Every Witch Way but Loose

hisui_icon_4040 I am hardly a person unfamiliar with pessimism. As I always joke that some people see the glass half filled, some people see it half empty, but I see it close to empty and probably filled with poison. But at times I have to wonder what dark pool of empty dread like the stare of the Great Old Ones must people be drawing their fears from to get so fatalistically morbid. There is a world of difference between being slightly cynically cautious and unhealthly fatalistic.

Oddly enough Masaaki Yuasa’s “Kick-Heart” Kickstarter seemed to draw out a lot of this negative aura. What should have been a moment of triumph had the feeling of a Pyrrhic victory. It invoked a scene were in the village was technically saved but as the heroes survey the ruins of their home they wonder if they paid a higher price than it was worth. But in many ways the recent smashing success of Time of Eve and Little Witch Academia proves that maybe people were worried over nothing.

Lets be clear Kick-Heart succeed. It made its funding goal of $150,000 in thirty days and even exceeded its goal to get an English dub for the commercial release. You can even track the progress of the project here if you want all the nitty-gritty statistics and details. So it seems that it should have been a source of celebration. And for many people it was. A somewhat avant-garde and overlooked anime director was able to make a small project for fans with fan support.

Before the drive was over there was this extremely fanatical prosthelytizing over the project that made it seem like this project was a line in the sand. If it succeed then the Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the anime industry might be held back for one more day. But if it failed than fandom was doomed as it was surely a herald of the end times. The extremely risk adverse Japanese companies would surely never look to Kickstarter or crowd sourcing again and diversity in the medium as a whole would be in jeopardy.

Soon there was a distinct feeling of you are either with the project or against the meduim as a whole. I saw a lot of claims that anyone who cares about anime or at least GOOD anime had pledge money. That it did not matter if you wanted the film or not. What you were supporting was the model and anyone who did not contribute was not just voting against Kick-Heart but against innovation and the possibility of crowd sourced anime as a whole.

Lots of resentment was felt on both sides of the fence but eventually the project was funded. But I felt like certain people won the battle but gave off a sense that the war had been lost. In their mind Kick-Heart crawled over the finish line instead of waltzed effortlessly to victory. Since Kick-Heart did not have a Veronica Mars styled crazy success it was in fact only slightly better than a failure.

The idea being that for Kickheart to TRULY have succeeded it needed to reach its goal with a day or two and spend the rest of the month seeing how many stretch goals it could reach. Otherwise anime companies would just not want to put in the effort for anything that was not a rip-roaring success. While there had been or two minor projects before Kick-Heart they were all super niche and never got any real press. This was still niche but it had some major buzz behind it so it was certainly in the spotlight.

But since then several projects have taken off and did fantastically well. The Time of Eve and Little Witch Academia 2 projects funded themselves almost instantly. They have both succeeded incredibly well so far and Little Witch Academia 2 still could do even more than what it has done so far. So clearly Japan is still interested in this model and it can be very successful. It is just a matter of picking the right titles.

And the secret is the right titles have the ability to hit it big like this. The Time of Eve and Little Witch Academia were both known properties. Both of them had iterations that were able to be watched free which built them considerable fan bases. So when their Kickstarters went live people knew what to expect and gave generously. Also they were fairly accessible titles with general audience directors.

Masaaki Yuasa on the other hand tends to be a director that gets lots of critical acclaim but little popular success with his projects. Add to that a totally original concept that has no track record to fall back on. When you think about it like that it is obvious why Kick-Heart took a while to reach its goal while Little Witch Academia achieved its minimum in 2 seconds flat.

My main point is simple. All too often I feel fandom has too often become either bitter and gloomy jaded misanthropes or willfully ignorant ideological Pollyannas. There has to be some place in the middle where people hope for the best but brace for the worst. But in the end Kickstarter backed anime is here to stay. It will mostly be for funding short experimental projects but that is a major accomplishment in of itself.

