How to spot a fake anime DVD

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Anyone who has bought or are thinking of buying dvds from ebay will face this problem.  Particularly anime dvds, they sell like hot cakes, especially the popular series, can go for quite a bit, so that auction that seems cheap seems tempting, thats what they want you to think, now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying all are like that, there are probably loads of legit sellers, but facing problems due to the pirate sellers.  I wouldn't mind myself selling some of the older stuff in my collection that I no longer watch or have watched that many times I can repeat what they say or say exactly what is happening just by listening to the sound, but seriously, why bother, I'd have to sell them dirt cheap, in which case, I might as well keep them.

This is definately not complete, and can not be taken for 100%, at the end of the day, it is for you to decide whether it is real or not, with a little research, you can increase your chances of getting a genuine article.

*UPDATE*

Breaking news! GDH have been in contact with me, 'Perfect Collection' is illegal, there you have it, direct from GDH themselves.  If your 'Perfect Collection' anime is made by Gonzo Digimation, email them at sales@gdh.co.jp, include pictures of the box and discs, and as much detail of the seller as you can, and they will pursue the matter.

*end of UPDATE*

I will re-write this one day, so that it is a lot easier to read ;) Had to cut it short, as I had exceeded the 20,000 word limit :o

I would like to thank Digital Anime for the information they have on their website regarding anime piracy, you can find it here

http://www.digital.anime.org.uk/piratefaq.html

*UPDATE*

Here is a confirmed list of pirate anime companies, some of them sound legit too don't they?

  • Animation International
  • Animation Japan International
  • Anime Cartoon
  • Anime Cartoon International
  • Anime Studio
  • Another DVD Company
  • Digital International
  • DVD Ani
  • fx
  • Indian International
  • K
  • MAC (Manga Anime Cartoon)
  • Manga International
  • Video Animation
Actually, DVD Ani is a legit Korean Anime company, however, some of the stuff they do puts them in this list.  Why?  Some of their discs contain English audio/subtitles, however, they did not pay for those privileges, instead, they ripped the audio/subtitles from another licensed dvd and used it as their own.

Companies I use to import are amazon in US and Japan, Otaku in the UK, CDJapan in Japan, there are others, but these are the main ones I use.

*end of UPDATE*

*UPDATE*

I noticed people selling Studio Ghibli Movie Archive, listed as 7 movies in 4 discs, this annoys the hell out of me, because I think Studio Ghibli are an excellent company, Totoro is one of my favourite animes, and to see it blatently pirated like this is just plain wrong!  Prove it! Ok.

See here

http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=12113

and here

http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/video/ghibli/ippai.html

and finally here - this one has a little note from the MD of Studio Ghibli Steven Alpert!

http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/video/answers.html

The genuine one has 11 movies.  Notice how the 7 movie version is not available on reputable websites?  Plenty on auction sites though!  If you already have a copy, watch it, do you see Anime Cartoon International, Anime Cartoon or Manga International popping up? If so, I am sorry to say but you have a fake.  Got a 6 disc version? Fake too.  There are other versions available too.  Basically, if it is region 0/all/free it is fake, it is not officially available in region free/0/all.  Budget import ... pfft more like expensive fake!

The only 2 genuine versions I can find are the Hong Kong and the Korean one, both are region coded, not region free, have 11 movies.  Hong Kong one is licensed by IVL (Intercontinental Video Ltd) and the Korean one by BVHE (Buena Vista Home Entertainment).

This is what the MD of Studio Ghibli Steven Alpert had to say:

We have NOT licensed to anyone called Anime Cartoon in Hong Kong, and these sets must be pirated. We have a reputable licensee in Hong Kong who would certainly not be involved in this.

I will be in touch with our attorneys to see what we can do to get the sales of these on eBay stopped, and I would imagine Disney will want to do the same.

