Do you love video games? What about anime? For some reason, many fans of one form of media are often fan of the other. I consider myself a fan of both, though the majority of my time is spent purely on gaming these days. In any case, because of my interest in Japanese animation, I was alerted to the launch of The Vision of Escaflowne Kickstarter when it began at the end of February. For the uninitiated, this series is tremendously well-loved and holds up to this day despite being twenty years old now. In any case, the crowdfunding campaign asked for $150,000 in order to re-dub the entire show for its Blu-Ray release. This new dub is apparently necessary because the upcoming disc release will be uncut, while the original show was not in its English debut. As such, there would be voices missing and therefore they have to redo the whole thing. Okay, there might be a bit more to it than that, but there’s actually not much description of the need of an entirely new dub.

Really, though, the key thing about The Vision of Escaflowne on Kickstarter that many failed to realize is that this project is headed by Funimation. If you’ve ever watched anime, then chances are you’ve heard of this company before. They bring tons of anime to English-speaking audiences and are no small company. Yet, here they are coming to a crowdfunding site for help… Kind of. This Kickstarter isn’t even about ensuring the upcoming Blu-Ray release. If it fails, then they would provide a subtitled release first and then potentially go for producing an original English dub version afterward. The project is one to “gauge… demand” as we’ve seen some other companies use the platform as before. A lot of this should have set alarm bells off for people.

Instead, The Vision of Escaflowne was funded in the span of a few days. As of this writing, it is on the cusp of reaching its second of three stretch goals. It seems very few lovers of the series took much convincing, as they pooled right in from the get go. As followers of video game crowdfunding campaigns, we know this is not always a safe move, but sometimes can’t help but jump in on a campaign regardless because of a famed developer or property. This is almost certainly what has happened on this project. After all, the page says precious little about anything of importance.

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If you’ve never watched The Vision of Escaflowne then you certainly won’t learn a damn thing about it by reading through the project page (aside from the fact that it is old and a classic). Not only that, but Funimation has deemed a project cost breakdown completely unnecessary. So, uh, where the heck is this money going exactly? If we truly listen to the team and their goal of using this as a pre-order and interest-gauging stunt, then none of the money goes to anything other than early payment on those upcoming Blu-Rays. Yet they for whatever reason were not willing to explicitly state this in a clear way for all backers to see. Personally, I would have preferred such a move. It would not deter backers, but it would be a much-needed step toward transparency which the company seems uninterested in doing even when they’re collecting tons of fan funds and suggest that they “want our fans to be more involved.”

Anime projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo are nothing new. Even right now, there’s one running to give Skip Beat! an official North American release. The big difference here is scope, as well as explanation. The team on this project in particular seems more like a group of fans/friends looking to pay for the rights and give it the best treatment possible. This lack of outright business savvy shows as the project page isn’t particularly chock full of info either, but at least there’s passion – not to mention they did previously produce a high quality Blu-Ray for Time of Eve. Funimation, on the other hand, is a long established player in the industry which has little to lose and a lot of unneeded money to gain – and should know better. I am not certain whether or not the “Kickstarter gold rush” has hit the anime community before, but this shows that there’s still room for projects to succeed off of an established/loved property and little else.

The fact that one of the biggest names in anime localization is on Kickstarter is worrisome for more than just the fact that they apparently don’t know how to put even basic information on a Kickstarter page. It’s the idea that we may eventually see big name publishers come to Kickstarter under the guise of getting closer to their fans or meeting their needs directly. We should all be able to tell that this is primarily another means of them collecting funding earlier. The video game industry already loves this concept – just look at pre-orders. If companies could secure money from consumers even earlier than the pre-order process (aka: during development) why wouldn’t they go for it? Sure, this is already happening in the case of indie games getting crowdfunded and on Early Access, but generally the biggest companies aren’t direct participants.

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Could we ever see Activision, EA, or Blizzard come to Kickstarter? I certainly hope not, but wonder if we may see that down the road in a few years. There are already established (if small) companies doing as much, such as Harmonix with their second crowdfunding campaign. I hope that we don’t ever see this come to pass because it would be just another means of getting consumer cash when it isn’t even required. “Gauging interest” is hardly an excuse, anyway. Don’t you think that large companies have a whole lot of analytics on their customer base and conduct interest surveys regularly? They do. Funimation should already be aware whether or not there is interest enough for a full re-dub of The Vision of Escaflowne. Apparently they already know there’s enough love for the show to produce a Blu-Ray release regardless. Anything else beyond that, though, just seems like a smokescreen to hide their true intentions.

