My Donation to Kick-Heart Was Not an Obligation

I recently donated to Kick-Heart, and it was my very first Kickstarter donation.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s an animation project by Japanese animator/director Yuasa Masaaki, a man whose style can best be described as “experimental and unorthodox.” As someone who not only enjoys variety in animation but also appreciates Yuasa’s work (particularly the brilliant Kaiba), I ended up pledging, but I want everyone to understand that this was my own conclusion, and not one I necessarily expect from others. 

As people have rallied for Kick-Heart there’s been good, but there’s also been this problematic message attached to it wherein Kick-Heart is seen as a potential savior of not just the anime industry but of creativity and imagination in anime itself. To some extent, they have a point: there are certain anime that are more commercially viable than others, and this is usually based on what’s trending at the time combined with the economic realities of the time. In that sense, funding this Kickstarter is useful for figuring out if there really is an audience for Yuasa’s brand of works, enough to justify at least a 10-minute animation piece. But then if you’re not part of the audience in the sense that you have little interest in Yuasa’s work, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to maintain a lie just because people are making you feel like you’re industry poison.

I said why I decided to join in, and if my or anyone else’s reasons for donating to Kick-Heart convinced you to donate, feel free to do so. What you shouldn’t feel, however, is pressured to donate out of the “greater good.” Kick-Heart isn’t an intimidation tactic, and it shouldn’t be talked about as such.

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14 thoughts on “My Donation to Kick-Heart Was Not an Obligation

  1. Yeah, I donated because I’ve liked everything I’ve seen from Yuasa, and I also think the pro wrestling setting could be pretty cool and interesting. I always thought that wrestling could make for some cool animation — hopefully we get a decent amount of that in Kick-Heart!

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  2. I think there actually is a “greater good” argument to be made, in the sense that it might show the Japanese animation “industrial complex” that there are possibilities in fan-funded works.

    One might even consider it as a sort-of payment-forward for the pleasure you got from downloading Kaiba or streaming Tatami Galaxy or Kemonozume.

    But what do I know? I guess I have one of the five hundred Kaiba DVD sets ever sold. (A legitimate, licensed Tatami Galaxy is available with English subtitles from amazon.co.uk, by the way.)

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    • I have that UK boxset, and it is lush: a sturdy digibox which houses all three discs (region 2, of course). However, it’s put out by Beez who have recently stopped publishing anime so it might be hard to get soon.

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      • Feel obligated to mention the releases of Mindgame from Madman and Genius Party + Beyond, Kaiba, and Tatami Galaxy from Siren Visual in Australia/Region 4. You can get a lot of Yuasa’s titles in English just not necessarily from American anime licensors. Siren Visual is still going strong so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding their releases. For example I got my copy of Tatami Galaxy at a con for $10 NZD.

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  3. I feel I mostly donated because I thought that the director has an interesting idea for a story and I would want to see him get to make it.
    But I can’t deny that same part of me also felt that donating was a part of giving back to the creators for all content I have gotten so far. Not that I haven’t bought any dvds/boxsets before, I actually have quite a few of them. But I still only own a small fraction of the stuff I have seen in total.

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  4. Completely agreed. While it’s true this kickstarter might cause a (small) paradigm shift of sorts if successful, at the same time there’s no point supporting it if what the shift causes is not something you personally want.

    Like you, I donated because I wanted to see the short. And while I’m also excited at what possibilities might open up due to success and was another reason I support it, the main reason I pledged is for a short I like the sound of. If it was a director I didn’t like or short idea I wasn’t interested in? I doubt I would have donated what I did, if at all.

    The next question to arise is: if successful, who might be the next director/company to try this system? I’m hoping for that Satoshi Kon film to appear on there.

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  5. “there’s also been this problematic message attached to it”

    There you go again with that word you learned from Tumblr and Jezebel/Kotaku/Gawker. What *EXACTLY* is the “problem” part of the message? You kinda sorta mentioned something about “people giving someone hassles just because they’re not keen on THIS specific project.” And were this any other situation, that may be a legitimate point. But there is an extenuating circumstance here which you’ve neglected to point out as relevant, and that is that Kick-Heart is the VERY FIRST of its kind. Merely by virtue of being the very first, that means there is far more at stake to Kick-Heart’s success than the usual “do I want to see this particular creator make this particular story?” (In my case, the answer was “yes.”)

    But perhaps some of what was at stake has already passed by. For if Kick-Heart had succeeded within days/hours by way of an overwhelming support such that they actually had met all their stretch goals, THAT would have constituted a major “paradigm shift” as far as the attractiveness of this approach as an option is concerned. But it didn’t. Kick-Heart’s gonna make it since they’re at over 90% with a week to go, but only “just” so. That’s despite all the news coverage, feature placement on Kickstarter itself, and web publicity throughout not just Japan, but America and France too. That got them about 2,200 people to actually put up money. Not all that impressive considering that over 380,000 people clicked “Like” for it on Facebook. A little over one half of one percentage point of the people who will gladly post about how cool this thing is on the Internet will actually put their money where their mouth is. Way I see it, that’s the “problematic” side of the story. The people you’re talking about wouldn’t/shouldn’t have even clicked “Like” in the first place.

