A Kickstarter for a new anime streaming service has raised more than $ 100,000, but anime industry professionals are questioning its legitimacy. The campaign was put on hold by Kickstarter on Friday.
Anime Tube’s pitch on Kickstarter is positioned as a competitor of services like Crunchyroll, VRV and Funimation. It specifically mentions these apps in their campaign, citing the low ratings of Google Play Store users.
“Anime enthusiasts around the world have expressed their dissatisfaction with current Hanime applications,” the campaign read. “The few licensed anime apps on the market are inundated with low ratings between 2 and 3.5 stars on Google Play and other stores.”
The pitch continues to call Hanime Tube “the future of anime streaming apps,” which features an AI virtual assistant, free anime shows with ads, and a service called Anime Chat, which is described as “an extremely useful feature as well as a way to connect with other anime enthusiasts for suggestions or to talk about anime in general!”
Initially, professionals in the anime industry took issue with the way Anime Tube promoted itself. If you look at Anime Tube’s social media accounts, they use famous anime images As Fullmetal Alchemist and Sword art online. These images are missing from the version of the video that can be found on their Kickstarter. According to to a report from Anime New Network, the campaign previously used these images and was linked to a list of shows they said they were hoping to license. It’s these images, among other red flags, that anime industry professionals have pointed to as a sign that this Kickstarter may not be legit.
Kickstarter told Motherboard that it is “actively reviewing the issues that have been raised about this project in relation to our policies.” He then told Motherboard that he had suspended funding for the campaign.
George Weller, founder of developer Gameface LLC of Anime Tube, and his business partner Hironori Zusho, told Motherboard that they plan to appeal the Kickstarter decision and oppose the characterization of Anime. Tube like a scam. This is the second Kickstarter for Anime Tube; another campaign with a higher fundraising target in June was canceled. If you go to the page for this now, it says it’s “subject of an intellectual property dispute. ”
“The definition of scam is like a dishonest act, some of that ‘wish’ and ‘try to’ is not really dishonest,” Zusho said. “We always try to do it – it’s not impossible – because people say it’s a scam.”
Shawne Kleckner, CEO of Right Stuf, told Motherboard that they are not in talks with Anime Tube about licensing their titles on the platform. List that was originally linked to Anime Tube’s kickstarter included Revolutionary girl Utena, as well as other licensed titles from Right Stuf.
“I had also asked if any of our industry partners had heard of these people and no one had,” Kleckner told Motherboard. “I think it was misleading to show this long list that people would probably feel like they would get if they supported the Kickstarter.”
Justin Sevakis, founder of Anime News Network and owner of post-production company Media OCD, told Motherboard that anime licenses are extremely expensive, making crowdfunding efforts like Anime Tube difficult, if not impossible. . He said when he worked at Anime News Network they tried to launch their own streaming service, but found the industry to be too expensive. Competition for licenses has only intensified as major players like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Warner Bros. entered the fray. More than the price, Sevakis said the licensing deals between the US and Japanese countries require great trust. Even Disney has had issues with this in the past. Famous, one of the producers of Studio Ghibli sent a katana to famous producer Harvey Weinstein who was then at the former Disney subsidiary Miramax, when the company was coming out. Princess Monoke with a message attached stating “no cuts”. The studio’s mistrust did not come from nowhere. Ghibli’s first foray into international distribution came with a much maligned release of Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind images of the new world, which has been heavily modified and renamed The warriors of the wind from its initial release.
“I think the problem is not so much the capital, but you have to give people a reason to work with you,” Sevakis said. “Everything Netflix did, they worked for a decade trying to build bridges in the anime space. It took them that long to build trust.”
Miles Thomas, chief marketing officer at UK-based anime distributor All The Anime, told Motherboard that within the anime fandom there is little understanding about the economics of anime licensing. in the West, and although agreements may vary, the process is both complicated and expensive. In addition, it would be incredibly unlikely to be able to license shows already available on any other service.
“Even though Anime Tube is able to successfully negotiate with a Japanese publisher, for all of the top 350 anime from the biggest anime pirate site, there is already an exclusive US publisher,” Thomas told Motherboard. “Maybe you could ask Kodansha to pressure Funimation to force them to sublicense The attack of the Titans to you, but that sounds pretty incredulous, even with stacks and stacks of cash – even Netflix doesn’t have the most recent seasons, and their annual content budget is close to the median GDP of every country in the world. ”
Zusho told Motherboard that the list of shows that were previously linked to their Kickstarter campaign was sort of a wishlist, and that they now understand it was a mistake to include it in the campaign. They described the current anime situation in the West as a monopoly run by Sony. Sony’s agreement to buy Crunchyroll is currently on hold due to an ongoing antitrust review from the United States Department of Justice.
“If we pay $ 100 million for a contract, I think a company will allow it, but it’s very unreasonable and I can’t pay for it,” Zusho said. “But, you know, we are trying, and is it really wrong to go against [the monopoly]? Is it wrong for us to try something? ”
Professionals in the anime industry were also concerned about previous apps from GameFace LLC, like SoundHead, which was pulled from the Microsoft Store last year. Sevakis and Thomas both characterized SoundHead as hacking apps.
“There is no acknowledgment of this fact in Kickstarter or any other documentation, and the fact that it is an established brand with an established audience makes even the framing of this service quite suspect,” said Thomas at Motherboard.
Weller told Anime News Network that they have already published SoundHead. Weller and Zusho told Motherboard that these apps do not host any pirated material, but instead aggregate them from other sources like YouTube.
“We used the Google API for third-party applications,” Zusho said. “So even if someone sent a DMCA to [our apps], you have to go back to Google because they are the ones hosting it. ”
“We were originally hooked up to YouTube and streaming content there and one of the original companies had content there. All the companies that streamed cartoons, and we just index it and provide it to people.” , said Weller. . “On Windows 10 and Xbox, they couldn’t access these items, so we provided a way for them to log into YouTube and get this content.”
Despite repeated warnings from people working in anime on social networks, Anime Tube’s Kickstarter reached over $ 100,000 in funding before it was suspended. Sevakis told Motherboard that anime fans have long held the spirit of being the underdog at war with greedy corporations, even though the anime is now popular enough that Michael B. Jordan has created a collection of Naruto trainer clothing.
“I want to stress that this is not about the anime community as a whole, but a substantial subsection of the anime community which tends to be very antagonistic. There are a lot of young people out there. angry men, young masculine energies, ”he said. “I feel like a lot of these guys tend to be more anti-publishers, hacking equals the answer, you know it’s all that teen kind of thing, fuck type of thing the system “.”
“It didn’t go away by the time of streaming, it’s just kind of turned into something else, as it’s getting harder and harder to justify that position,” Sevakis continued.