The Kickstarter Returns: Masaki Yuasa, Production IG, and Kick-Heart
"Letters from the New York Otaku"
By David Cabrera
Kickstarter just keeps coming up in our otaku corner. Last time it was with Digital Manga Publishing and their Tezuka line. This time it's Production IG and famous animator Masaki Yuasa.
Yuasa is well-known among animation fans worldwide for works like Mind Game and Kaiba, but we know that fame in animation circles doesn't necessarily translate to sales to the otaku market. The Kickstarter (http://kck.st/P5ebl4) is very up front about the difficulties of putting out a project like theirs in the current Japanese anime market, specifically stating that it's very difficult to get something out there if it's not a remake or an adaptation. So, their proposal:
“What if we use Kickstarter as a platform to connect the fans across the globe who want to see cutting-edge animation, with highly skilled anime directors?”
And I understand their point of view here because of the project they're trying to make. Kick-Heart is a ten-minute short, written and directed by Yuasa, about masked pro wrestlers in sadomasochistic love. This is offbeat, to put it gently. The otaku appeal-- be it to Japanese otaku or otaku anywhere in the world-- is approximately zero. It doesn't help that this is a not a TV series, a theatrical film or even a direct-to-video series. It is a ten-minute short. How to sell something for which no traditional model makes sense?
And so Kickstarter-- in other words, simply asking people for the money-- starts to look like the way to go. I doubt that the title “Kick-Heart” dropped into Yuasa's head without the phrase “kick start” being there previously. What IG is doing is, as with many of these projects, offloading financial risk to the fans. As can be expected in a case like this, the price of the product is high... but to the fan, the offer is direct patronage of a beloved creator.
Well, if we look at the home video model, we're already at a kind of patronage, where the studio depends on sales from fans who've already seen the series. The fans reward the creators by paying up big to own it. A major hit like Madoka and so on will do fine this way, but can the business sell such experimental titles the same way they sell the latest fanboy hit? I feel like Kickstarter is a reasonable choice here.
Is a Kickstarter very different from the existing anime model, aside from the fan being told up front that they are paying for the production of the work? A lot of otaku I know like to talk about how they wish they could change the system, which we so often find at odds with our particular interests. Here is a chance to change things a little bit. I'll be putting in $60 for the Blu-Ray... if I can dig up the money.