Japenese Blu-ray editions of Castle in the Sky and My Neighbors the Yamadas.
Don't get me wrong, I understand how foreign film distribution works. Generally, a certain amount of time has to pass before a title is available elsewhere in the world in order prevent reverse importing, which can lead to a forfeit of domestic sales in the country of origin. However, what I don't understand is why Disney takes so much longer than other studios worldwide to bring the releases to North America. Take a look at the list below:
Blu-ray titles currently available in Japan:
- Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)
- Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky)
- Mimi wo Sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart)
- Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (My Neighbors the Yamadas)
- Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo)
- Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle)
- Gedo Senki (Tales from Earthsea)
- Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Secret World of Arrietty)
That's ten titles (and counting) so far. Meanwhile, in North America, the only two releases we've seen to date are Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Ponyo, with not so much as a peep from Disney as to if and when we'll see more anytime soon. It's been about ten months since Castle in the Sky and My Neighbors the Yamadas were released in Japan, a North American waiting period that trumps that of Nausicaä (eight months) and Ponyo (three months). To add insult to injury, both titles, as well as a few more, are already available worldwide.
Maybe Disney is holding out for the North American theatrical release of The Secret World of Arrietty to release more Blu-ray titles in an attempt to drum up interest in the new film. Or maybe they've come to the conclusion that Ghibli titles don't sell well enough in North America to cover the costs required to bring them here. I hope the latter is not the case, but you can't help but wonder the longer we go without additional releases.
This brings me to the question posed in the title of this post, "to import, or not to import?" I'll admit that even though I have not personally imported any of the Studio Ghibli Blu-ray titles (the shame!), my impatience with Disney has definitely made me consider the option lately. My problem is that I tend to be a bargain shopper, and importing is not exactly an affordable way to add to your film library, to say the least. Any of the releases listed above will set you back about $80-$90 each through YesAsia.com or Amazon.jp. Meanwhile, the Disney releases are, when finally made available, priced at around $20-$25 each and sometimes a little less during release week with a coupon from Disney.
So do I bite the bullet and start importing, or try to remain patient in order to save my hard-earned cash? I know most hardcore Ghibli fans out there probably prefer the original Japanese releases with their unique packaging and original menus/features, but when Disney finally does come through with a release, I think they do a pretty good job with presentation. I guess it all comes down to personal preference; there are so many ways to enjoy Studio Ghibli films and everyone has their own way of doing so. For the time being I'm going to try to be patient, but in the event I decide to make a bold move and import, I'll be sure to report on my experiences.