Exporting Japanese anime releases is not lucrative; new DVDs cost about 5000 yen ($40) a pop and often contain only one or two episodes. And even for used goods, the street value in the US is relatively low due to the lack of subtitles and the availability of relatively cheap US releases.

Something that does work (I did it myself) is to buy used doujinshi at shops like Mandarake, which can be sold or auctioned for obscenely inflated prices in the US and Europe. The reasons:

  • Doujinshi are basically violating copyright. They're tolerated in Japan as a pool for recruiting fresh mangaka, but would likely not be tolerated by foreign license holders.
  • For fan works, there are no official bulk distribution channels that professional importers could use.
  • yaoi and hentai stuff - sex sells.
  • Doujinshi attract the most rabid fans that will pay just about any price for something they really want.
A 90% profit margin is quite possible for some of them. I made about 6000 Euro this way over the course of a year, with not all that much work. I might have been able to live comfortably on this alone had I turned it into a fulltime business. But it would not have scaled up - I wasn't paying taxes, the niche market may not have supported a larger supply, and most of the stuff qualified as pornography and would have been siezed by customs in my main market (Germany) - the private-looking packets I sent were not checked.

If you want to try it yourself, you'll have to know what anime and manga are popular among doujinshi collectors - it doesn't always correspond with general popularity. And you'll have to be able to recognize those from the covers of the doujinshi, which are often drawn in a style quite different from the originals. Finally, to get really good prices, you need to give your customers a summary of the content, which requires you to recognize individual characters and sit through stuff you'd rather not see (like Piccolo and Son Gohan marrying and having kids).

Oh, and for the opposite direction, designer goods like Louis Vuitton handbags may yield better profit, but require a lot of capital.