[Anime] Kickstarter: Moving into the new age

Little Witch Academia 2

Yesterday, my good friend Vadim shared this article on AnimeNewsNetwork about how the Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter project met its $150 000 goal in less than five hours and today he published a post about his thoughts on the matter. Not only is this significant because of how little time it took for the funds to be raised, it is also significant because Little Witch Academia is an anime produced by a Japanese studio, and crowdfunding is a unique approach to resolving their financial issues in an industry that is otherwise extremely set in how it operates.

Vadim mentions the thread on /a/ of 4chan which helped spread the word about the Kickstarter project and allowed an avenue for discussion about the anime-to-be as well as everything else above and beyond it:

Later on there were even discussions on how Japanese otaku don’t like this system and don’t like how local studios are seeking help from gaijin (foreigners). Also as it seems they didn’t liek [sic] the anime as much as the western audience did (which is strange as we love this show).

Certainly this wouldn't be the first occurrence of the Western audience liking something more than the Japanese audience, and he mentions as much in an earlier post on Watamote. As a largely conservative society, I can see how certain manga or anime may not receive popularity because of its contents, but that wouldn't then explain the popularity of series with a similar thread to Watamote, like NHK or Oreimo. But I digress, I don't know enough about any of these series or even Little Witch Academia to comment on why a series should be popular or not.


Let's move to the crux of the matter. Or the blogpost, as it were.

The anime industry in Japan might start to recognise westerners as a potential new audience for their works and they might even change the way they think before releasing a new anime, like actually considering us western otaku. If this happens, it will be a serious game changer [...] On the other hand though everything could go horibly [sic] wrong. What I mean is that japanese otaku tend to bycot [sic] shows or even studios if they cater for foreigners, especially koreans. [...] This could eiher [sic] be the day/month when gaijins proved that they care about anime and that their voices and opinions should be heard, or the time when japanese otaku destroy a briliant [sic] studio because they are racist.

It is certain that we are reaching a crucial point in the future of this industry... perhaps. Not so certain, are we? Japanese studios have long focused on local audiences, but opening up such projects such as Kickstarter shows an awareness of the international market. If the international market was interested enough in their productions, would they even need the support from the local markets? As Vadim mentions, likely the numbers of otaku internationally outnumber the number of otaku in Japan anyway. But it's true that local can never be ignored, in any industry.


I for one am impressed by the studio's use of English and their grasp of social media to appeal to both their Japanese and English audiences. The studio is clearly worldly and aim to bring this degree of uniqueness to their studio by this means. I think this clearly shows some more contemporary thinking, given their short movie was part of the Young Animator Training Project/Anime Mirai.

Otsuka: We have a premonition that the business title of selling software in Japan will cease sometime in the future. To convey Tatemoto’s idea of showing it to people overseas, we released it with English subtitles. (Otakumode)

All of this seems to challenge the way that anime is made now - what are the implications if other studios begin to open such projects and crowdfund for anime. Above and beyond taking their international audience into account, the process of planning and creating an anime becomes a little more involved and everything becomes a little more accessible to International markets, though similarly this could also threaten our current model of fansubs in the long run - I dare say this may be something we would encourage though.


Seems like everyone is using Kickstarter these days. It's a great idea in theory, get to know your fans and gauge the interest in the product as well as raising funds and promising these investors an early step in the door - it covers so many of the bases that if the goal is met you can be sure that there is enough interest as well as enough funds to go on. Vadim suggests a use case for figure companies on Twitter, and I would be interested in seeing this, if it ever happens.

I just hope that any company that uses Kickstarter doesn't forget about their backers in the long run. It would be unfortunate if the situation went like it did for the Pebble Smartwatch, where their backers felt betrayed because they had pledged their money but in the end had been left behind as the company pursued greater things.

Being a new studio, we felt the Kickstarter system to be innovative and fitting to our studio’s taste. Making a series “with” the fans is definitely what we were looking for. With the support from our fans, we believe that we can definitely develop on this new foundation.

True, Kickstarters such as for the Pebble are about hardware and not something a whole less quantifiable like an anime, but given Trigger is such a new studio it still has just as much at stake, and probably even more besides.

Thank you image from Trigger Inc. Twitter.
Pre-production images from LWA2 Kickstarter.