Kickstarter’s Problem With Pillows: The Grisaia Trilogy Dakimakura Debacle
by Marcus Estrada
The Grisaia Trilogy Kickstarter campaign is a very big deal. Within the first day of launch it managed to achieve the entire $160,000 funding goal. Since then it has continued to sweep up visual novel fans’ hearts (and more importantly – their pledges). However, in between all this excitement Sekai Project was contacted by Kickstarter. They were told that any tiers with a dakimakura (pillow cover with anime art on it) would be revoked in 48 hours. Why remove pillow covers of all things? Kickstarter deems them inappropriate. The actual image of said bonus was promptly removed from the main page prior to Sekai Project sharing the unfortunate news. Although Sekai Project filed an appeal, the end result was that Kickstarter did remove those upper tiers.
The big question is this: why were the dakimakuras targeted? It’s true that they showed anime characters in a smutty way, so there’s that. There was also a bedsheet featuring an apparently fully nude (censored on showcase image) woman. So, is it a case of adult content (or nudity in general) being banned by Kickstarter? That would certainly explain it. And in fact, there are rules in place to combat this type of thing.
Kickstarter specifically outlines that they prohibit “pornographic material” to be used as the basis for a campaign or backer reward. Again, it could be argued that the dakimakuras themselves are pornographic as each has a side featuring a woman in various states of undress. With that said, the definition of what they define as pornographic is not easily found on the site. It seems you have to contact the company directly to hear their specific definition, which is what diligent campaigns such as Smut Peddler did. According to them, the rules only apply to live-action and photographic content. Therefore, drawn art should be safe.
It’s important, and a bit ironic, to note that The Grisaia Trilogy campaign annoyed many fans during launch because Sekai Project cannot yet even discuss the possibility of an 18+ release. Their Kickstarter only specifies translating and porting the PS Vita release, which has all adult content stripped out. If the anger by fans over a lack of “complete” release were all Sekai Project had to deal with it would just be par for the course. Of course, now they must also deal with Kickstarter’s decision to remove all pledges for $420+ tiers which all included dakimakura rewards.
Can they even do forcibly remove tiers which were generating tons of money for The Grisaia Trilogy? Yes, of course Kickstarter can. Their listing of rights includes the following:
“We have the right to cancel any pledge to any project, at any time and for any reason… Kickstarter is not liable for any damages as a result of any of these actions, and it is our policy not to comment on the reasons for any such action.”
So it’s very possible that we will never know why Kickstarter decided that the dakimakura bonuses were deemed an issue. With that said, this is Kickstarter’s house and they have the freedom to do whatever they want. Before you think they’re simply power hungry and looking to crush dreams though, think about what the company receives from immensely successful campaigns. They receive a portion of all raised funds. It is not in their best interest to screw with campaigns willy nilly.
The scariest thing to me about this event is that it may urge some backers to lash out against Kickstarter as a whole. Yes, it’s fine to be mad, because there is a ton of money tied up in high tiers. Sekai Project in particular deserves to be outraged considering other drawn 18+ products have made their way through without any notice. However, remember that Kickstarter has all the power. It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to me that if a small, incredibly loud portion of people took it upon themselves to harass Kickstarter in the name of “Sekai Project” then the entire campaign could be closed. That’s unlikely, but is still my biggest fear.
Kickstarter’s Established Take on Adult Content
While it makes sense from Kickstarter’s terms of service that allowing smutty art on backer rewards is not permissible, there’s still the matter of past actions to review. Over the years multiple campaigns have crowdfunded erotic or completely adult content. For example, Coming Out On Top is an explicit dating sim that saw huge success without apparent issue. They didn’t show off any nudity on the front page though. Similarly, Starfighter: Eclipse is a game adaptation of an adult webcomic that saw no complaints. Oh, and their backer rewards included book versions of said highly erotic comics. They simply avoided showing anything “questionable” on the main page.
If it’s dakimakuras that cause such an issue in particular, well, multiple campaigns have offered those as well. For example, Rising Angels: Fates included a photo of one on main page. Unlike Sekai Project’s offering, this character is in less of a state of undress. The dakimakura concept as a whole is often utilized with visual novel projects. Many have pointed in particular to Sunrider’s outwardly explicit, fully nude character dakimakuras but it’s worth noting that those images were posted long after the campaign finished. Many mature-themed games and items have been funded, but many have also been canceled. For example, Soda Pop Miniatures attempt to create a card game based on highly pornographic roots was suspended.
Of course, most of these examples are for games that would be rated AO, or for 18+ individuals. The funding of Grisaia has thus far had nothing to do with its 18+ version and only the trimmed console release. The game itself is not adult in nature. It’s just these damn pillowcases!
The issue seems to come down to the fact that Sekai Project advertised these “adult” bonuses on the main page. There they showcased a fairly small image of the dakimakura and bedsheet for anyone of any age to see. Sure, the nudity was censored but apparently that’s not enough. Had images of the high tier rewards been kept to backer updates I have a feeling Kickstarter would have never responded. This is unfortunate because nobody, even Kickstarter veteran Sekai Project, knew how the company would react. This whole debacle helps to showcase that you’ve got to be really careful about how you advertise your product on the site. One wrong move and you might just lose a ton of funding.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]