    Based on prior observations of the Japanese animation industry, I remain wholly resolute that Kick-Heart HAS to succeed in order for anyone else in Japan to even consider this as an approach ever again. Now that it will only “barely” succeed, I think the number of subsequent attempts will be fewer than the potential wave I’d have hoped for.

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    • While the disconnect between Facebook “likes” and tangible action irritates me more than a little bit, I think Kick-Heart should considered in the context of other animation projects on Kickstarter. Should it meet its goal of $150,000 Kick-Heart is on track to be one of the higher-funded animation projects, likely beaten only by four others in terms of money raised – two of them being films based on work from Charlie Kaufman and the award-winning Neil Gaiman (only one actually beat 400k, a stretch goal that was always extremely ambitious for a first-time experiment).

      Kick-Heart more money than John K’s “Cans Without Labels”, notwithstanding its 3,562 backers compared to Kick-Heart’s current 2,257. It is going to have more than double the backers and money than “Atomic Robo: Last Stop”, based on a rather popular and award-winning Indie comic here in the U.S.

      Now consider that Masaaki Yuasa is, I think it’s fair to say, the epitome of a talented but relatively obscure creator with a small but very dedicated following up among anime fans up to this point – a subgroup within a subgroup. Of course Production I.G. associating itself with this helps, but in the end we have this level of support for a creator who has had not one work of his – not one! – distributed in North America. I find this pleasantly surprising and impressive.

      http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/animation/most-funded?ref=more#p1

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      • All good points to consider, and I hadn’t really thought of it in terms of “overall animation” since Kick-Heart remains the first instance of online crowd-funded “anime.”

        And now that I’ve had a chance to fall asleep for six hours and wake up at 11:30 PM, I can see that Kickstarter’s page formatting is strange such that I misread the figures. Over 380,000 have NOT liked Kick-Heart on Facebook; that is in fact the number for the entire Kickstarter site. The Kick-Heart specific figure is over 6200 people, so the money:mouth ratio is more like one third. That’s certainly far, far better than 0.5%, but compared to the other animation projects listed it does still demonstrate a significant enthusiasm gap among anime fans relative to others. For those other projects, roughly 40 to 50% of people spreading the word were actually willing to spend money, and Atomic Robo by virtue of its webcomic influence actually has MORE overall backers than quantifiable social media supporters. Normally I’d say “it must be an age thing, as anime fans tend to be minors who may thus not have Paypal or credit cards,” but I also wonder how much of that crowd would even know who Yuasa is.

        (Incidentally, the only animation project with a lower rate of interest than the anime fans was mc chris’s.)

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  6. I totally agree with Daryl here on the importance of the *first* anime Kickstarter, so I won’t rehash his points.

    But also, I really don’t see where you’re going with this. It seems you’re just being moderate for moderation’s sake. If the Kickstarter is important, then we should be outspoken about it and we should tell people to contribute to it. If they don’t want to, that’s their choice, but I shouldn’t have to stop promoting it because some people feel like I’m being too pushy.

    This reminds me a bit of everybody’s attitude about the Aniblog Tourney, where any outspoken promotion was seen as a bad thing. Apparently you’re supposed to just sit there quietly and twiddle your thumbs, hoping somebody is nice enough to drop some change in your cup. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make any sense to me.

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  7. Actually, Kick Heart isn’t the very first anime funded by Kickstarter, or even the first made by a major anime studio. It may be the first to be successfully funded, but it’s not the VERY FIRST as Daryl says.

    As far as I know, the very first anime, and the very first by a major studio is project:13, a project by Studio 4ºC that barely made it to just over $9,000, way short of it’s projected goal of $390,000. Despite it’s relatively high profile, it fell by the wayside and looked like it was quickly forgotten.

    The importance of Kick-Heart’s funding isn’t to be underestimated, but I’m not surprised that it didn’t gather as much funding as it could have been, considering Masaki Yuasa’s relative obscurity.

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  8. Pingback: All Points Bulletin: Kick-Heart – Defender of the Universe « Reverse Thieves

  9. I would have to agree, yhou’re not being pushy at all, rather you are showing and interest and sharing that interest with others in hopes that they may share the same level or more to help fund the project. W/O that alot of conventions that I know of may have not even gotten off the ground due to a lack of people spreading the word around.

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  10. Pingback: AnimeSols: A Star is Born | Reverse Thieves

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