Anime Sols, established with the cooperation of a whole gaggle of anime studios, exploits all the best benefits of living in a digital age. A limited number of episodes of each anime show get streamed, for free, online with English subtitles. If you like what you see, you get to bid for a series of crowd-funding packages. Fully aware that these anime shows are of limited interest to a worldwide audience, Anime Sols sets its bar for success healthily low, with each serial’s block of episodes going to DVD as soon as they have a mere 1000 orders – this, in turn, exploits mastering houses’ new willingness to turn around small print-runs cheaply.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, as regular readers of this column will already know, it’s not necessarily that easy to get 1000 anime fans to put their money where their mouth is. As head honcho Sam Pinansky reported last month, Yatterman not only failed to get 1000 backers before its deadline on Anime Sols, but proved to be so unappealing that barely 40 people even watched it past the fourth episode!
Fandom was awash with recriminations – if only they’d picked a different show; if only fans could have bid from certain foreign territories (the UK, for example was excluded). But maybe people just weren’t that into Yatterman. Case closed. The project was cancelled, and the rights holders of Yatterman got a tiny reward – the chance to re-use those subtitles on a future Japan-only DVD release.
But Anime Sols is run by smart people, who were plainly disappointed but not undaunted. And I’d like to encourage everyone to regard Yatterman not as a failure, but as valuable data about anime’s appeal, or lack of it. It’s good, for the industry in general, for the Japanese to be confronted with how few people actually give a toss about some of their more obscure shows. And it’s good for fandom to be confronted with a put-up-or-shut-up ultimatum about making stuff happen. A few weeks later, Anime Sols offered Creamy Mami in the same way, and achieved its funding target with four days to spare.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #115, 2013.