Beyond Otakudome, Post Script of Kicking Starters

I backed the Otaku no Video Blu-ray Kickstarter. The reason is the only copy of this I own is on VHS, and, well, that’s kind of sub-optimal this day and age.

Beyond the usual discussion of Kickstarter as a multi-purpose fundraising platform, may it be simple preordering and free publicity to powering arts&crafty, independent creators, I don’t know what there is to say about Otaku no Video. This is a sell, but when I read that Anime Diet post I can’t help but to feel an overwhelming sense of irony.

Because it’s precisely that we’re in the year 2015 that a Kickstarter for licensing an old classic that got rebooted into Blu-ray for international distribution seems, at best, trite. I mean, any otaku worth his or her salt knows how to import home video, may it be 1995 or 2015. This is more about just doing the same o’ localized consumption of international media for US-centric prosumers who probably have moved onto different things than living in piles of hard disk drives or otaku paraphernalia. It’s for the kids who watched Otaku no Video when they are young, and for kids who are young and have never had a chance to acquire it in that status-indicative way of buying a home video product.

Also, I guess, this is beyond the usual discussion of what defines an otaku. But which otaku is still fixated on this early 90s classic? Which is why my copy is still VHS. It’s easier to grab that from an illegal site or a friend’s FTP than trying to figure out which storage box it’s currently sitting inside in my attic. Also, which is to say, we’re well into the post-physical media era.

If you read the Anime Diet link, you wouldn’t know that Robert Woodhead priced the goals with assumptions being that majority of backers will go for the basic level, which just means the funding for this kickstarter is not breaking any ground on a per-capita sense. With things going the other way, I think it speaks a lot in both that Otaku no Video is still a title that people (like me) care about, and that there are people who would put down money for it, because $55 is not a big deal in the bigger scheme of things.

Riina the Birthday girl

PS. It took me a while to condense my thoughts about the BGC kickstarter into coherent words and what I found problematic with the approach in putting the product together. Writing about this helped. There are two issues. First, it comes down to my expectation of being able to pay and buy something that’s well-defined. Second, it’s the flaw of democratically defining the requirements, or applying it in the wrong situation.

If you didn’t know about the approach…uhh read all the backer updates to get an idea. TL;DR it was a meticulous and transparent Kickstarter, except where it counted, which is the way how backers determined the specification of the product. That said, let me also disclaim that a lot of the things I mention below are not unique to this particular Kickstarter. I’d think it’s fair to say that Woodhead has done a great job running the BGC Kickstarter, but the reasoning and logic that sounded good at the time all had issues, and these issues will arise in other Kickstarters and similar projects, with the same qualities, following the same reasoning.

The first problem is inherent in backing something that will take input of the backers. You might end up backing something you don’t really want in the end. The trade-off is that you might end up backing something you actually want, to every detail specification, but usually it’s something in between. If we’re talking about a widget, say an iPhone adapter or some such, that’s no big deal, because you can always choose to pick another version of the same thing from a different vendor or Kickstarter that addresses your needs. Or more specifically, the need a Kickstarter typically address in those cases are specific use cases that you are just in for. Things are murkier for something like licensed anime.

The nature of copyright monopoly necessarily mean that only one definitive edition or version of, say, BGC, will ever get released until the next reboot. BGC is probably not a great example because Woodhead has rebooted BGC god knows how many times now, but the typical IP gets maybe 2 or 3 chances at life in the USA, if they’re old enough to live through the DVD era. In other words, you don’t really get to choose. If FUNi or anyone screws up your DVD, you basically have no choice via this licensed release format. If a kickstarter screws the pooch on licensing, or puts out a flawed disc, GLHF.

In that sense, taking backer feedback is fine, if not also an improvement. Ultimately you can have a shot at influencing the outcome of the product. If it doesn’t work out, you might be stuck with it (as I believe all these ways of influence are backer-only). You can also choose to not back it, but you might not be able to get your hands on the “collector” version of the goods. You can still do so with BGC at retail today, just at a slightly higher price point/fewer bonus items. (BTW I backed at poster + basic level). So maybe that’s fine, at least, if you’re willing to just ignore all the crowdfunding aspects as the ultimate “other choice.” Then again, at the time of BGC Kickstarter, this availability was not entirely guaranteed.

The first downside with taking backer feedback in the way Woodhead has done so is that during the process, you really had no clear idea what you were getting, besides the basic anime-on-a-disc part. In that sense, that’s all I could justify paying into such a Kickstarter, and all I am willing to do so in the Otaku no Video Kickstarter. How can I possibly pay double-triple-whatever on the basis of the product itself, if I don’t even know if I will like the addons? At the same time, part of what makes Otaku no Video Kickstarter more premium-heavy than basic might just be that we now have a known process in which BGC was produced, so there’s less uncertainty. Although I’m sure it is only a small part compared to, say, the price tag. I mean, please tell me people are not buying Otaku no Video because of challenge coins or some similarly useless, albeit shiny, bullshit.

The second downside of taking feedback this way is that for every item choice that went to a vote, it becomes a bunch of compromises. Like if you poll 3 people on 3 product choices, you might get 2 out of 3 people picking one way for each choice, thus democratically come to conclusions on the decisions on a product, but the end result may contain things all three people did not want. That said, I think Woodhead took some pretty conservative choices for election to begin with, and nothing really crazy happened–which is kind of what I’m referring to in the previous paragraph. It’s now a known quality.

Which is just to say, welp, I guess I have no choice in this matter. Maybe it’s not a problem if I liked the choices people came up with. It’s like the running jokes about RightStuf promo image voting and how the “Megami” one always gets picked. Is this like an American misconception of democracy or what?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.