UK Anime Distributor Anime Limited Discussion Thread

RadFemHedonist

Death Scythe
That's why I was trying to open communication and we won't get anywhere starting of in anger, by talking about fun stuff we can get more communication and comfortable with each other and maybe we can learn why the information was sent so late. We have to assume people are communicating in good faith to have communication at all.

Can I just say how much I appreciate your proposed approach here :)

My opinion, for anyone who's interested: I prefer being billed at the time I place my order as at least then the money side is done with and I can just look forward to receiving the product even if there are significant delays, and I would also like to voice my thanks for AL being so understanding when I have needed to cancel orders for various reasons in the past. I also think that there's something almost comforting for me in these delays as modern life is so fast-paced and I guess I don't really just want to accumulate, acquire, obtain ad nauseam, but I understand and accept that that is a personal opinion and that others will disagree, often for good reason because everyone's perspective is different. I do think AL's communication could be better, and would also like to voice that I am legit disappointed when I feel like we as customers have been messed around beyond the usual issues with delays and communicating delays to customers - the three examples I can think of of this recently are:

Seraph of the End - OST CD inclusion cancelled, though to AL's credit they did at least make clear that all cancellations based on this would be honored and lowered the price of the set to account for the loss of the CD.
Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 Part 2 CE (and standard as well for those who want the standard edition, as I don't think that's been released here or put up for pre-order yet either?) - was a bit sad that it was quietly removed from the newswire, etc. after seemingly being announced for pre-order. It was additionally a bit frustrating for me as I would have pre-ordered Memories CE at Early Bird discount with my Anime Unlimited code had I known for sure that JJK would not be up for pre-order at the time it was briefly advertised to be. It is also getting a little irksome having to set aside the money for it month after month (£41) just in case it comes up with no idea of when it will.
Blood-C Ultimate - that whole debacle with it not actually having a rigid box in spite of being advertised as having one and that being standard even for AL's normal collector's editions. I wouldn't have bought this myself just because it sounded more violent than I can personally stomach, but I would be very sad if a title I was eagerly anticipating had this happen to it so I express my disappointment out of solidarity with my fellow anime fans.
 

WMD

Railgun
My opinion, for anyone who's interested: I prefer being billed at the time I place my order as at least then the money side is done with and I can just look forward to receiving the product even if there are significant delays
100% agree with this. Place an order, pay, forget about it until it turns up. No drama.
Blood-C Ultimate
This is the only time I've been angry at AL. The disappointment was far beyond anything I ever expected to feel about one of their products.
 

Yami

Thousand Master
I cannot think of any other home video label that has ever been seemingly unaware with a delay to its own product until the actual release date, let alone with such regularity that it has become a running joke. I can't even think of a reasonable excuse for it at this stage. I think everyone here has been pretty polite and there's no need to be sycophantic; surely they could just deliberately overestimate release dates - no one would care if they received it 'early' - and/or essentially not announce them until copies are already at the replicators.
 

HellCat

Pokémon Master
Sincerely, I don't like conflict. But at the same time I don't like feeling being taken for granted.

The problems with AL releases predate any of the problems affecting the world in the last few years. I understand the seriousness of those problems (understood and warned of one in particular even whilst others mocked me) and have seen them affect other companies, but in AL's case they feel to have exacerbated these long standing problems rather than caused them.

I've got no interest in being a dick, both out of common courtesy and the fact there's every likelihood I will in years to come once again be standing in a room with AL staff. I do think however that sometimes blunt honesty is needed over dancing around continued problems. No one should be obsessing over the delays, but I balk at the idea we should just pay sometimes hundreds of GBP and just accept stuff will just show up whenever.

I don't think anyone has been unreasonable and sometimes harsh criticism comes from those who genuinely want to see something prosper.
 

Jon O Fun

Dragon Knight
Sincerely, I don't like conflict. But at the same time I don't like feeling being taken for granted.

The problems with AL releases predate any of the problems affecting the world in the last few years. I understand the seriousness of those problems (understood and warned of one in particular even whilst others mocked me) and have seen them affect other companies, but in AL's case they feel to have exacerbated these long standing problems rather than caused them.

I've got no interest in being a dick, both out of common courtesy and the fact there's every likelihood I will in years to come once again be standing in a room with AL staff. I do think however that sometimes blunt honesty is needed over dancing around continued problems. No one should be obsessing over the delays, but I balk at the idea we should just pay sometimes hundreds of GBP and just accept stuff will just show up whenever.

