Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3]

Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 4

We continue our interview with Masahiko Otsuka, director, producer, and head of Studio Trigger; Kazuya Masumoto, producer and studio board member; and PR representative Tatsuru Tatemoto.

TOM: There are precedents of successfully using Kickstarter to collect production expenses, such as Kick-Heart, directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and Time of Eve, directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. Did this have an influence on Studio Trigger’s decision?
Otsuka: When we consulted Tatemoto about Kickstarter, we looked for past examples of Japanese anime and ran into the above-mentioned two titles. I personally like director Yuasa’s Kick-Heart even more, and I was really shocked when I learned there was already one title that was produced with a method different from anime business models until now, that is, collecting the expenses from companies. I thought, “It’d be nice if we could make an anime this way.” Sometimes, the sponsor easily goes along with the project, but now there are bound to be cases that aren’t so easy. However, on the side of the maker, there is no change in either of their feelings of wanting to make it. As commercial success and the interest of the anime doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, the possibility to work on an anime that’s meaningful but not very good as a business using this new system called crowdfunding seemed very attractive.

TOM: Your prize given to those who donate $10,000, a trip that includes visiting the Trigger office and having lunch with the staff and the chance to visit the figure maker Good Smile Company, is also quite a topic. How did you arrive at this decision?
Tatemoto: When you start a project on Kickstarter, you have to specify rewards in set with the amount of money pledged. That’s why we used the case of Kick-Heart as an example and discussed it with Good Smile Company prior to deciding on it.

Otsuka: I would never have thought that the $10,000 pledge plans would be filled first. A lot was unexpected (laughs).

TOM: You have the support of your fans, and you reached your goal of $150,000 in less than a day. What do you think about those results?
Otsuka: Reaching our goal in five hours has exceeded even my expectations. We already had Little Witch Academia uploaded for stream view so that a larger audience can enjoy it, and we also had fans from our other work as well. This challenge had such a foundation to it, so we somehow expected to get pledges from our fans pretty smoothly. However, we were also a little worried about the possibility that we might not reach our goal. But you can’t know until you try, right? The results were unexpected in a good way, and I feel very relieved.

TOM: Since you had such strong support, you must’ve had considerable reactions from fans.
Otsuka: We received an enormous amount of mails! I think it’s best if you ask Tatemoto, he’s the one who handled that part.

Tatemoto: When I started our Kickstarter project, I was told by both our company and Good Smile company that, “We’ll leave the contact person’s job to you, Tatemoto,” and I too answered with a light-hearted “Okay.” I shouldn’t have been so rash (laughs).

TOM: How many mails are we talking about exactly?
Tatemoto: On the first day, about 2,500 and about 10,000 in total.

TOM: Wow, that’s an awful lot! You dealt with that all by yourself?!
Tatemoto: Tatemoto: I gave my best effort and answered what I can. When we started receiving the pledges on Kicstarter from our fans, we were still in Los Angeles.
It was right in the middle at Anime Expo’s closing party, right in the middle that our goal was met... We were drinking at the party, then a friend called me on the phone, saying, “Congrats for Kickstarter!” At first, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t anticipate reaching the goal so soon, so I returned to the hotel in a hurry and started answering the mails, but there were too many, and it took me about two days to go through all of them.

TOM: That was a strong response! My next question is for Masumoto, who stayed in Japan: Didn’t having so many reactions from overseas fans create buzz in Japan?
Masumoto: Oh, it did. As for the timing of the reactions, it wasn’t after starting to receive pledges from fans on Kickstarter, but when we made the goal and it became news. Most of the comments I received were something like, “Well, it looks like you succeeded with this Kickstarter thing” (laughs). It seemed as if they were aware of the fact that they did something and something happened, but I think they only had vague ideas about what Kickstarter is and what it is that we reached with it. But those are real reactions. In Japan, people are not very familiar with Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services. Until we engaged in it with Trigger, I myself didn’t know about its specific structure, and in that sense, I think the reactions we got had a sense of reality.

TOM: Where there any people seeking advice from you, saying, “I want to try Kickstarter too”?
Masumoto: Yes, a few in private. There were some people who wanted to ask about my experiences as someone who was involved in this project.

TOM: There are also crowdfunding services in Japan, yet you chose the American Kickstarter. Is that the manifestation of your objective to make Trigger more known abroad as a company?
Otsuka: We have no intention of creating anime for Japan and abroad separately. Even for fans in Tokyo or the countryside, their surrounding environment is different. There are more events in Tokyo, so it’s easy for those in Tokyo. However, they are difficult to attend for fans from other regions. But their feelings toward the work are the same. And I think the same thing could be said about fans abroad. For geographic reasons, they are unable to be more deeply involved with anime. I think that when we received comments on YouTube and Twitter saying, “Let’s do Kickstarter,” that was the embodiment of their feelings of it being good for Japanese fans and their wishes to be involved with the anime in some form. We participated in Kickstarter because we wanted to answer those voices and to create a scene where overseas fans can participate as well. So, it’s not like we strategically decided to expand outside Japan, we already had fans there, and we started this project based on their wishes.

TOM: Indeed, there is no doubt that Little Witch Academia having overseas fans has contributed to its success on Kickstarter.
Otsuka: Yes. At present, as you can get your hand on countless things for amusement, it is becoming more and more difficult to have people choose anime, and even more difficult to have them choose Little Witch Academia. Under such circumstances, rather than settling with Japan and rather than settling with Studio Trigger’s works, we want to go abroad to increase the group that watches anime. This goes without saying, but since anime production is a business as well, we can’t make anime without money. For the sake of Japanese fans who allowed anime to reach its present quality and for the continuation of the Japanese anime industry, I think it’s essential that we collect more fans abroad and support the anime industry with yet more power.

Continued in Part 3.

Studio Trigger Official Page

Kill la Kill Official Page

Little Witch Academia 2 (Kickstarter )

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

"Little Witch Academia" (Official)
"Little Witch Academia" (Official)
TV Anime "Kill la Kill" Second TV Spot
TV Anime "Kill la Kill" Second TV Spot
Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 3
Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 4
Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 5
Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 6
Answering Fans’ Wishes with Kickstarter: Studio Trigger (“Little Witch Academia 2”) Interview [2/3] 7

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