Also I wanted to state that I was right and other people were wrong. And that always feels pretty damn good.

– Alain

16 thoughts on “Every Witch Way but Loose

  1. omo says:

    Oddly enough I think almost the opposite of you. I think it’s a great thing that Kick Heart was able to make it on Kickstarter because, in many ways, Kickstarter was the thing that is created for people like Yuasa and projects like Kick Heart.

    Kickstarter is not really created for things like Studio Trigger, who probably has a hit TV show on their hands in KILL la KILL and will create LWA episode 2 regardless if LWA2 kickstarter funded or not. LWA2 kickstarter is a money grab ala Penny Arcade’s kickstarters. Of course, this is not the whole story here but there are a few red flags for me for the LWA2 KS that made me think twice.

    I also think if you had that view of Kick Heart Kickstarter you probably hang with the wrong crowd on the internet, I don’t know. I didn’t think it was that bad although I do see where you’re coming from.

    • reversethieves says:

      Hey Omo are you actually Richard A. Hite? Because you sound like the Chief of the Indie Police.

      Kickstarter is great for small projects that might never get a chance anywhere else. People need to stop looking at blockbuster projects and wonder why their small plucky project in not doing the same business. It is just a formula for bitter disappointment.

      I’m just saying don’t expect your small locally popular band to somehow sell out Madison Square Garden.

      Also I think most people were just plain happy to see more Masaaki Yuasa. I’m just hating on the haters.

      – Hisui

      • omo says:

        Well, kind of like what Daryl says, you are probably strawmanning a little too much here.

        While we don’t know what the world would be like if Kick Heart didn’t fund, it is reasonable to believe that LWA may not have had such a kickstarter if that was the case. If we can put aside the argument about kickstarter and just focus on dumb anime fans saying dumb things about kickstarter projects (like the ongoing sub/dub nonsense) maybe it would paint you in a better light.

      • omo says:

        Also Richard A. Hite sounds like as well guy. I’m pretty open minded about Kickstarter’s uses (I backed PA after all) but a money grab is a money grab, and when the project is structured like that there are some holes you have to fill, in which Otsuka is trying to right now.

        Put it in another way, if it wasn’t a money grab, Trigger could probably make LWA2 longer than 40 minutes because they wouldn’t have to rely on KILL la KILL to pay the bills, in an alternate universe where Trigger is fer reals indie, if you know what I’m saying.

        Ironically this is a lot more industry/business than independent publishing, and when you open up to fan crowd funding there will be some incompatibilities that will complicate things.

        At this point I’m actually most curious about LWA episode 1 and what kind of legal hoops they have to jump through, since that’s government dough they’re playing with.

      • reversethieves says:

        The main problem with indie is it is a sort of made up concept with a subjective meaning meaning. The worst part is some people feel they are experts on and wish to police the usage of. Most people roll their eyes at these people.

        Think about any music hipster (especially before the term music hipster was thing) discussing what is indie or not. I have been a part of those conversations in college. They are insufferable. The worst part that dude is usually the musical equivalent of the bore who always has top bring up his politics no matter what the topic.

        But musical analogies aside …

        I remember a recent Atlanta Game Development Podcast where as a brief aside they randomly tried to figure out what constitutes a Indie game developer. It is clear that say EA is not an Indie game developer and one dude making a game in his basement is. But as soon as you get more than half a dozen people and any sort of budget everything gets blurry and it quickly becomes a game of who is trying to use the term indie to cash in on the semi-mythical cred, who is a legitimate small team, and who the fudge cares anyone as long as the game is good.

        – Hisui

      • omo says:

        I think the “indie” discussion has a place in the Kickstarter discussion because generally speaking the term refers to the established commercial norm of creation and publication of stuff. But that’s really besides the point. Post-indie, shall we say. The term probably died in the 90s? 2002? Something like that.

