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A Guide to Anime DVD Bootlegs
Bootlegs are fake versions of the originals. With anime being very expensive, low prices can be tempting. However, sometimes someone might accidentally buy a bootleg with the honest intention of buying the real thing for a good price.

Here is what to look for when spotting a bootleg:

Region 0, All Region or Regionfree. These DVDs are coded this way so bootleggers don't have to bother with spending extra time to code it for all players. Regionfree DVDs can be played anywhere and so it can be sold anywhere.

Gatefold packaging. Domestic DVDs will never have gatefold packaging. Gatefold packaging is a DVD packaging that opens up like a brochure.

Chinese subtitles. Most of these bootleggers are in the Hong Kongish areas where bootleg and licensing laws are lax. This way they can get away with their business very easily.

Low Prices. Complete series of anime go around 50-100$. It is most likely a bootleg if advertised much lower than anime you'd see at Best Buy or whatever.

Amount of episodes per DVD. In North American DVDs, anime DVDs usually have around 5 episodes on it each. Bootlegs on the other hand can have over 10 to 20 episodes crammed into one DVD.


FX logo. If you see an FX logo with green text with a red oriental dragon, it is an indication that it was made by FX, a bootlegging company.


Other abbreviations for names of bootlegging companies: DTS, MAC, MI/AC.

Bilingual Blurbs. Many bootlegs have either a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and English writing on the back of the DVD case.

One of the things that isn't always true in regards to bootlegs, is the price. Sometimes box sets will cost around 80$ on sites selling anime. Sections of the site that list "Import" anime is just a code name for bootleg. But anyway, look for all the traits listed and not just one to make sure you're not going to purchase a bootleg.

Another "exception" that may confuse people is when I mention gatefold packaging. Some authentic DVDs do indeed have a cover that resembles that of bootlegs. However the big differences is that authentic DVDs always have a box containing the package. Most bootlegs with gatefold packaging have only a clear protective sleeve. Observe.

This is a sample of an authentic DVD with a similar packaging to bootlegs.

However authentic DVDs with such packaging always have a box.

Now let's take a look at a bootleg and authentic DVD I own:

First the bootleg: This is the first 25 Episodes of Fushigi Yugi. The case is quite attractive.


Open it up...

This is gatefold packaging and all 25 episodes are stuffed into these three DVDs.

Now let's compare it to an authentic DVD. This is Gankutsuou:

It is Region 1, has the manufacturer and animator's logo near the top. If you take a look at the back...

...You can see it has only 4 Episodes.

Again I'll open it up.


There is only ONE DVD. One DVD with only 4 episodes compared to a whopping 10 episodes per DVD like the Fushigi Yugi bootleg. Also in most authentic anime DVDs, there is a survey post card, artwork, or some type of slip from the manufacturer advertising more DVDs.

Pros and Cons of Bootlegs
Again, I personally don't mind these HK bootlegs so much and perhaps you are on the fence as well. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide whether you should invest the time in getting a few bootlegs or not.

Pros
  • Saves bookshelf space
  • Sometimes the cases are attractive
  • Complete copy of the domestic DVDs
  • Lower priced
  • Actual anime


At first glance it may not seem like a bootleg.

Cons
  • If you're the sub over dub type, know that the subtitles are horrific. You will not be able to understand what is going on because first it is translated from Japanese to Chinese, and finally Chinese to English leading to full uneeded translations of a character's name. The exceptions to this are bootlegs ripped from Domestic DVDs.
  • Some anime will be of very poor quality
  • It is illegal
  • YOU could be sitting in your basement and copying your anime DVDs and getting rich off of it
  • Some bootlegs don't have an English dub so you're stuck with poor subtitles
  • Some bootlegs will come in a normal DVD case, with a faded cover and not like the pretty gatefold packaging
  • Your favorite mangaka and studios won't be getting your money that they deserve for actually producing their work
  • Some bootlegs will just be a VCD in a plain CD case



What?

I am not encouraging anyone to go out there and buy bootlegs. It is up to anyone reading this to decide for themselves if getting bootlegs is right or makes sense to them. I won't list any eBay sellers or anime shops online that do sell bootlegs though.

If you're interested in the same anime for a lower price, it is up to you to find out where to get it.

For more images, please go here.

Last Updated on June 15, 2008