I found G-On Riders amusing, and I’d like to own a legitimate copy. The problem is, it’s not $333 amusing, and that’s five years after release. Even online, Japan just hasn’t caught on to the concept of discount pricing.
The only way to get a good deal is to buy used, and Amazon Japan has plenty of dealers eager to sell used manga and anime… if you live in Japan. I haven’t found any yet that will do international shipping.
I’m still planning to spend two weeks in Japan this fall, so it looks like the thing to do is order a whole bunch of stuff a few days before I leave the US, and have it all shipped to my hotel in Tokyo. After I get there, I can repack it all into a single box and put it on the slow boat to home. The savings on just a few items should cover the shipping costs.
Not all Japanese DVDs are quite as ridiculously packaged or priced as anime, though. Where an anime disc typically has an hour of content for around $50, live-action series do a lot better. A show like 銭湯の娘!? gives you two hours for $32, and Amazon does discount the box set, bringing the total cost down to $261, a merely painful $14 per hour.
…but I could get it for half that price, if I had an address in Japan to ship it to.
Sadly, while buying used products feels better than downloading them for free off the Internet, it’s not really any better at rewarding the creators for their work. Legitimate digital distribution would do a lot to solve that problem, but so would discounts, thinpaks, direct sales, etc.