Four pieces of news, all eye-opening, all dealing with crowdfunded anime projects — e.g., AnimEigo’s reissue of Otaku no Video (pictured above) — passed across my desk in the previous week. All are projects where some element of risk existed that a more conventional production methodology might not be able to address; three of the four are on track to delivering results, with the fourth being an object lesson in how these things come with no guarantees. Were I surveying anime for the first time, I might be tempted to think the future of anime at its most artful, cutting-edge, experimental, and, yes, entertaining would be in the hands of thousands of fans throwing down their money on Kickstarter. The future ofsome anime, certainly, but not anime as a whole, and that might well be just fine. The wisdom (and madness) of crowds First, those four projects I mentioned. They are Little Witch Academia 2, Otaku no Video, In This Corner of the World, and Under the Dog. All four are under the aegis of established names with track records; all four are promising different things for different audiences. One of them, Under the Dog, has experienced major hiccups on its road to completion, proof that the high pedigrees of the people involved was no protection against disaster. Existing Students of Kickstarter know this to be all too true, although I suspect each sub-populace that leverages Kickstarter for its own ends has to learn this for itself the hard way. (Full disclosure: I have backed Otaku no Video and Under the Dog.) On the whole, though, the fact that more anime is being directly produced this way is encouraging. The original Little Witch Academia deserved a successor in the same vein, and a movie project like In This Corner of the World ought to have its own audience, even if it’s only one just big enough to cover its net costs. Otaku no Video needs to be preserved as an example of how anime can sometimes write its own history. And Under The Dog … well, I’m less than thrilled about how that has been unfolding, but I reserve judgments about the finished product, or lack of same, until it’s actually delivered. For all I know, the torturous history of its production will give way to something well worth the wait. So what are the long-term implications of crowdfunding as a viable venue for anime projects? For one, don’t put your money on commercial production dying off; I don’t think we’d even want that to begin with. What might arise from more crowdfunding, though, is a new sensibility for how anime projects ought to be approached. The direct approach First, and most obviously, projects that might well have never come to fruition can now get a shot at coming to life by way of direct intervention. Maybe not a guaranteed shot, but a shot they would not have had all the same. I imagine there will be more than a few duds and inexplicable vanity projects along the way, but that’s par for most any creative course. It’s a risk worth taking. The other and far more important long-term effect of crowdfunding is that it makes the supporting of creative work all the more direct, transparent, and accountable. Most anime is produced for TV, with the backing of advertisers or merchandisers, or the backing of a studio with money to throw at the project. It’s their money that makes the shows happen, so fans don’t have to shell out pre-emptively to bring a show into existence; if they pay for it at all, it’s after the fact, in the form of buying the DVDs/BDs or the merchandise. The downside is that the flow of money towards making a show happen is still primarily in, and from, someone else’s hands. Sure, fans can register their approval that they’d like to see another season of something like Chaika, The Coffin Princess (please!) by buying more of the goods — but that’s still only indirect pressure. If it’s the merchandise that really sells, then the message sent is potentially misleading: it might not mean people are interested in seeing more of the property in question, just that they want more of the merchandise produced for it. Pledging direct support, on the other hand, is unambiguous. You’re signing on to bring something to life, and your money is going as directly as possible to the creators, barring the cost overhead for the platform used to get things going. The downside is that the fans take on more of the risk, although that risk tends to be distributed broadly enough between them that it’s not as big an issue. (To me, the real issue there is creators losing face for not delivering — not if they can’t meet their goal, but if they get the money in hand and end up delivering something substandard, or nothing at all.) Let a thousand projects bloom It’s with anime reissues and title licensing that I think crowdfunding has best shown its hand so far. AnimEigo’s work with Bubblegum Crisis and now Otaku no Video is just the tip of what’s possible — not just from them, but from other vendors. Consider Discotek Media, who have managed to take some of the most unlikely titles and bring them to the English-speaking market. They too have flirted with the idea of crowdfunding; the mind reels at how deep into the back catalog they could go with such a venture. But no, I don’t believe for a second is that crowdfunding would ever supersede ad- and merch-supported production or distribution. There’s never going to be any shortage of ad or merch dollars to back shows, whatever those shows may be in a given season, and likewise, audiences can always be found somewhere. (Whether you can find enough of such an audience to keep the wheels turning by slinging out the same redundant crap year after year is another argument.) These two modes — commercial support and direct support — are more complementary than competitive. In fact, I suspect commercial production might well become all the healthier for the presence of crowdfunding. If a show that looks too risky for a commercial production goes on to become a crowdfunded hit, that might encourage those funding commercial production to take that many more calculated risks. Or, they could test the waters with a crowdfunded first episode or three; if things take off, then they could commit to the rest with commercial backing, and diffuse the risk all the more. The garden of possibilities inherent in crowdfunding has barely begun to flower. This article was originally published on Ganriki. Thanks to our friends at Ganriki for letting us share this content. Ganriki is a partner in Crossroads Alpha along with Psycho Drive-In. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.