Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12 Days of Anime 2013, Day 9: The Crowds Are Calling Our Names

This is not a Gatchaman Crowds post; the lyrics just seemed appropriate.

That Kick-Heart even exists at all is a testament to so many things. We've got a big anime house - Production IG - going out of their way to make a risky experimental short film with very niche appeal and a strange art style from a creator whose works consistently turn in woeful sales figures, and on top of that, are pushing to market it to the traditionally stingy and traditionally ignored Western audience. There is no way something like this could happen under normal circumstances. For this project, they turned to the Crowds. It's kind of like ~The Cloud~, only not at all.

I wrote about Kick-Heart and the idea of crowdfunding anime , when it was still uncertain whether or not it would succeed, but I never really provided an update afterwards. Well, it succeeded , as fans pledged over $50,000 more than the original $150,000 goal.

But this all happened last year. What's it doing on the 2013 list? Well, there are several reasons.

For one thing, this is the year in which our efforts bore fruit - in 2013, Kick-Heart actually happened. Whereas crowdfunding anime was just an idea prior to this, an anime funded by fans had now completed production. It made its rounds at film festivals. It won awards. It had a premiere at Anime Expo. It aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. The supporters received the finished product. Crowdfunded anime was no longer just a concept - it was a Blu-Ray disc, a poster, and a goofy t-shirt in the hands of Masaaki Yuasa fans around the world. All this made possible by a dedicated Crowd of anime fans who put their money where their mouths were and showed Yuasa and company that they really wanted this anime made.

This was also the year that the movement pioneered by Kick-Heart started to take off.

Some creators and licensors passionate about their existing works took the trend in a new direction and, instead of raising funds for the creation of anime, did so for a limited, independent worldwide release of their work, opening the door to fans of more niche titles that were overlooked for licensing. Yasuhiro Yoshiura kicked off the trend with Time of Eve, which flew past its modest goal within hours of its announcement and went on to earn 1196% of its originally-requested amount; the Blu-Rays should start shipping next month. Later in the year, a Bubblegum Crisis deluxe release was put, through, and in a unique twist on the typical Kickstarter model, project lead Robert Woodhead is currently working with the fans to decide which bonus features they'd like to see for their money.was also founded this year, streaming titles in the hard-to-market "oldie" niche and offering fans the chance to crowdfund their favorite streaming shows. While it's been a thrilling ride, often coming right down to the deadline, and not all the titles have been funded (rest well, Pastel Yumi), some of the bigger names have reached their goals - Creamy Mami, Black Jack, and Dear Brother all have DVD sets in the works by Right Stuf International, known for high-quality releases of titles like Aria and Utena.

While licensing anime is certainly less costly (and thus easier to raise funds for) than producing one from the ground up, several creators have been inspired by Kick-Heart's success to crowdfund their own original anime. The sequel to Studio Trigger's Little Witch Academia is the most notable and successful example, with 7938 fans raising over $625,000 - three times as much as Kick-Heart - to help add an additional 15 minutes to its runtime. Even Mirai Mizue's abstract anime, Wonder, managed to scrape by - a "wonder" in itself that so obscure and experimental a project could receive such support - and this "365 days animation project" is now touring film festivals.

The trend hasn't stopped, either. Currently raising funds is , a super-cute Christmas anime from Kenji Itoso, a student of Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. Santa Company is a movie he has been planning for 12 years, and he is now able to reach out to the Crowds to help him see it through. It's currently just past $45,000 of its $50,000 goal with 16 days to go, so it's well on its way to SAVING ANIME CHRISTMAS. I'm still going to plug it anyway because if it gets to $150,000 we get a dub, a deluxe edition BD, and a light novel, so PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT TO SANTA COMPANY AND HELP SAVE CHRISTMAS!

All this about crowdfunding is nice and all, but what about Kick-Heart? Was it any good? Was it worth it?

HECK YES IT WAS GOOD! Kick-Heart is exactly the type of story that puts Yuasa into his comfort zone, and he did not disappoint here one bit. Kick-Heart is full of his impactful, free-flowing animation with strange distortions and sketchy lines that give it a very personal, hand-drawn feel. The emotions run high in this bizarre love story, the wrestling metaphors are deftly and goofily handled, we got a happy ending, great comedic variety, a soundtrack quirky enough to match the animation (which was included as a bonus for some backers), all packed into less than 15 minutes.

But what it had, most of all, was a heaping helping of heart.
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