Thanks and best regards,
Steve

This is from the link http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/video/answers.html in case you are wondering.  I know Anime Cartoon Internation and Manga International are the same people, and I believe Anime Cartoon are also the same people.  The reputable licensee in Hong Kong being IVP.  You have seen Anime Cartoon, Anime Cartoon International and Manga International on some of your other 'region 0/all/free' anime? You've been ripped off.

The 11 movies are

Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Porco-Rosso, Spirited Away, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Whisper of the Heart, Pom Poko, Only Yesterday, The Cat Returns and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and are all on DVD-9.

*end of UPDATE*

*update - 21 May 2006*

After much more indepth researching, including emailing ADV Films who make 'Complete Collection' as opposed to 'Perfect Collection' and Gonzo Digimation, the conclusion that I have come to is simply this, the 'Perfect Collection' is a rip off the 'Complete Collection', the box design is different, but, if you check carefully, the 'Perfect Collection' usually uses images from the volume discs instead of being a direct copy, I presume that this is to make it look more legit, and when told it is a budget import, it makes it sound genuine.  After all, why would they make an expensive boxset, only to release a budget boxset exactly the same?  Even if they have redesigned the front and insides, they will have not redesigned the back, as that would simply be too much work.  Chrono Crusade The Perfect Collection vs Chrono Crusade Complete Collection, the front and insides are different, yet the back on both are nearly the same.  Strange, seeing as the back on the 'Complete Collection' matches the rest of the box, but it clashes with the 'Perfect Collection'.

If you don't have access to any dvd copying software like DVD-Decrypter, do not worry, most people have dvd writer nowadays, which means that have a dvd authoring software, try to copy it, don't waste your discs though, just try to make an image of it on the hard drive, a commercial disc will cause the software to throw up an error, and bootleg/pirate disc will just be processed as though nothing was wrong.  This is not fool proof however, some commercial discs do not have encryption, the ones I have noticed that do not are old dvds, before dvd pirating was a common place, and the ones from small companies, Steve-O ones were not encrypted, but it is not like it is a high profile dvd from a big company!  I Spit On Your Grave, the original uncut R1 is also not encrypted, but that is so old!  However, every anime I tested were encrypted, including my rather old 'promo version' and 'region 0/all/free' Akira that I won many moons ago.  So lets see, that covers R0, R1, R2 and R3 anime dvds, all encrypted.  Yes R0 anime dvds do exist, but only from a few companies like Manga Entertainment, Central Park Media and Kiseki.  Are they encrypted? Yes!  Do ADV Films or Gonzo Digimation do R0 discs? No!  Are they encrypted? Yes!  Just incase you are wondering, Akira is made by Manga Entertainment, who are part of Palm Pictures Ltd.  This disc has to be my prize possession!  And no I will not sell it, I don't care how much you are offering for it, just pick one up from your local store, this is 'my' special copy :p

If you haven't bought it yet, look at the episode/disc ratio, genuine ones are 2-5 episodes per disc, the 'Perfect Collections are all 3 discs', however the genuine ones are 4 or more, take Chrono Crusade for example, the genuine 'Complete Collection' is 7 discs, now let me see, 24 episodes on 3 discs and 24 episodes on 7 discs, which one do you think is going to yield the highest quality video?

Ignore the feedback, just because someone has thousands of positive feedback means nothing, people can be easily fooled by these discs, and then there are those that simply don't care that it is a bootleg/pirate.  I use FireFox as my web browser, and an extension plugin for it, so that all I have to do is right click a name, and I can tell it to show me the negative feedback of a user.  Negative feedback saying that it hasn't arrived, blah blah you do not really need to worry about, the ones that say it is fake and poor video quality are the ones you need to look out for.  If you see any, then I suggest you proceed with caution, ideally just don't bother, and look elsewhere.

That is all for the update.

