Last week the news dropped that Crunchyroll, the anime streaming platform that Sony purchased with their plentiful Demon Slayer bucks last year, had purchased RightStuf.com, an online anime retailer based in Iowa. Let’s explore what the RightStuf purchase by Sony means for the anime industry going forward!
Sony Buys RightStuf. Why?
According to the official announcement, Crunchyroll has purchased the anime retailer RightStuf (“That’s With One F!”), one of the first anime retailers dating back to the Internet’s prehistory. Founded in 1987, RightStuf.com is one of the true OG anime retailers, selling products through a catalog model before embracing e-commerce as it took off in the 90s. Sony bought Crunchyroll for $1.2 billion as part of the company’s drive to become a player in the anime world, involved with anime production, distributing, and licensing, and now selling retail anime products to fans outside of Japan.
What will change? All “erotica” related products that RightStuf had sold in the past are being removed from the site, which is a funny way to describe normal 18+ comics, games, and anime, which most fans just refer to as hentai. This change has led to fans decrying the “sterilization” of anime at the hands of Sony. (These products will be moved to a new site still under construction.)
Personally, I’m happy for the company. RightStuf has been a great partner to J-List over the years while we built out our JAST USA hentai visual novel business, then our J18 Publishing uncensored doujinshi, art books, and our new tankoubon format manga. I’ve been happy to have Shawne’s help over the decades, buying visual novels and books from our San Diego location. Wholesaling to RightStuf has helped keep the lights on for us, and I wish Shawne all the best going forward.
Sony Has the Playstation Platform. Why Do They Need Anime?
Back in 2016, Sony announced that it was moving the worldwide headquarters for the PlayStation brand from Japan to Los Angeles, signifying the rising importance of the West when it comes to major console gaming and the comparative fading of PlayStation’s importance in Japan, a market where most fans are content playing mobage (mobile games) on their cell phones all day. To fill the void, Sony has been focusing on becoming a major player in the anime world, seeing anime as a growth industry that will serve the company better in the future than the already mature console world.
But Wait! Sony Likes to Censor its Games, So Won’t it Censor Anime, Too?
Reading through the online reactions to the RightStuf purchase by Crunchyroll, you’d think that anime was ending tomorrow. After all, some fans pointed out, Sony has become a proponent of double-censoring visual novels and other anime-style games on the PlayStation platform, taking already SFW-infied titles and adding steam and light beams to ensure that no panties or even swimsuit-covered butts or boobs are hidden from delicate fans who would be traumatized by them… through violence and other grown-up themes doesn’t cause the same reaction, for some reason. It’s hilarious that Nintendo has become the defender of freedom in anime-style console gaming while Sony PlayStation is shunned by all anime fans for their misguided censorship policy.
In 2018, Sony’s official comment on this game censorship by then-president Atsushi Morita was this: “Regarding the regulation of the depiction of content, it’s simply a matter of matching global standards. As for the freedom of expression…we have to think about what might be unpleasant for children and shield them from those things while also thinking and assessing ways to find the right balance.” Which is Japanese businessman-speak for “I’m retiring next year, and I’m terrified of what might happen if one user in Topeka, Kansas objects to the content on our platforms, since I might lose my pension if something happens. Hence, Sony will be the most conservative console company content-wise because I personally am old and risk-averse.” Morita retired in 2019, yet there has been no change in Sony’s policy about game censorship.
The good news is that Sony is a vast sprawling company with many moving parts, and there isn’t the slightest indication that the PlayStation approach to censoring sexy content will be extended to the wider world of anime. In the same way that the U.S. PlayStation division doesn’t have a say in what Sony’s Japanese auto and life insurance arm or high-end make-up manufacturing subsidiaries do, there’s no reason to believe all sexy moments will get stripped out of anime tomorrow. All of the above scenes were created by Sony through their animation arms (A-1 Pictures or Cloverworks), licensed inside and outside of Japan Sony-owned Aniplex, and delivered through (currently) Sony-owned services like Funimation and Crunchyroll. so maybe things won’t change much?
What Was Anime Retailing Like In the Old Days?
J-List was founded on October 1st, 1996, to be the first in-Japan anime shop selling to international fans (that I am aware of) Locating a Japan-focused shop inside Japan rather than in California, Iowa or Florida certainly seemed like a logical step to me, and it seemed to work out well.
Before J-List, the anime retail world was very different. There were genuinely early shops like Nikkaku Animart and Books Nippan, which grew out of the Japan Town centers of California cities, or Anime Nation, which like Crunchyroll and Fakku, began as a source for unlicensed material before “going straight.” There was no “anime” tab on Amazon back in those days, though Tower Records did blaze a trail as one of the first chains to add an anime section to browse for anime videos and soundtracks.
As anime takes its rightful place as an essential part of our lives, it’s reasonable that deals will change the face of the enemy retail space. I’m hopeful that no changes will be made that keep fans from enjoying the anime they want to enjoy.
Thanks for reading this post reacting to the sale of RightStuf to Crunchyroll. Got any thoughts or hot takes? Tell us below, or reply to us on Twitter!
J-List stocks many fun products from Japan, including the limited Japanese import Blu-rays for all your favorite anime series, which are great for collectors. Where do you want to complete your box set of Spy x Family, grab all of the Blu-rays to My Dress-Up Darling or grab the last of the Japanese inter-species reviewers Luray’s? We have them in stock! The link is here!