A couple of updates ago I wrote about the word 常識 joshiki, meaning ‘common sense,’ and how one of the worst things a company can do is attempt to do business in one country while operating under the joshiki of another. Doing this creates a kind of “perceived schizophrenia” which causes stress among fans outside of Japan, who wonder what in the hell Japanese companies are thinking, trying to sell Blu-rays with two episodes of anime on them for $80, when in reality they’re just operating by a different set of rules. While J-List is loaded with awesome calendars from Japan, don’t bother looking for AKB48, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or Johnny’s-kei male idol calendars, as the companies that manage these artists have found it more profitable to force fans to join fee-based fanclubs and sell calendars to them directly. (And sorry, but fans outside of Japan are never allowed to join these clubs.) The reason for those $100 Sailor Moon T-shirts is similar: Bandai decided to sell these direct to customers, jacking the price way up and removing distribution to third-party shops like J-List because that made the most economic sense for them. Back in the 80s, when everyone was falling over themselves trying to understand Japan’s business practices, I remember hearing that Japanese companies excelled at “long-range thinking.” One example of this was how long it took for KFC to turn a profit here, and how patient the Japanese banks backing the company were for money to start to flow. In reality, Japanese companies are terribly conservative and would rather make too few of a product than risk it sitting around in a warehouse. This is why we encourage fans go get your Sailor Moon preorders in as early as you can, lest the item(s) you want be removed from the site as we sell out. Other things that can be frustrating to dedicated fans include when Japanese companies sell products via lottery (like ball-joint dolls, ugh), or when they make limited edition Gundam models or Pokemon 3DS units but make no way for people outside Japan to buy. The Japanese companies aren’t trying to frustrate us on purpose, they’re just handicapped by trying to operate global businesses with fans all over the world while maintaining a “common sense” that’s only compatible with the Japan domestic market.
Sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what companies like Bandai are thinking.