I’m now adding a new store to my list of reliable and worthwhile merchants. Because there aren’t a lot of stores here in Australia that sell anime, Japanese music and manga/anime artbooks, I basically get a lot of that stuff overseas. Sometimes I will check out the local online stores and compare prices with overseas stores to see if I’m getting a better deal here or over there. The disadvantage about ordering from overseas is usually the cost to ship items over here. More so when you’re shipping stuff from Japan. The cost is very high in that regard.
For me the only way to be happy with a store, including its service and product variety, is to try it out myself. There are a few places which will have feedback from people about their dealings with some of the overseas stores, and this feedback can be valuable, but everyone’s circumstances are different when ordering stuff from overseas so everyone will have differing opinions on different stores. As I said, though, the only way to know if it’s a good place to buy anything is to try it yourself.
I can say that for asian music I definitely get everything from cdjapan. I have ordered from YesAsia, who do offer free shipping on certain items (to a certain value) and that has been a bonus, however that is only if you have it shipped through normal processes like airmail. This is not good if you want to have something like a new release as soon as possible. The only advantage they do have over cdjapan is that they also sell Korean and Chinese music as well as Japanese. And while they are cheaper, I can’t say I’m overly fond of their packaging methods. They are okay, but pretty average. The same really goes to cdjapan, though they do put a bit more packing material in to protect the CD/DVD as much as possible to limit movement. Most of the time I’m ordering stuff that comes via an express shipping process, so the items usually don’t need a lot of packaging material since it gets moved here pretty quickly. I have bought a CD and a DVD from Australian anime store Tamarket, but this only happened due to them having an item that was no longer on sale overseas. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it as they are more expensive.
In terms of anime goods such as toys, action figures and models, there’s a few stores that are quite good. Most orders I’ve put in have been through HobbyLink Japan. It deals mostly with models, but also has some great action figures too. They usually get the latest stuff in, but you need to be able to get onto them reasonably quickly because these can usually disappear within a few months. I ordered my FFVII:AC Sephiroth figure from them, however when I went back a few months later to order Vincent, they were no longer selling them. Vincent I ended up ordering from Tamarket for roughly the same price as I paid for the Sephiroth figure. When Cloud Strife came out, I knew I couldn’t order him from Japan as it was a special release for outside of Japan (since he originally came with the special edition super duper version of the DVD release) so I had to look to other stores that I hadn’t tried before. I ended up ordering him from Akadot Retail, an American online store which sells quite a lot of anime and manga stuff. I can say that the service was good and I was impressed with the packaging. I also liked the little hand-written note on the invoice which thanked me for my purchase and hoped I enjoyed the product. I’ve also bought Tidus, but ordered him through HobbyLink Japan. In terms of service, all three were fairly good. In regards to the cost, they were all fairly much the same, despite the figure itself being cheaper in the US, the cost of shipping ended up bringing it inline with what I paid for the other two figures. In regards to the packaging that they came in, I’d have to say that HLJ stands out the most. I have ordered models from them in the past and although they come in boxes, HLJ ensure that the boxes themselves are still in mint condition when it arrives on your doorstep. They are wrapped up tight together in a type of plastic wrap, then placed in a bigger shipping box and further packing material is placed into the box to prevent it from slipping around. They usually use the air-pillows (small plastic bags sealed with air) which also cushion the boxes from the sides and prevents too much movement. They also do this with other things too.
Moving onto books, magazines and manga, there are a number of stores I buy from with one new one that’s just been added to my list. Most of the manga I buy from Tamarket. They tend to keep reasonably up to date with the releases and are good at getting them in. They are a decent price, though another Australian store Anime Anytime (Yorokonde) sell them cheaper. The only thing with AA is that they don’t have that big of a range as Tamarket does and they tend to focus on a certain genre rather than a variety. I have not yet ordered translated manga from stores overseas so I can’t comment on shipping of that type of item from overseas stores. I have, however, ordered Artbooks and Anime magazines from HobbyLink Japan. Although they are all in Japanese (and I have no reading skills in Japanese) they are good for scanning images which I usually put up on my Animay website. Again, HLJ have a reasonable range and their prices are about the same as most overseas stores. Packaging is also excellent, they will often put magazines and books wrapped together into a large flat box and add a few air-pillows to keep it from moving around too much. The most recent store I have ordered from that I can recommend is Animaxis. Tthey sell a variety of anime goods including manga (Japanese only), artbooks, action figures, models and miscellaneous items. They also sell some anime DVDs but these are Japanese versions only. Anyway, I ordered a couple of artbooks from them. These artbooks “Uzumaki: Naruto Illustrations” and “Harukanaru Toki no Naka de Artbook” were both unavailable at the time, however the site did state that they would get the two items in once an order had been placed. They also stated the length of time it would take for the items to arrive (1-2 weeks). Prices were about the same as HLJ, though shipping was pretty expensive, but they only offer express shipping on their items when its overseas. Packaging was well addressed. The books were wrapped up together in plastic, then placed between two sturdy pieces of cardboard which were then taped over with one large strip at each side. Then it was wrapped up with bubblewrap and placed into a plastic shipping envelope.
I know I’ve gone on a bit about packaging, but I can’t stress it enough. When its well packaged and arrives in mint condition, then its well worth the money spent.
If you’re wondering whether I’ve had any bad experiences with online stores, then yes I have. These were in relation to music orders. One was JPopHelp. They have a lot of stuff, though there’s also a lot of bootlegs too. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve put through an order and never heard from them until after I’ve sent an e-mail through for an update. Once it took them nearly 3 months. The other store I’ve ordered from but wasn’t really happy with was SensAsian. I’d only heard of them more recently and found they had a DVD that I couldn’t get anywhere else. So I put in an order and did receive an e-mail with all the details and saying they’d received my order. Weeks later, nothing had happened and I hadn’t heard anything, not even an update on my order. I went to the site and logged in, but couldn’t work out the system there as none of it made sense (maybe it was just me). It seems that although they said they had it in stock, they actually didn’t have it in stock and had had to order it in for me which was why it took so long. From the day I ordered to the day it arrived approximately 2 months had passed. What annoyed me the most about it was that nobody bothered to e-mail me to let me know what was happening.
In short here’s a quick rundown on my recommendations:
Ordering Music CDs
Ordering Anime goods such as toys and memorabilia (excluding books & magazines)
Akadot Retail (US)
AnimePower (Australian) – good stuff though hard to tell if its in stock or not. I’ve sometimes put in an order for a number of items and received an e-mail saying only 1 or 2 of the items I’ve requested are in stock.
Ordering artbooks, magazines and manga
HobbyLink Japan (artbooks and magazines)
Tamarket (manga – English translated)(Australian)
Anime Anytime (manga – English translated)(Australian)
Animaxis (artbooks) – as mentioned in my blurb, they do sell other stuff though I’ve only ordered artbooks from them so far.