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[META] Anime gets its own Veronica Mars Kickstarter: overseas fans raise $150.000 in 5 hours for ‘Little Witch Academia’

As reported by Anime News Network and others, Japanese animation studio TRIGGER’s Kickstarter campaign to make a sequel episode to their Little Witch Academia OAV met its goal of $150.000 in less than five hours. The Kickstarter is at $285.000 right now, with a whopping 28 days still left to go.

In the Kickstarter video, TRIGGER co-founder Masahiko Otsuka explains that after the studio uploaded the single-episode anime on YouTube, they got an unexpected flood of comments from overseas fans, many urging them to hold a Kickstarter campaign so they could make more episodes. TRIGGER looked into this Kickstarter thing and decided to give it a go.

TRIGGER was only asking for $150.000 to make one episode, not 2 million like the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter. I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to compare the potential effect of the Little Witch Academia campaign on that other now justifiably famous and much-discussed fan funding success, though. TRIGGER has raised almost twice what they asked for already, and the Kickstarter isn’t nearly done.

On the English-speaking part of the Internet, where the concept of using Kickstarter to raise money for creative projects is already very familiar in and of itself, The Veronica Mars campaign fueled a lot of talk about the ethics of pro creators asking fans for money (for a product that they will end up paying for again once it’s ready for sale). I reckon that the discussions surrounding the Little Witch Academia campaign will be more about how Kickstarter could enable overseas fans to support the Japanese anime industry. Overseas fans not only motivated TRIGGER to start the Kickstarter in the first place; they were probably also largely responsible for its smashing success. It sounds like Japanese fans can also participate in Kickstarter campaigns via their Amazon accounts, so there’s no way to tell for sure how many of the people who participated in the Kickstarter were non-Japanese fans, but the comment section seems to be almost entirely in English.

In the video, TRIGGER’s Otsuka urges other Japanese creators to consider Kickstarter as a way to raise funds for projects among overseas fans. I wonder if any anime studios, game studios, or other individuals or companies will follow TRIGGER’s lead soon. Fan funding in and of itself isn’t a new thing in Japan, of course; Ken Akamatsu’s J-Comi, for instance, regularly holds very successful “fanding” FANディング campaigns to raise money to re-issue out-of-print manga, special sets of manga that include material previously issued only in dojinshi, and so on. These campaigns are aimed at Japanese fans, though. I don’t remember any examples of Japanese creators aiming directly for overseas fans with a fan funding campaign. The success of the Little Witch Academia campaign should certainly give ideas to other studios.

(On a totally different note, I’m no doubt the millionth person to mention this, but could anyone point me to a discussion of how Little Witch Academia is a cross between maho shojo and Harry Potter? There’s a lot of meta in there. Here is TRIGGER’s YouTube upload.)

[META] heidi8: astolat: andthenisay: i’d just like to take this brief time to remind everyone who…




i’d just like to take this brief time to remind everyone who asserts that the internet is full of leeches who pirate and steal hollywood’s “property” and don’t think that there needs to be a new business model for the way hollywood funds and markets film that a relatively small fandom of a relatively small show is about to raise 2 million dollars in 24 hours just because a cast they used to love asked for their help.

so much this

It marks a sea change in the interaction between creators (who are, re TV and film (and music) usually not the copyright-holders, or who have licensed away their ability to use the works they have created) and fans.

I’ve seen some concern about WB’s role in this, and various industry websites say that WB is handling distribution & things related to that (the way 20th Century Fox did for Lucasfilm, or Disney did for PIXAR initially) as well as legal clearance issues (via their legal department). No, it’s not an “indie” in the way we traditionally think of them, but many indies get picked up by studios at film festivals & events and distributed by majors; for this film, since WB owns the IP per whatever agreements they have from 2003/2004 with Rob Thomas, that structure was put into place ahead of time.

