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.