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Editorial: The Success of the Little Witch Academia 2 KS

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Studio TRIGGER knocks their KS goal out of the park.

In less than six hours, TRIGGER reached the goal of $150,000 on their Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter project.

While this certainly doesn't break any KS records, it is nonetheless a huge victory for fans of animation and original content. Even the men and women of TRIGGER were clearly unprepared for the speed at which the project got funded; as of this writing stretch goals are still being prepared and new rewards have yet to get added.

This certainly isn't the first anime Kickstarter to get funded. The recent Time of Eve KS was met with great success, though the project was only designed to fund the international BD release of the film. Prior to that, Production I.G and Masaaki Yuasa ran a successful KS to fund a new short film called Kick-Heart. They managed to exceed their goal and finish at $201,164, but it was undoubtedly a slow journey to get to that point.

So why exactly has the Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter found so much success in its opening days, and what does it mean for the animation industry as a whole?

Founded in August of 2011 by former Gainax employees Hiroyuki Imaishi and Masahiko Ohtsuka, TRIGGER is still a relatively new studio in the world of Japanese animation. That being said, with such big names as Imaishi and Ohtsuka behind it, there was never any question that people would be watching their first projects very closely. 

The first Little Witch Academia was produced as part of the Young Animators Training Project. Every year, they give four different studios approximately $380,000 to animate an original short film. The idea is to allow younger animators to get more hands-on experience in an environment that doesn't rush them to meet deadlines or TV standards. Trigger's project was Little Witch Academia, directed by Yoshinari Yoh.

The story should have ended there, but what actually happened is far more interesting. Studio TRIGGER produced and launched Inferno Cop on Youtube, which went on to find popularity in English speaking territories. If you haven't seen the show yet, I highly recommend you give it a shot; it's as hilarious as it is under-budgeted. The real story isn't Inferno Cop's quality, so much as it is the fact that TRIGGER was suddenly reaching out to western audiences in a very real way. With English subtitles attached to each video, this new Japanese studio was producing content for a worldwide audience right from the start.

Things continued to build from there, with the appearance of an official Inferno Cop EN Twitter account created specifically to communicate with English speaking fans. Even the TRIGGER Twitter account would occasionally respond to English tweets, something that few anime studios were doing. This sort of interaction between a Japanese studio and its western audience is fairly unprecedented; here was no go-between here. For what feels like the first time, a Japanese studio opened their ears to the west and not only listened, but responded. Can you feel that good will piling up?

Things finally came to a head when TRIGGER uploaded the entirety of Little Witch Academia to Youtube in HD. The bigger surprise? The free release included proper English subtitles. While it may not seem like much at first, these little considerations help to create the [correct] image of an animation studio that cares about its English speaking fans. The people at TRIGGER have deliberately made decisions that are geared toward making their products more easily available to people living outside of Japan. It's this basic idea that I believe has led their Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter to the early success it's currently enjoying.

Anime fans are willing to spend money on the things they like when they're presented with a good deal, or they feel like they're being appreciated. TRIGGER has made it clear that they care about their fans around the world, and anime fans responded in kind by jumping at the chance to put money down on Little Witch Academia 2, an OVA that hasn't even started production yet. Even the Kickstarter project itself signifies an understanding of the importance of the western market. As their intro video points out, most Japanese people aren't aware of the existence of Kickstarter, which is part of the reason you haven't seen many projects coming out of Japan. Ohtsuka and the folks at TRIGGER got that if this KS was going to be a success, it would likely be as a result of western fans showing their support. 

So here we are. As of this writing, a little over 36 hours have gone by and the Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter is edging closer and closer to the $300,000 mark. Provided TRIGGER can come up with some great stretch goals and rewards, I think it's fully possible to reach $500,000 and even beyond. The sky is the limit at this point, and I can only imagine that the TRIGGER offices are probably filled with shocked and excited employees. 

So just who is watching this KS campaign back in Japan? What other studios are taking a good long look at TRIGGER's current success and trying to figure out how to emulate it? There's a real opportunity here for Japanese companies to fund new and original content. The caveat is that they have to be willing to put the work in to build the good will necessary to making crowd-funding a success. For example. if J.C.Staff suddenly threw up a KS for an original anime project, I have my doubts that it would be funded in any kind of hurry, if at all. 

Japanese animation studios need to realize that there is a relatively large audience outside of Japan, willing to pay money to support their favorite animators/companies. Show them that you care, and they'll respond in kind. Forcing fans to pay hundreds of dollars just to own a single series on BD/DVD is not the way to build good will; you end up looking like the bad guy in your quest to manipulate the hardcore viewers. 

Do I think the success of TRIGGER's Kickstarter will have an effect on the anime industry? Absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised if we start to see these kinds of projects pop up more and more. I'd also be ecstatic if Japanese companies started to make more of an effort to directly communicate with their English speaking fans. That's right. We do exist.

In the meantime? I'm just going to keep refreshing that Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter page with the stupidest grin on my face. 


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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #anime #Editorial #feature #Hiroyuki Imaishi #japan #Japanator Original #kickstarter #Little Witch Academia #Masahiko Ohtsuka #Production IG #top stories #Trigger

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