Perhaps this worry is for naught and that we will never see a monolithic gaming publisher take their next project to Kickstarter. I just find it hard to completely dispose of the possibility given that it is now occurring in other industry segments. We’ll just need to keep an eye on the service and see what happens. Luckily, I have a feeling that gamers would most certainly not welcome a publisher like Activision with open arms onto Kickstarter.

Marcus Estrada
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. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come.
Marcus Estrada

@BackerMarcus

Writer for @Cliqist - This is my new ''PROFESSIONAL'' account. Yay, crowdfunded video games!
Glad to see the BL visual novel Sentimental Trickster was funded. How about those #Kickstarter stretch goals? https://t.co/AEU8LaeD6M - 1 year ago
Marcus Estrada
  • I have mixed feelings on this, especially given that were commenting on Funimation. However, to be honest I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner, especially given how badly the anime industry is doing these days. Personally I’d feel a lot better about a crowdfunding campaign, if it were for Hentai/18+ media, as in my opinion thats the section of the industry that seems to struggle outside of Japan; not that it would happen anyway due to Kickstarters unfriendly policies on Adult media.

  • Dawnyaaa

    I won’t back it. “The Vision of Escaflowne is one of the most prolific classic anime to date—and a pivotal title in opening the door to anime fandom in North America.” “The series is beloved worldwide, but there has never been a complete English dub for fans. The uncut HD Japanese version of the show includes scenes that have never been seen in North America”

  • First off, despite being a big fan of Escaflowne I won’t be backing this one. I’m not a fan of dubs for starters. Good ones are so few that unless they can prove that they’ve got primo talent voicing at least the main cast I’ll have to pass. Secondly, I’m not really much of a fan of Funimation. For the most part I’ve found that their dubs suck and I’m almost always sitting listening to the original Japanese while reading the subtitles.

    As for the fear that big names will jump on board Kickstarter I doubt we’ll see an EA or Activision or Blizzard use crowdfunding for much of anything. However, we have seen plenty of big names in the community (Tim Shafer, Brian Fargo, etc) and the larger indie developers use this platform to great effect. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve backed both the big projects as well as plenty of smaller indie groups. However, those with the money like the ones mentioned will most likely have a harder time convincing people to give money so soon in development. Especially the almost universally hated EA.

  • ced1106

    I’m not agreeing with your article. First, Funimation has experience releasing dubbed anime. Second, it’s not obviously clear that an anime that’s already been on the market for years is worth dubbing when there are other newly released anime titles out there. Both are risks, so why not find out the market demand for the product? Dunno about you, but I think 150K is a non-trivial amount of budget when you don’t know how many will buy — much less listen to — a dub.

  • Anthony

    Can’t say I agree with your assessment here, though I do see where you are coming from.

    “Gauging interest” is hardly an excuse,
    anyway. Don’t you think that large companies have a whole lot of
    analytics on their customer base and conduct interest surveys regularly?
    They do. Funimation should already be aware whether or not there is
    interest enough for a full re-dub of The Vision of Escaflowne.”

    If this was a new show I might agree here. However this is old show. Interest surveys can be helpful, but survey, polls, etc.. can deceive a company. People could jump in saying there is a bunch of interest then when said product comes out not buy even if it is the best of quality thus costing the company a lot of money and even more, they might be less included to dub certain shows in this type of situation.

    “Not only that, but Funimation has deemed a project cost breakdown completely unnecessary. ”

    They might not be allowed to due to licensing contracts.

    “Funimation, on the other hand, is a long
    established player in the industry which has little to lose and a lot of
    unneeded money to gain”

    They have money to lose, which if they lose a lot of money on said project it is possible that they will be less likely to grab older shows or shows of this nature in the future.

  • Meexa

    I’m so sad that funimation’s kickstarter didn’t go so well publicity wise. Hopefully if they do, do a 2nd one, it goes much better. To this date, especially since being apart of it. I think bloodstained ritual is a good example to follow for well done kickstarters. Even though I’m a little worried considering what happened to mighty no. 9.