Blu-ray Rentals

August 26th, 2010

Japan, strangely, seems a bit behind in the HDTV game. For a country where it seems you can’t get anything but HDTVs at electronics shops, not as many people seem to have them as you would think.

Worse, Blu-rays are a tad too sparse here. Of course, this being Japan, they are all over-priced, even more than standard DVDs. $42 is a usual price for a new release. But I can stock up back in the U.S., especially since Japan and America are now in the same region–but then, the videos won’t have Japanese subtitles for Sachi. Damn.

No, the real problem is video rental shops. They have wide floors with dozens and dozens of racks filled with DVDs. However, only recently did they expand their Blu-ray sections to two racks from the lonesome single one they had previously. It’s pathetic, really–take Avatar, for example. Huge hit, new movie and all. I go to the local video rental shop, the closest one to us, a place called GEO. You know how many Blu-ray copies they have? Four. All rented out all the time, of course (I’ve stopped by this place several times before). So I go to the north side of the next train line over, quite a distance away (I’m looking for exercise these days, and I had the time for it then), and find the next-closest rental shop–again, a GEO store. How many copies of this recent blockbuster do they have, in Blu-ray, the logical viewing choice for a movie of that type? Two. Again, rented out. The DVD version they have dozens of, practically a rack full of them, most not rented out. But they have two Blu-ray copies.


I asked the guy at the counter, even though I knew what the answer would be. It was the same last year at Tsutaya in Ikebukuro: “Not enough people have Blu-ray players.” Bull. First of all, if nobody has the players, then why are so many of the Blu-rays always rented out? You have to be lucky to grab a recent release in these places. Sure, Blu-ray adoption is not strong yet, but it’s way stronger than their supply of titles merits. Second, probably a big reason people don’t get them is because they know the rental shops don’t have squat in their Blu-ray sections.


So I move on, knowing there’s a Tsutaya a little further down the road. Fortunately, although they also still have just a 2-rack Blu-ray section, they at least have caught on to the recent-releases idea, and when you check the regular DVD racks, the recent hits all have multiple Blu-rays tacked on at one end. So Sachi and I got movies to watch this week.

Still, it’s annoying that Blu-ray somehow is getting passed over. Of course, if the discs cost half of what they do and you could find a decent selection at rental shops, then maybe people would find reason to start using them more. Just saying.

I’ve been meaning to try out the local version of Netflix, Tsutaya has this thing called DISCAS. Before now, I have always been stopped cold by their indecipherable home page, very badly designed, which even their shop people could not figure out for me. But now I just went back to it, and it seems much more user-friendly. And their Blu-ray section seems pretty well-stocked (over 700 titles, not bad), certainly much more so than the brick-and-mortar shops. ¥980 ($12) a month to have four discs out at any–oohhhh, no. Four discs rented out per month. You don’t get to see all you want so long as you return them quickly enough. You just get a set limit. Hmm. They also have an 8-disc plan for about twice that cost.

Found another service called Posuren (“Postal Rental”?), but it seems to be the same deal as Discas, as are DMM and GEO–they all seem to be following the Discas model. There’s Rakuten Rentals, ¥100 a pop, but they have a ¥300 delivery fee; it gets mitigated by renting many at a time, but there’s a 10-day limit on keeping them.

Anyone know a better service? Something more Netflix-like? So far, I’m not impressed–they seem to have little advantage over going to the actual store, some have prohibitive delivery costs, and the potential hassle factor (contracts, late fees, etc.) could mitigate that further. If there’s nothing better than this, I’ll probably opt for going to the store….

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, Media & Reviews Tags: by
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