I don't think anyone has been unreasonable and sometimes harsh criticism comes from those who genuinely want to see something prosper.
I know a lot of people like and respect the AL staff and don't want to intentionally offend them as they feel a sense of familiarity and sometimes friendship having met them at cons and such.

A lot of the time people throw around the quote 'they're not your friend, they're a business' which is a way to disassociate and remind that they are just that, a business.

When I worked in marketing a long time ago we used that a lot but eventually came up with a slightly different "values" moto to look at it from the customers stand point by saying 'I'm not your friend, I'm your customer'.
It's a way of saying yes customers do feel a familiarity with certain businesses but at the end of the day you can't take that for granted because if you do they may not be your customer anymore.

When they started AL were the most open and commutative anime company out there, but as they've gotten bigger and busier that has slipped to the point where we had the MVM rep updating on their release schedule a few weeks ago.
 
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I'm still waiting for a replacement cover for Revolutionary Girl Utena Part 2 to be sent. Been two years and nothing.
Yikes, that's... not so good. 😬

I had a similar saga happen some years ago involving the long-delayed delivery of the final component of the Patema Inverted Ultimate Edition from its Kickstarter project. I persisted, and it was delivered in the end.

Might be worth chasing that up further?
 

Titan

Chuunibyou
I cannot think of any other home video label that has ever been seemingly unaware with a delay to its own product until the actual release date, let alone with such regularity that it has become a running joke. I can't even think of a reasonable excuse for it at this stage. I think everyone here has been pretty polite and there's no need to be sycophantic; surely, they could just deliberately overestimate release dates - no one would care if they received it 'early' - and/or essentially not announce them until copies are already at the replicators.

This is what I would like to see AL do, I mean, nobody would complain about receiving their orders early.
 

Jon O Fun

Dragon Knight
If AL want to stop the majority of hostile comments, then they need to step up their communications. The Gundam Seed Destiny delay email should have been sent out to people last week, not today.

As for the delays themselves, if a product is delayed then its delayed, I will wait, as will many others, but AL need to inform us SOONER.
Having just read all the comments I missed about the official announcement.
An AL rep said on Discord last Thurs? Or the Thurs before? that it was on track to make the date but now they're saying its a delay in printing assets?

If it was on track last Thurs or the Thurs before you'd be sitting on your Yodel app waiting for delivery updates as it's coming from outside the UK.
If you're only finding out on day of release assets haven't been printed you've got major problems as the product really should've been signed, sealed, and delivered last Friday at the latest.
And I'm in no way saying the AL rep was lying they probably fully believed it was on track but if they didn't know before then they really need to reasses who they're working with...
 
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Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
I don't think AL mislead us on purpose. Small companies have a lot of things to juggle and there are never enough people to handle everything, so what probably happens a lot of the time is that something arrives at the last minute and then it's wrong or not up to scratch, and they have to battle to pull everything together and rearrange collections and staff to fit an ever-changing schedule. Sometimes even a single delivery company can drop the ball and lead suppliers on for days with unrealistic promises (I've experienced that from both sides!) It's probably often really dumb logistical stuff and they're in that weird place now where they're small (by industry standards) and releasing few enough things that each can still throw up unique issues, yet big enough that as fans we expect them to be able to organise things like the big guys.

It's important to give feedback (especially about material disappointments like the box format change with Blood-C) and I do think the folks at AL listen, even if we are an intimidating bunch. At the end of the day I guess I see them as fans first, a business second, even though they're unmistakably the latter and the recipients of a fair bit of my money. But I'd rather have their slipped dates than the corporate style of anime company, which picks shows entirely based on their commercial prospects, doesn't even try to understand the market for niche titles and doesn't ever bite off more than they can chew. AL has definitely made some missteps but as somebody who lived through the bad old days of UK anime distribution I feel that they have really turned the UK industry around, almost singlehandedly, and the other companies have seen what AL are doing and tried interesting experiments of their own. I can't believe I now live in a UK where I can realistically expect to watch the new One Piece film within months of its Japanese cinema run; where we get CEs which are actually nice enough that people who aren't living here genuinely want to import them; where content aimed outside of the darling teen-to-20-something male demographic actually gets a decent look-in; where we get actual industry guests at events and our own special runs of exclusive goodies intended for the Japanese market. We have come a long way in a very short space of time, and I want to believe that all of the learning experiences are gradually making things better.

As for SEED Destiny, I watched it ages ago so I can live without having my new set until it's ready but I do sympathise with those who were really looking forward to having it this week. The last minute delays do make it hard when buying items as gifts for special occasions, and for people who were really looking forward to having it for a planned viewing or to fill a gap in their schedule (we don't all have huge backlogs, I'm sure!)

