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Keep your Eyes Peeled for those Bootlegs!

December 13, 2009

I’m preparing an E-mail to Half Price Books. Most of what you read will actually be what I’ve written to Half Price Books so as to educate them on the products they’re selling. I hope that this will also educate some of you who might not know how to properly spot a bootleg before getting ripped off as well.

On November 29th, I visited my local Half Price Books, located in San Antonio’s Plaza del Norte. I frequently look for anime, or Japanese animation DVDs, and this visit was no exception. Almost every time, I find instances of bootlegged materials, and again I certainly did find bootleg DVDs. I’m not certain what your stores’ policy on the acceptance of bootlegged material might be, but I personally am only interested in legitimate products, and not handing my money over to these bootleggers, who stole and redistributed a product, only to sell that product that they didn’t create and earn a profit. And considering the anime industry is nearly dying both in Japan and the United States, I think the issue is very important.

Here are some examples of some bootlegs I found at this location.

I know it might be hard for most employees to tell, but there is Chinese text written across the front of the box, not Japanese. Anime is Japanese, not Chinese. There are also no official company logos of any kind on this box (this may be more easy to identify than determining whether the writing is Chinese or Japanese). There’s no American logos, no Japanese logos, and the official DVD logo is nowhere to be found.

Here is the back of the same box.

The description of the show is written both in English and Chinese. Again, Chinese is never printed on these boxes, but it should also be noted that descriptions are never printed in multiple languages on the backs of these boxes, whether it’s Chinese or Japanese. Also, Chinese subtitles as well as English subtitles have been included in this DVD release. Official American releases provide English and Japanese dubs, with only English subtitles. If this was an official American release, it would at least have had English dubs. Official Japanese releases do not have any language of any kind other than Japanese, and most certainly does not provide either Chinese or English subtitles. You’ll also notice at the bottom of the box, there’s a logo that says “DVDx2”. This is a different write speed than official DVD releases, meaning it was probably not done professionally. You would never see this logo anywhere on any official DVD release. On top of that, this title has not ever been released in the United States, so there would never be a legal English language version of this title.


Here’s another example of a bootleg I found at this location. It’s completely in Japanese on the front cover, so you may think that it’s simply a Japanese copy (the English title is simply called Pretty Sammy). However, you’ll also notice that there are no company logos located anywhere on the front of this box. Even in Japan, this is a standard.


This is the back of the same box. Again, there are no company logos. Also, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the official DVD logo on this box, which is a worldwide standard. Again, it may be difficult to see in this blurry picture, but it is region-free, Japanese languaged, with Chinese and English subtitles. No American companies produce anime DVDs with Chinese subtitles, and no official DVDs are region-free. Japan ALSO doesn’t produce their DVDs in multiple languages, and very rarely with subtitles at all.


This DVD is guilty of much of the same things the last DVD was. You may think it’s simply a Japanese release, but there are no company logos to be found.


Now, this next one is, admittedly, a little bit tricky. You actually do find the DVD logo in the bottom left-hand corner of the box. However, a lot of the same things I’ve already warned you of still hold true. There’s no company logos to be found. There’s both Chinese and English subtitles, neither of which are ever found on Japanese DVDs. Not to mention, the DVD is Region-1 encoded, which is the US DVD region. Japan’s region is 2, not 1. For these reasons, this is an obvious bootleg.


I know this is a particularly blurry picture, but this logo does not belong to any American or Japanese companies. Is there a way to verify a DVD by publisher? I think you may find that this DVD won’t come up.


Here’s another DVD found at this location. Again, this is just further confirming the same bootleg issues. There are no company logos to be found anywhere, and the box art is not the same box art that’s found on any official DVD releases either in Japan or America.


This is the back of the previously-shown box. You almost can’t tell that this is the back of the box, as there is zero description of the product on the back. You won’t find any DVD logos here.


I know this looks incredibly professional. But nearly no anime DVDs fold out like this in their boxed sets. A company would also have other booklets or sleeves or other promotional materials. This boxed set has nothing of the sort. And certainly, there would be another logo of some kind on the inside. There, of course, is not.

Now, of course, you may think, “Well, maybe these are the official Chinese releases.” They are not. China’s DVD region is Region 6, not 1, 2, or 0. If you ever find a foreign DVD that is regioned 1 or 0 so that it can play in an American DVD player, it is a bootleg. All of the DVDs I’ve presented in these images are Hong Kong bootlegs.

Remember these things to avoid buying or selling Hong Kong bootleg anime DVDs –

Try to learn what the difference between Chinese and Japanese is. If you can’t do that –

Look for the region. If it’s in English, make sure it’s region 1, not region 0. If it’s in another language, make sure it’s in region 2 or region 6. If it’s region 1 or 0, it’s a bootleg.

Look for the subtitle presentation on the back of the box. If the DVD is an English release and includes Chinese subtitles, it’s a bootleg. If the DVD is in Japanese and has any foreign language subtitles at all, it’s a bootleg.

Look for company logos. There’s a lot of companies out there, so even if you can’t be bothered to learn each one, just try to find any logo at all. If there’s no company logos, and ESPECIALLY if there’s no official DVD logo at all, it’s a bootleg.

Also look out for the “MPEG-2” logo in the bottom backside corners. While DVDs are indeed usually encoded in MPEG-2, they never need to TELL you as much on the box. If you see it, probably a bootleg.

Thanks for reading and considering. I hope you and everyone else will from here on out be able to tell the difference between a legitimate DVD and a bootleg. There’s nothing sadder than not knowing any better, getting home with a DVD, and then finding out you just paid a pirate for material he didn’t create. There’s a certain element of pride that comes with owning a legitimate product. Let’s all be more careful.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. GreyFox10S permalink
    December 13, 2009 6:27 PM

    Wow, thanks to this I just found out that 5 years ago I bought an entire series of bootleg DVDs of Gundam Wing. But mine had both the English Dub the the Japanese and English subs so I didn’t think about it back then. Then after reading this I started looking at it a bit closer. No Bandai or Sunrise logos, fold out style, spelling and grammar inaccuracies on the box (“The Gundam on the After Colony Gundam Wing” wtf?!?!?). And it is coded in region 0. I feel so ripped off now.

  2. January 20, 2011 9:14 PM

    Unfortunately, it looks like Half Price either didn’t listen or didn’t care. I just complained on their Facebook about their policy to knowingly and willingly sell bootlegs after spotting 18 at my local store, asking the clerk about it, and being told “we know, but they still work and we can sell them”. While I’ve always loved Half Price Books, right now I’m just plain disgusted with them. 😦

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