It's hard to decide whether or not to buy a series twice. Let's look at some of the reasons why (and why not)!

In this interview with the head of the Carolina Manga Library, a certain part stuck out to me. Ms. Mehaffey suggested going through your shelves every six months and offered this advice:

“However, when a series is being re-issued or reprinted or consolidated into omnibuses, clean the series off your shelf and buy the new ones. Not only does this support the series and the industry, it makes room for more books down the road.”

My initial reaction was, “Pfft, no way!” But then I thought about it and considered what she said. Should you do as Ms. Mehaffey suggests and purchase the reprint to clear space and support your series? Or have you already done your part? Are some titles worth the repurchase, and what makes a release worth the rebuy?

“What’s Old Becomes New Again.”

I admit I often gripe about older titles being ignored. Sometimes I feel fans and companies only concentrate on what is currently being serialized in magazines and ignore several decades’ worth of releases. But a decent amount of titles do get a second chance in English. FUNimation created a successful Kickstarter for The Vision of Escaflowne. The manga Maid-sama! would likely have remained incomplete in English if Viz Media hadn’t licensed it. After the big TOKYOPOP-Kodansha falling-out, most CLAMP series have been republished by Dark Horse. Heck, even a large amount of classic games are available for download right from game companies’ shops, such as Nintendo’s Virtual Console re-release of Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow.

For some people, these re-releases will be their first real chance to experience these popular titles. Many people were just too young or too new to the fandoms to pick them up. Other series may have just slipped under the radar for them, and still others may have just not been able to afford certain titles. It would be nice if books and DVDs/Blu-rays could stay in print permanently, but that’s nearly impossible.

However, if you have been a fan for a number of years, it is quite likely that you have some of the so-called classics. Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who happened to pick it up years ago. Maybe it’s your favorite series. Or perhaps it was a recommended title that almost every fan back then owned.

So what do you do when a re-release has been announced?

Double-Dipping

The obvious reason you would want to buy a release again is that the new version is likely to be better. Technology has advanced rapidly, and companies can include more in a release than ever before. DVDs and Blu-rays often come with loads of extras with high-quality audio and video. Manga volumes include color inserts and detailed translation notes. Video games can be remastered with altered levels and new areas.

Final Fantasy IV Versions
Some of the many versions of Final Fantasy IV from Square Enix available in the West. Original in the center. Versions from left to right: PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PSP, and DS.

Yes, it’s hard to make a release worse with all of the technology available today, but as Ms. Mehaffey points out, there are additional benefits as well. Re-releases are often more shelf-friendly with their thinpacks and lower number of volumes and discs. Picking up a remaster/re-bundled also supports not only the publisher but the original Japanese creator(s) and all the people involved in production. For older series, this also shows companies that there is a demand for more than just the currently serialized hits. (I admit the last part is especially appealing to me.)

First, let’s go over the types of re-releases:

  1. Direct port, transfer, or repackage. Limited to no changes.
  2. Enhanced port or transfer. Usually includes audio and video upgrades, bonus features, and/or touched-up translation.
  3. Remaster. Lots of upgrades and changes.
  4. Remake. Completely redone.

A lot of re-releases are seen as nothing but money grabs. But what separates money grabs from worthy upgrades? You have a copy already. Do you…

  1. Wait and see if the new version is worth it.
  2. Keep your copies. Don’t buy the new version.
  3. Keep your copies. Buy the new version.
  4. Get rid of your copies. Buy the new version.

Let’s take a look at each of these, and I’ll share my experience with each option.

Wait and see if the new version is worth it.

Advantages: Prevent buying substandard or nearly-identical release. Access to preorder bonuses and sales.

Disadvantages: Waiting means less money if you plan on selling your version. Miss out on some special offers.

My experience: I don’t know if I will buy Viz Media’s release of Sailor Moon S or SuperS. The ADV Films’ box sets of the original series and R had atrocious audio, so I felt the upgrade was worth it despite Viz Media’s missteps with ghosting and pillarboxing. I spent a good $25-30 a disc for them years ago. However, I am already satisfied with my DVDs, and Viz Media has made several…shall I say, “missteps” with their releases so far. On the other hand, I was impressed with all the changes and improvements in the Yu Yu Hakusho remasters. But I didn’t know what all went into these boxsets until after their release, and I missed some sales because I waited a long time to look into upgrading. I have games like Valkyria Chronicles Remaster on preorder, but I’ll wait and see if all I’m essentially getting is sharper graphics.

Waiting may seem like it’s the obvious choice. Eventually, though, you’ll have to choose one of the other options.

Keep your copies. Don’t buy the new version.

Advantages: Cheapest option. You have already read the series once…or hundreds of times. Any quality issues are likely to be well-known and well-documented. You can spend your money on a new series.

Disadvantages: Quality is likely lower than newer versions. Release may be showing its age. Less likely to have bonuses or perks like color pages or special features. Company may not turn much of a profit it many people don’t pick it up.