R
 

Hanners

Anime Limited Representative
Industry Representative
Yeah, that is crazy. The only explanation I can think off is that they don't keep tabs on the manufactuing side and just "hope it turns up in time"

I wondered why my anime-senses were tingling, and now I know why! So, let's get into this...

First and foremost, I do owe a lot of you apologies for late notifications of delays, and to be quite honest at least some of that is on me. I'm well aware that being notified late or on release date isn't great or fair on you folks, and we try to avoid it wherever possible.

Now, this is where it gets trickier - manufacturing a product isn't just hitting "print", selecting how many copies you want and then waiting for them to be churned out, completed. Every product has a multitude of components (discs, booklets, slipcases, Amarays etc), all of which aren't necessarily coming from the same production plant. These components may arrive at different times, some may be delayed while others arrive early, etc etc. Ever built a custom PC and had everything turn up except the CPU fan? That can happen with a Collector's Edition too.

Then you have what goes on the disc - authoring or delivery of masters is reliant on third-parties and takes time, then there's QC which can cause further delays to ensure the product is to the absolute best standard possible. (As a personal example here, I was personally and solely responsible for the final delay to Cardcaptor Sakura because I wanted one last pass of subtitle QC, because as product manager on that title I knew nothing but the best possible experience would do).

All of this is taking place in what is currently an uncertain world - the UK is rife with strikes (which is not a criticism of any industrial action by the way), paper stock is still frequently in short supply throughout the world, COVID-19 causes staff shortages at irregular intervals across industries (from manufacture to delivery), and other world events such as the war in Ukraine also have an impact (bear in mind at least some production facilities are based in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, with a fair number of staff of Ukranian origin).

What all of this amounts to is a complex process that we monitor and check in on daily for every product as closely as we can, but ultimately we are reliant on third-parties and sometimes that information can take a while to reach us, especially when you start to factor in absences due to some of the reasons outlined above.

This can leave us with a conundrum - do we announce a delay without a new date? Do we just announce an arbitrary date when we don't have information to-hand as to its accuracy? Or do we wait until we have up-to-date information that allows us to make an informed decision as to delivery dates? It's a balancing act, and I'll be the first to admit we haven't always gotten it right.


Anyway, I realise this probably sounds like excuses and hand-wringing, but the important point I want to come to is that we absolutely hear the concerns and frustrations, and want to rectify them - we were in a good place where things were running smoothly in terms of delays (and more importantly the general lack of them), and I can only acknowledge that this year in particular has seen a spike in those delays. We're not blind to this fact - it's something that we're all aware of and are working to minimize (because honestly, no matter how hard you try they'll never be eradicated entirely), and we're always looking to set dates that are both achievable and reasonable, but there's more work to be done there and we hope you'll be patient while we work to rediscover that balance after the supply chain challenges of the past couple of years have changed the landscape around us.

As a final thought, I do also want to say that we do appreciate negative feedback just as much - perhaps more! - than positive feedback. If it's constructive, genuine and reasonable then it's something that we can take away, discuss and - if it's fixable - work on. So, please don't be hesitant to say "This is a thing/situation I don't like and here's why", what we don't want to hear is just blanket generalised "they suck" criticism or abuse. As long as you remember that our staff here are all human (yes, even me, I can confirm), and all anime fans like you, you won't go far wrong.

I love you folks, I still consider myself one of you, and I'm not the only one here with that mindset, so if you want me to start hating you all you're gonna have to work harder. 😉

I'll try and be around a bit more for questions/feedback from now on as I know we've all been caught up in a lot of cool things (what about the new One Piece film, eh?) and not particularly active here of late, but I won't get mad if I get an @ notification here and there (as people on the Discord already know!) Apologies for the long ramble, but this is an important issue that I know has been bubbling for a little while of late.
 

Jaysgba

Combat Butler
This can leave us with a conundrum - do we announce a delay without a new date? Do we just announce an arbitrary date when we don't have information to-hand as to its accuracy? Or do we wait until we have up-to-date information that allows us to make an informed decision as to delivery dates? It's a balancing act, and I'll be the first to admit we haven't always gotten it right.
It might not be quite this simple, but can people who preorder from AL directly not just be sent an email on the Friday afternoon before a Monday release if stock is not on-hand at the fulfilment house?

