and Blu-rays to be undamaged when they arrive at my door.
Well, if you’re in the mood for mostly Japan-exclusive stuff, I’ve used AmiAmi several times to get merch that otherwise wouldn’t be available in the States. Granted, they have a pretty strict policy on pre-order cancellations, and shipping is hell, but I got that Macross Delta box set in fine condition, at least.
Oh yeah, AmiAmi is excellent. Most of my figure collection came from them. I still use CDJapan occasionally, too, and despite what I just said, Amazon Japan can sometimes be your best option for importing. But these are no substitute for an American-based storefront peddling our localized releases.
In that field, uh….well, I’ve heard people talk about RACS, aka Robert’s Anime Corner Store, but had never actually looked up what that was. While I have been assured this is a legitimate and trustworthy online retailer, I don’t feel comfortable giving my credit card information to something straight off the Anime Web Turnpike.
That is a vibe and a half, for sure. I can’t vouch for it either, and in fact, I’d need at least five friends vouching for it before I’d give them the three funky digits on the back of my Mastercard. But for what it’s worth, it’s an independently owned site with over 25 years of service, so it must be doing something right.
Just saying when I’m doing my holiday shopping, the last thing I need is to remember when Megatokyo was a thing.
There’s also the more contemporarily appealing BuyAnime, the storefront that picked up the 18+ material Sony booted off of Right Stuf. Their main issue at the moment is a dearth of inventory outside of that 18+ material. While that might not be an issue for hornier buyers, it holds them back from being an adequate replacement for Right Stuf‘s gamut of stock. However, if the Crunchyroll Store handover ends up booting even more material out of their catalog, it’s conceivable they could end up here.
It’s also worth noting that Sentai still has its store, which presumably won’t be going anywhere. And who knows if this move will prompt other boutique licensors like Discotek to pursue similar options for themselves.
It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it. One of the reasons Sony bought Right Stuf, to begin with, is that establishing a distribution network is a long and expensive process that takes years to start seeing dividends. Any company trying to start now is fighting against the current with a pair of water wings. This highlights how much this move sucks from an actual customer perspective.
Unrelated, but back around the turn of the 20th century, there was this company called Standard Oil founded by a guy called John Rockefeller. It became the biggest petroleum conglomerate in the world through its focus on horizontal and vertical integration, i.e., using its size and wealth to outprice competitors both in the refining industry and in all the industries related to refining. It bought out lots of smaller companies and eventually had control of the entire oil production process, from digging to delivery. It only dissolved because the U.S. government sued it using the Sherman Antitrust Act. Just thought that was interesting.
Well, there’s certainly a lot of anti-trust to go around about this move! But I imagine if the government were inclined to do anything about this pseudo-monopoly, they would have done it back when Sony bought Crunchyroll in 2021.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to imagine any modern administration functional enough to consider tackling that, let alone one with as much of a hard-on for trust-busting as Teddy Roosevelt’s. We’re just a bunch of little guys who’re screwed in a situation like this. Our only recourse is to hope we’re the nicest kind of screwed.
It’s a rough end to our Summertime, but we’ll have to deal with the fallout Step By Step. Because even if we don’t Got It (The Right Stuf), we’re still Hangin’ Tough.