My experience: I pretty much picked up all of CLAMP’s series from TOKYOPOP. I had heard rumors Dark Horse’s omnibuses were very similar to TOKYOPOP’s singles, but I had no idea until I compared the two versions of Angelic Layer. Almost the entire translation and adaptation was the same. Dark Horse altered a few sentences here and there, but the differences were almost negligible. TOKYOPOP already had color inserts, so that was MSRP for the two omnibuses is $19.99 each. Cheapest new per omnibus I’ve seen was $10.00, and used/overstock copies cost about $10 for the pair. Even at $10 for two books, I can put that money into something I’ve never seen. Plus I prefer single volumes to omnibuses. There’s also series like CMX’s Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, later repackaged and released under the title Phantom Thief Jeanne by Viz Media. I realize CMX’s translation issues as well as their stiff binding in their releases. But it would have cost a minimum of $35 to buy Viz Media’s version. I liked the series, but it’s not one of my favorites or especially near and dear to my heart. From the same Shojo Beat line, that $35 covered me paying for series like Spell of Desire or Yurara. Even for Tokyo Mew Mew, which is full of errors, I did not upgrade. I am quite familiar with TOKYOPOP’s releases, and I can almost reverse-translate and “correct” the adaptation.

Keep your copies. Buy the new version.

Advantages: You get to keep the original for nostalgia’s sake. The original may be superior in some ways to the re-release. You are supporting the licensor, creators, etc. You have an extra set to lend out or to take with you.

Disadvantages: Most expensive option. You have spent money on the same title twice when you could have bought a different one. Who knows, you may have ended up liking a new series better than the one you own. For physical copies, the two versions may take up quite a bit of room. No guarantee the new version is much (if any) better than the old.

My experience: I can’t get rid of my TOKYOPOP versions of Sailor Moon. Firstly, they aren’t worth much anymore. Secondly, it was this series that started me down the path of being a manga fan. On the downside, I spent quite a bit to reacquire the series and found myself quite disappointed by Kodansha Comics’ handling of it. I also own the Japanese version of the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon manga (the version Kodansha Comics USA would ultimately bring over). The amount I’d get from them would not nearly cover what I paid to import them. And where I live, I doubt many people would be interested in Japanese-language books. However, if I were ever to pick up Dark Horse’s CLAMP rescues, I can’t see me keeping the TOKYOPOP ones. They’re a big part of my adolescence, but the differences are too minimal to me justifying keeping two versions. I admit to owning four copies of Final Fantasy IV and Hakuoki. The latter really has only one version that is worthy to upgrade to; Final Fantasy IV feels quite different across different versions. I only keep the three physical copies of Hakuoki because of the special edition goodies.

Get rid of your copies. Buy the new version.

Advantages: You are (hopefully) buying the best version, plus you are supporting the industry. You may be able to significantly reduce or offset the cost of the re-release if you sell your originals. If you donate your books, the individual and/or organization will be grateful.

Disadvantages: Still costly. New version does not necessarily mean improved version. If you are selling your copies, you may not get much, and you’ll get no money from donating them.

My experience: Years ago, I sold my original Neon Genesis Evangelion DVDs…and still made money after buying the Platinum Edition. I also sold my Kingdom Hearts TOKYOPOP manga once Yen Press announced they had acquired it. My profits ended up covering about half of the re-release. Even though I prefer singles, the series’ releases looked consistent on my shelves. Going back to Jeanne, based on current eBay prices, I would probably clear around $15-20 for my CMX copies. That would cover roughly half of the upgrade like Kingdom Hearts, but there’s no issue with the series looking consistent on my shelves. In another example, I looked into selling my Cardcaptor Sakura DVDs once the Blu-ray was announced. Others clearly had the same idea as there was a sudden influx of the DVDs on eBay. The series was easily going for $300+ had suddenly a bunch of listings around $200, some going under. While this would have covered the Blu-ray preorder cost, it would have meant a) breaking up a collection, as the second movie has still yet to be released and b) either giving up or separating the bonus pencil boards that came with the volumes. The English dub and transfer was not enough to convince me to buy NIS America’s version even though I love the series dearly and it would have cost me almost nothing extra.

What Makes a Re-release “Worth It”?

Current upgrades are not nearly as necessary as they were when the industry was in its infancy. Going from VHS tapes with access to only one language track to a longer-lasting disc that could include both English and Japanese tracks — plus extras — was worth the upgrades in almost every instance. Having manga volumes with the art preserved in its original right-to-left format was amazing. Having a sharper picture or a touched-up translation is not nearly as revolutionary — and, as such, a title just being rereleased is not automatically worth the repurchase for me.

While Ms. Mehaffey points out a couple of additional benefits of re-releases, for me, it ultimately comes down to finances. Omnibuses aren’t really a space-saver for manga, and I can support the industry without buying a nearly-identical product. That’s why Option #1 is what I do the most, and I ultimately end up choosing Option #2. I just cannot justify spending money on something I already own. For me, I think the order to upgrade goes something like this:

  1. A dear series to me.
  2. Quality
  3. Special features / bonuses / packaging
  4. Consistency

There’s no magic number of volumes, MSRP, or new additions that tips the scales for me. But I admit not being a fan of omnibuses since they are not nearly as comfortable to read in my opinion, and that is often a deal-breaker for me. Me buying Hakuoki four times is an exception, and I don’t think people should feel they have to rebuy something to show their support. Companies should try to convince me that it’s almost like experiencing a title for the first time. Otherwise, I can go truly experience something for the first time by buying a new series.

How about you? How often do you rebuy series or titles you already own? What makes an upgrade worth it to you? Do you always buy new versions of titles to support the industry?