I understand that other retailers will want new dates to update their listings so that should probably come later, but I struggle to think that you won’t be aware the Friday before release if assembled stock is on-hand.
 

bakura

Kiznaiver
@Hanners thank you for your post this kind of communication is exactly what I was hoping to achieve and believe you have done a great job at explaining the problems faced at AL. If I could give advice when there is a delay and people are emailed maybe things you have established in this post should be included as I believe when people are more aware of the complex workings of what goes on then people can be more understanding and excepting of situations. I think it's been clear that the theme throughout this has been communication and the more you can provide through social media, email, or even here the better. Hope to talk with you and other Al representative's more about anime in general and have fun.
 

Dai

Thousand Master
I wondered why my anime-senses were tingling, and now I know why! So, let's get into this...

First and foremost, I do owe a lot of you apologies for late notifications of delays, and to be quite honest at least some of that is on me. I'm well aware that being notified late or on release date isn't great or fair on you folks, and we try to avoid it wherever possible.

Now, this is where it gets trickier - manufacturing a product isn't just hitting "print", selecting how many copies you want and then waiting for them to be churned out, completed. Every product has a multitude of components (discs, booklets, slipcases, Amarays etc), all of which aren't necessarily coming from the same production plant. These components may arrive at different times, some may be delayed while others arrive early, etc etc. Ever built a custom PC and had everything turn up except the CPU fan? That can happen with a Collector's Edition too.

Then you have what goes on the disc - authoring or delivery of masters is reliant on third-parties and takes time, then there's QC which can cause further delays to ensure the product is to the absolute best standard possible. (As a personal example here, I was personally and solely responsible for the final delay to Cardcaptor Sakura because I wanted one last pass of subtitle QC, because as product manager on that title I knew nothing but the best possible experience would do).

All of this is taking place in what is currently an uncertain world - the UK is rife with strikes (which is not a criticism of any industrial action by the way), paper stock is still frequently in short supply throughout the world, COVID-19 causes staff shortages at irregular intervals across industries (from manufacture to delivery), and other world events such as the war in Ukraine also have an impact (bear in mind at least some production facilities are based in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, with a fair number of staff of Ukranian origin).

What all of this amounts to is a complex process that we monitor and check in on daily for every product as closely as we can, but ultimately we are reliant on third-parties and sometimes that information can take a while to reach us, especially when you start to factor in absences due to some of the reasons outlined above.

This can leave us with a conundrum - do we announce a delay without a new date? Do we just announce an arbitrary date when we don't have information to-hand as to its accuracy? Or do we wait until we have up-to-date information that allows us to make an informed decision as to delivery dates? It's a balancing act, and I'll be the first to admit we haven't always gotten it right.


Anyway, I realise this probably sounds like excuses and hand-wringing, but the important point I want to come to is that we absolutely hear the concerns and frustrations, and want to rectify them - we were in a good place where things were running smoothly in terms of delays (and more importantly the general lack of them), and I can only acknowledge that this year in particular has seen a spike in those delays. We're not blind to this fact - it's something that we're all aware of and are working to minimize (because honestly, no matter how hard you try they'll never be eradicated entirely), and we're always looking to set dates that are both achievable and reasonable, but there's more work to be done there and we hope you'll be patient while we work to rediscover that balance after the supply chain challenges of the past couple of years have changed the landscape around us.

As a final thought, I do also want to say that we do appreciate negative feedback just as much - perhaps more! - than positive feedback. If it's constructive, genuine and reasonable then it's something that we can take away, discuss and - if it's fixable - work on. So, please don't be hesitant to say "This is a thing/situation I don't like and here's why", what we don't want to hear is just blanket generalised "they suck" criticism or abuse. As long as you remember that our staff here are all human (yes, even me, I can confirm), and all anime fans like you, you won't go far wrong.

I love you folks, I still consider myself one of you, and I'm not the only one here with that mindset, so if you want me to start hating you all you're gonna have to work harder. 😉

I'll try and be around a bit more for questions/feedback from now on as I know we've all been caught up in a lot of cool things (what about the new One Piece film, eh?) and not particularly active here of late, but I won't get mad if I get an @ notification here and there (as people on the Discord already know!) Apologies for the long ramble, but this is an important issue that I know has been bubbling for a little while of late.
Thanks for the detailed response. As you say, supply chain uncertainty is at an all-time high. For that reason, maybe adopting more of a RAG Rating approach to communicating potential delays would be the way to go. For example, a week before the scheduled release date, if some component is running late but it's still possible to ship on time if it arrives soon, that could trigger an amber warning to customers that the item may not ship on time and explaining what's holding it back. I understand that from a brand management perspective that saying a product is either definitely ready or definitely delayed until X date projects a greater air of confidence, but I think the customers of a boutique brand are more receptive to seeing the gears spinning behind the curtain and would appreciate the transparency.
 
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