Publisher alerted police, seller claims he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong.

Collecting anime isn’t a cheap hobby, and that’s especially true in Japan. It’s not at all unusual for home video releases to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 yen (US$33) for a disc with just two episodes, meaning that purchasing an entire season is generally something only a series’ hard-core superfans are willing to do.

So when two women living in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture thought they were getting a great deal when they each purchased a three-disc set containing the complete 26-episode Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba TV series, Japan’s currently hottest franchise, for just 9,700 yen via an e-commerce site. However, those sales have led to the arrest of the seller, 40-year-old office worker Kotaro Hattori, who lives on the other side of the country in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Hattori wasn’t arrested for his criminally low prices, though, but because the anime he was selling were bootlegs from overseas. Specifically, he’d been buying the Demon Slayer discs from a supplier in Malaysia and offering them for resale in Japan. His entrepreneurial activities eventually caught the attention of Aniplex, Japanese publisher of the Demon Slayer anime, who contacted the police, triggering an investigation that led to Hattori’s arrest in Fukuoka on Tuesday.

Hattori admits to selling the discs, and in the description for his e-commerce listing he was upfront about them being overseas-sourced, also admitting that the picture quality was below that of most Japanese-market anime home video releases. However, he is claiming that he was unaware that the discs were bootlegs, and instead believed them to be legitimate overseas releases.

That excuse is a little harder to swallow, though, in light of the fact that he sold the discs to the Ibaraki women back in April, at which time Aniplex hadn’t even released a complete

set of the Demon Slayer TV series in Japan.

Ordinarily, selling a total of six bootleg DVDs might not get you arrested in Japan, but it appears that the sales to the women in Ibaraki were just a small part of a much larger operation Hattori was running. In September, he ordered 200 more Demon Slayer sets (totaling 600 discs) from Malaysia, and an examination of his bank records have investigators believing that between May 2019 and April 2020 he may have made as much as 11.5 million yen (US$106,000) selling foreign bootlegs in Japan.

Sources: Livedoor News/Kyodo via Hachima Kiko, Jiji, Mainichi Shimbun, Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun
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