        But that’s just dodging the real issue. Kickstarter is a fundraising platform. I don’t care if it’s EA or Hisui Inc. using it, they need to structure their business in a way to respect the project, the platform, and their backers. Thus, red flags. I’m sorry if you love LWA, but I’m just calling it for what it is.

  2. Daryl Surat says:

    I understand your guilt over being on the wrong side of history, Alain. I know you want to make it seem like all this other stuff would have come about and happened anyway, independently, even had Kick-Heart (which you opposed and did not fund) failed. But it succeeded in spite of your obstructionism, and has opened the path for the things you’re more partial to, such that NOW you can be partial to fund/not fund projects based on personal preference. Just like I said it would.

    So I believe the final two sentences of this post should actually be “thank you. Thank you very much Daryl, and everybody else, for being cooler than I to see what I could not for the sake of the brighter tomorrow, which has come thanks to you guys and not me.” To which I say, “you are quite welcome.”

    • reversethieves says:

      Thank you for illustrating what complete self righteous wankers people who were pro-Kickheart could be. I was a little worried that I might come off as a conspiratorial nut seeing problems were there are none. But then you come along a prove my point.

      BTW when does your rant about how I need to buy things I hate in hopes of MAYBE getting things I want in the future coming? Those are always great.

      – Hisui

      • Daryl Surat says:

        Alain, I’m not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it ten months ago.

      • Daryl Surat says:

        Er…well…if you’re responding to modified quotes from sketch comedy shows and comic books and using those as the basis to substantiate claims that there is a cabal of people who genuinely believe in advancing a set narrative rather than recognizing them as lame jokes, then perhaps that opposition doesn’t actually exist on any significant level. Like, could you perhaps name some names of these people doing what is described in this post?

        If my name is one of the very first that come to mind, then all I can say is that if I honestly had firm convictions towards this I wouldn’t have been phrasing my argument this entire time in the form of slightly altered Motley Crue song lyrics. Did I ever step forward and say “actually, I’m just doing Find/Replace on a fragment of pop culture such that it’s now about Kickstarter”? Well, no. I’m also not a fan of emoticons or “j/k” or “lol” indicators either.

        Basically, the severity in tone of your replies suggests you’ve spent the better part of a year holding a legitimate grievance towards me over something I don’t actually believe in to the extent that you think I do.

      • reversethieves says:

        Motley Crue!? I thought you didn’t know what music was!

        I saw the reactions that Al is talking about. Kick-Heart wasn’t a HUGEBIGHAPPENEDINONEDAY success and therefore Japan wasn’t going to be doing bunches of crowdfunding anytime soon, but that turned out to not be the case. As someone who didn’t fund Kick-Heart either, I realize that it became a running joke but there was a kernel of what people actually believed in there.

        ~ kate

  3. matty says:

    Wow. I had no idea there were so much …discussion over Kickstarter and anime projects.
    I took one look at Kick-Heart when it first went up on Kickstarter and said, “cool,” then walked away. Completely forgot about it until I read this post. But, hey, it got funded!

    Back on topic, it’s silly to think if Kick-Heart that it would lead some kind of precedent other than projects can succeed or projects can fail. I think anyone but the director and staff were “banking” on this.
    I thought Kick-Heart was a neat idea, but not enough for me to pull out my wallet. I have never come across “you wither with us or against” pledgers, but if anyone threw any ‘you non-pledger, you hate anime!’, I just hope you have time to see my collection.

    “So clearly Japan is still interested in this model and it can be very successful. It is just a matter of picking the right titles.”
    Exactly, and Japan has been interested for a while. In 2011, similar site and purpose to Kickstarter was launched in Japan called Campfire.
    http://camp-fire.jp/
    I haven’t come across anime projects on there myself (wouldn’t surprise me if there were), but I have seen several video games succeed and fail.

    I also wonder if people think about the number of actual backers to these projects. Kick-Heart had over 3,000 by the end, and so far, LWA2 had over 4,000. Time of Eve had 2,000.
    Just something I thought about.

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