Fascinating discussion of the studio process, as well as the “ethics of using Kickstarter for something distributed by a major company” went on last night between Leverage’s John Rogers and AtlanticWire’s Richard Lawson (among others) who wrote something that I thought was frankly ridiculous yesterday (no, kickstarter is not for charities and nobody is saying the VM film is one; most backers are pre-buying a product they will receive and a few people are buying a chance to be in a film, which is their choice to do with their money).

The idea that those who back at the DVD level are being double-charged for the product is, imnsho, incorrect as cartoonist Gordon McAlmin discussed – and he also reminded me that “It’s worth noting here that Kickstarter prohibits financial rewards including ownership and financial returns.” As someone who saw Avengers twelve times in theaters, and paid for it ten times (two were sneak previews) was I deca-charged? If I was, was I totally okay with that? Or did I pay for something ten times, that I received ten times?

For those who think that the VM kickstarter is a bad use of their money, or who aren’t interested, that’s their call. Nothing wrong/problematic with coming to that decision. But acting (as mansplainer Richard Lawson did) like your view is the only correct or appropriate one by saying things like, “My gut still finds all the upfront money talk to be a bit unrefined, let’s say. Art should exist for art’s sake…” will cause a lot of people in the entertainment industry, and in the fandom for any show, film, book, comic, music or sports team, to laugh at you.

The irony of this is, the VM Kickstarter was announced a few hours before we learned there would be a new Pope, and was fully funded just after his first prayers in Rome. Remember the days when the Pope and the church and the aristocracy were the primary Patrons of Art, and the riff-raff’s theatricalities were at risk of shut-downs by The Powers That Be because of Indecency and such?

Now, we all know, anyone can create art, and because of the internet and the democratization of funding, anyone can support art – whether it’s on ETSY or via a Kickstarter to bring a much-fanned-about story to the movies.

Isn’t that awesome?

ETA: A few days ago, there was a piece in Reuters that basically said, when people start donating, they tend to give more going forward – it starts with a discussion of the 700K+ in donations to the bullied bus monitor last year. A section of the piece:

It is more fun, and much easier, to make one person happy than it is “to work together to change the underlying context”. And yes, that’s one of the reasons why we do such things. There’s nothing inherently bad about fun-and-easy, but Stevenson seems to think that there is. The hidden syllogism would seem to be that the $700,000 that went to Karen Klein is money that would otherwise have gone to change the underlying context, and that therefore there’s something corrosive about the donations to Klein, because the alternative, while not as fun and not as easy, was in some sense superior.

But this is silly. At the margin, the Karen Klein campaign, along with all the publicity surrounding it, surely helped, rather than hindered, those people working to change the underlying context. And once someone has given $20 to Karen Klein, they will be more rather than less receptive to people asking for help on broader campaigns.

[QUOTE] From Bertha Chin, The Veronica Mars Movie: crowdfunding – or fan-funding – at its best?

This also brings to light some people’s uneasiness and concern that money raised through this (Veronica Mars) Kickstarter project is not going towards an indie project, but instead towards a studio film that Warner Bros is essentially too cheap to finance. It obviously brings up question of fan labour and the monetisation of fans, which big conglomerates (such as the Disney-backed Fanlib years ago) have been trying to tap into. And it’s precisely why this post is being written.

While I think it’s a valid point to bring up the issue of fan labour (or investment in this case?), and whether the success of this funding campaign [1] might prompt other media conglomerates to start seeking funding for other ventures this way, we must not forget at the very core of this, is the fans. EW is currently running a poll asking fans which other TV series they would fund for a film, while X-Files fans are asking if 20th Century Fox is paying attention to this campaign, and if a similar thing can be done to get a 3rd film green-lighted. Ultimately, fans choose to fund this project, and this is the voice that’s missing in some of the concerns raised; that somehow fans need to be educated that they’re financing a studio film, so they’re not actually doing anything for the so-called greater good.


Frustratingly, fan agency always gets left out in arguments which purports concern that fans are being duped by studios and networks. Perhaps, rather than assuming that fans are being duped into donating towards a studio film, thought should be given to implications the success of this campaign might bring to Hollywood’s system; or more importantly, the power fans can wield if they decide a Veronica Mars movie is deserving to be made.