The post where I get to be a hypocrite.
How long has it been since I logged into this poor blog of mine? A month? Over? Hmm. Oops.
But thank heavens! Testing period is over and I have survived! (Take that back, I’m signed up for summer classes and those start on Tuesday.) Actually, I wish I could say that was all, but it just so happens that when I came back from Canada, Arashi’s Dream “A”live was officially released. After being unable to find it (both limited and regular editions) in any store (only to, of course, have a friend pick it up in one of those stores last weekend not two days after I’d checked it again), I ended up purchasing Persona 3:FES. And that, my dear friends, is where my time has gone. (Four months into the game, not counting my accidental reset. Oh, I cry for those lost days.) Yes, I am a gamer. And I will gladly admit that game is too addictive for my own damn good. Not that it stops me from playing it – oh, hey, loading screen’s gone.
Before you reach out with your collective mental powers to shut off my PS2 for good… where was I? Oh, that’s right. I was hunting down Dream “A”live. I’m honestly beginning to think there’s some force up there trying to prevent me from ever putting hands on an LE Arashi album, never mind the forces nearby, but for the moment I shall be shut up because my ATTACK ALL AROUND set finally arrived. Oh, the distractions of fangirling.
There is, however, one thing you really can’t avoid when you’re buying Japanese CDs or DVDs – bootlegs. Fakes, copies, whatever negative term you want to refer to it by with a superior smirk on your mental face. Most of these tend to come from either mainland China or Taiwan, and they exist for media of non-Japanese origin too, but since this is a blog that doesn’t care about non-Japanese entertainment (perhaps with the sole exceptions of Monk and Psych), we’ll toss those to the side.
If you haven’t heard the news by now (Where’ve you been? It’s been on my About page since the first incarnation of this blog), I’m East Asian by ethnicity. Chinese, to be exact. (Presumably full-blooded, but when I understand Japanese better than Mandarin, it’s kind of embarassing to admit.) We’re reknowned for being cheap, and I don’t even know what to say when my mother remarks on my J-Pop buying habits “It’s expensive.”
For example, a few months back Raid suggested I pick up some version of Tackey & Tsubasa’s BEST album, and while in Toronto’s Pacific Mall last month, I came across the overseas versions of all three. Ready to indulge in the spirit of vacation spending, my mother followed along with me as my siblings ran amok in the bootleg DVD shops. I bounced back and forth between the Green and Blue versions, unable to remember which color he’d repeatedly followed with the words “GO. GET.” My dearest mother, alas, eventually decided she had to help and took a look at the albums as well.
The first thing she hunted for, of course, was the price tag.
And seeing it at a steady $40 each, while my siblings pounced on bootleg movie DVDs going 7 for $10 or some deal to that extent, she immediately made the above proclamation (“It’s expensive.”), and led me off to join the siblings in bootleg-hunting mayhem. Eventually my sister distracted me with a bootleg version of Heat Island, and so we have not spoken of the lost Takkitsu Best album since.
So, bootlegs. They were prevalent in the early days of spreading Japanese music (even more so since most of it was of the Hayashibara Megumi variety), and most especially in the case of anime soundtracks. I know I’ve got a bunch of Son May-produced Initial D discs lying about somewhere. We wanted our music, we wanted it cheaper than importing could get it for us, and my excuse is that they were birthday/Christmas gifts from high school friends.
But in the age of downloading, where does that leave us? The bootleg industry is still slamming out the copies, clearly. I’ve got a number of shots from my forays around Wan Chai in August last year and a few from this past trip to Canada to prove it. Fansubs have it all over their releases “This is a FREE FANSUB. If you paid for this, you’re a sucker you were scammed. Blah blah blah.” Society in general is cheap – if you can get something for free, go for it! And with so many JPop listeners taking this path (and thanking JPOPSUKI, apparently. I feel older and geekier for remembering ThePPN tracker and the early JPop sharing sites.), the question becomes “Who are their targets now?”
Is it the average gaijin JPop fan, knowing little, caring even less, and soothing their consciences by thinking “I’ve bought the album, I’ve supported the artist” – though the album apparently gained an extra disc with tracks from early on in the artist’s career? (In Bootleg Land, Amuro Namie’s WANT ME WANT ME became a full-fledged album. And then some. Hirai Ken’s FAKIN’ POP is, well, apparently also UtaBAKA) Is it just the really cheap Chinese and the younger crowd appeasing that stupid friend who wants the album but insists on having the actual thing? Perhaps it’s some poor sucker who mistook the bootleg for an overseas version. There’s a reason why there are still stores that stock these things, though unfortunately I’ll probably never find out. (From my own laziness. Of course.)
On that same subject, though, what is the appeal of buying the originals on CDs, rather than as digital singles? (Other than the obvious “digital singles have a pretty high chance of being lost”, that is.) I’d like to think I have a pretty decent collection of CDs. I also think I haven’t listened to any of them since junior year. Of high school. When I still had a CD player. That was 4 years ago and I still buy CDs, but rather than ripping MP3s from my own copies I download off that handy tool – the Internet. I look at the booklets maybe twice – once to look at the pictures, once to romanize lyrics – and I can’t deny it was nice to have actual stuff for AAA to sign (and Seki Tomokazu too… if I had gotten to his autograph session. DAMMIT.), but they really just sit there. Yes, those autographs, too.
It’s not hard to justify buying oneself a bootlegged copy of, well, anything. Whether your excuse is one of impatience or rarity or plain “I don’t care/I’ve already spent the money, oh well.” But it’s still an interesting subject to touch on – who wants to admit to buying a bootleg in a community where status seems to be granted by the amount you have, after all? Oh, wait, I’ve already done that.
As for the aforementioned Heat Island… Sadly, there is not a happy ending to my bootlegging story – it was purchased, the trip was a month ago, but I’ve yet to see cover or spine of the DVD case (and of course, DVD within) since. C’est la vie.
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