I have 100% decided it is no longer worth wasting my time looking for cheap anime on ebay, instead I am going back to Otaku and get them to import them for me.  Expensive, sure is, just spent £280 with them for FFU, Z.O.E, The Devil Lady, Those Who Hunt Eves, Chrono Crusade, Devil Hunter Yokho, Full Metal Panic, 3x3 Eyes, all 'Complete Collection', sure I could have spent a lot less on ebay, but at least I am guaranteed genuine originals, and when it comes to watching them, I know I will enjoy it, at least video quality wise, the anime might be crap however, in the case of what I have ordered, I have already seen them, either via genuine original VHS in the case of Devil Hunter Yokho and 3x3 Eyes, the rest via fansubs, so I know are going to be good, except The Devil Lady, this one I am taking a gamble :)  The difference here is that I am spending £280 on quality genuine anime, for which the publishers will see some of that money, not bootleg low quality garbage, where the publisher won't see a single penny.

At the end of the day, it is upto you whether you want to buy/sell bootlegs/pirates, just don't involve me in it, I am proud of my dvd collection, especially my imported genuine animes.

*end of update*

Gone are the days where you can spot a fake a mile off, fake nowadays are almost as good as the real thing, and thus makes it very hard to spot.

Forget the usual tell tale signs like

Region free/0/all are fakes, that is simply not true, they are available.  Only a few anime companies make region 0/free/all anime dvds.  This confuses matters, as the ones from dodgy anime companies are all region 0/all/free.  For example, you might have seen the name Manga International on some discs, guess what, they are a pirate anime company, the legit company is called Manga Entertainment.  For more information regarding this see http://www.digital.anime.org.uk/piratefaq.html

Imported from a Far Eastern country, also not true, movies are just a big market there as it is elsewhere, if they were all fake, the movie companies there would cease to exist.  It is however true that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are major suppliers of pirate dvds/cds, and this makes me ashamed being Chinese :(

If you have the dvd(s) in front of you, take a good look at it, and compare it to others.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how to spot a fake auction, other than an obvious one, even asking the seller is risky, they may not know themselves, or they may simply just lie to you, after all, if they know it is fake and are selling it, telling you the truth might mean loss of business.  There are other guides by other people about spotting fakes, some are pretty good in how to spot one before you buy, but in truth, you don't know until you have it in your hands.

Things to look out for

Is there any bleeding on the text or pictures?

Does the background colour show through?

Is there copyright information on the back of the box?

Is there any spelling mistakes either on the box or the discs?

Is there any signs of manufacturing defects on the discs?

Is there any signs of lines/banding on either the box or discs?

Does the quality of the pictures used look professional to you, bearing in mind we are talking about movie companies here, they are not going to settle for a half decent quality.

Do the languages match up to the region they came from? Say from HK, fine so far, Japanese and English audio... hmz.... English and Chinese subtitles...hmz... something doesn't add up, if it was for the chinese region, the surely it would have Japanese and Chinese audio.

Is it grainy? blocky?  If you have watched divx movies, then you will know what I mean and what to look for.  Another thing to look for is the number of episodes per disc.  Does it seem high? check the actually capacity of the disc, you will find that instead of being a DVD-9, it will be a DVD-5, means the quality isn't as good as it should be, does that sound like what a movie company would do?

Is it a boxset/complete series? 2/3 discs? 7 movies on 4 discs? Check out the episode listings on the discs, you will find that the seasons overlap, again, something that movie companies do not do.  After all, why sell it like that when they can sell it as a 4 disc (which is what they usually do, 4 discs or more), have better quality episodes, and not to mention charge more, purely because it is a 4 disc boxset or whatever.  An anime with 13 episodes per season and has 2 seasons would go something like this, disc 1 season 1 episodes 1-7, disc 2 season 1 episode 8-13, disc 3 season 2 episode 14-20, disc 4 season 2 episodes 21-26.  Want proof, find a reputable seller that sells anime and lists which episode is on which disc, find an anime boxset with 24-26 episodes or so, now check the listings, 4 discs or more? seasons do not overlap? you betcha!  The seller argue that well, they are budget imports... seriously, think about that a minute.. budget... it does not cost them that much to make it a 4 disc boxset, yet they can sell it for far more.  But from a pirates point of view, it is just more work.  *UPDATE*  They do make 2 disc 'Perfect Collection', take Lain: Serial Experiments Perfect Collection for example, 13 episodes on 2 discs, episode to disc ratio seems reasonable yes?  Take at a look at the genuine article, it has 4 discs.  At the end of the day movie companies and pirates want to maximise profit, the difference is that the movie company has a reputation to maintain and thus will not release low quality dvds, the pirate however won't care and release it with the minimum amount of discs they can get away with.*end of UPDATE*

This is from Digital Anime

Episode to Disc Ratio.
When buying anime DVDs, remember the episode to disc ratio.
Anime episodes are normally 25 minutes. Companies, generally put 2 to 5, 25 minute episodes on each DVD, depending on the total number of episodes in a series. So a 26 episode series is normally spread across 6 DVD to 8 DVDs and a 13 episode series (such as Hellsing and Serial Experiments Lain) is spread across 4 DVDs. 26 Episode series are never spread across 3 DVDs. If purchasing import DVDs check the US Region 1 edition too, if the Region 1 edition has 6 or 8 while the "import" edition only has 3 DVDs, then the "import" edition is not legitimate.

Yes they mentioned the US, and the seller may say but these are from HK or where ever, I'll tell you now, my anime dvds, be it from US, UK or Japan all follow that format.

Sure, the quality of the pressed disc and maybe the coverart etc might not be always be upto scratch on a legit dvd, but you will find that the text and pictures will not bleed, and certainly, the background will never show through on a picture.

I have pretty much given up hope on actually buying cheap anime dvds on ebay, it just isn't worth the hassle, sure I might miss out on absolute bargains, but compared to not dealing with the stress and hassle, I'll live with it, and continue to pay for imports from Japan direct or use reputable companies, expensive? sure! but I know I am getting the real deal, I also keep the receipts, so if I decide to sell them on, I can prove where they came from and that I imported them from Japan or where ever.

If you have paid for them, I would suggest you negotiate with the seller, obviously do not settle for anything less than full refund, unless you are willing to say keep the copy and get a partial refund, so that you have gotten it for cheaper, what ever floats you boat really, but if you are after a full refund, like I said, negotiate with the seller, tell them that you will send the disc back to them once you have gotten a refund.  Once you have the full refund, send the disc back, once you have sent it back to them, you have no physical evidence to use against them.  I would recommend you keep your word though.  Saying that you will send the discs back to them and take no action what so ever if they fully refund you and then take action once they have refunded them makes you a liar (at least that is how I feel), open for hate mail etc etc, not worth it if they are willing to refund in full.  If they refuse a full refund and basically say tough or just plain ignore you, well, there are steps you can take, if you paid by paypal, chargeback, report to ebay as selling fake, goods not as advertised etc, do the full works, there are also people like FACT, FAST, BSA that you can contact, if you report it to them, and offer to send in evidence, I assure you, they WILL contact you back to get more information, with evidence, it makes their lives a lot easier.  With that evidence, they can also get a court ruling to make ebay give them the sellers details, even down to the ip if required, and then use that ip to get the address from the ISP if the address at ebay is incorrect.  Another option is your local police station, chances are they won't be able to look into it, but they should be able to pass it onto the relevent department to look into, don't forget to provide them with as much information as you can though.  Don't be scared, you bought in good faith that the goods were genuine, you were decieved and ripped off, you may not get your money back, but they may offer you a reward if they manage to prosecute.  Remember, what you are giving them is evidence, plus information, basically like a tip off, what they have there is good enough to start the ball rolling.

Thats all from me for now, hope you enjoyed reading this and have learnt something new.  If not, even better, then it means you are already clued up!

Chris
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