With several titles recently taken for crowdfunding these days—Studio Trigger’s LWA, for one—it’s a rather curious subject to consider, especially in regards to the media industry’s future prospects.
The promise of crowdfunding is brilliant. Any small yet ingenious idea can be given proper backing through the simple, direct process of person-to-internet-to-person investments. No middlemen, no fatso corporations, no small devil riding on your shoulder asking whether you should listen to your editor or go fuck all and write your works honestly but without the right publicity. Crowdsourcing is a sweet romantic gesture. But what makes this especially novel is just how much freedom (and even ill responsibility) is appropriated to the creator. Can public hyped spontaneity actually spawn tangible results? Or do they all fall through from a glop of shallow advertising?
In comes Kick-Heart, sticking the middle finger to the man and shining through exactly from what funded it so well. Masaaki Yuasa may not be a household name, but any experienced anime goer will at least be familiar with it. Mind Game, Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy—all critically received works with lustrious visuals, sound narratives, and a cult following to boot. Any poorfag fledgling citing Shinbo as the most visually creative director of all time gets mocked at by the few who see his same bags of tricks used in many of his series, and with nowhere near as gargantuan of a bag as the man Yuasa’s himself.
Exposition and general praise aside, Kick-Heart really only confirms my personal take on crowdfunding’s effectiveness; it’s an innovative idea that is just not laid out well enough in detail. Kick-Heart‘s plot is trifling even for a short’s standard; each event shuffles clumsily and routinely toward the next. An orphanage, a sudden match-up, the need for so much setup toward a climax that doesn’t actually set anything up, and an inconsequential wrestling match. The only memorable thing I’ll ever recall months from now will be wrestlers with carnal acronyms performing metaphorical rainbow sex.
But that’s fine (sort of); a short most visibly is a pilot for potential, oftentimes flaunting its visuals as a commercial product for future investments. In this regard, Kick-Heart‘s artwork is appealing, and features a clever use of visuals as usual with Yuasa works—particularly in the sumptuous colors and lifeless movement giving birth to lively (and often literal) metaphors. As expected from a rather amateur affair, it is a bit rough on the edges, and this is most discernible from the pencil sketches composing each character. It’s cheap, and it too uncannily opposes the wacky mood flavored by the more professionally rendered visual styles. Most of all, there’s nothing in this short that wasn’t more prominently showcased in superior works. This is like a blip of Mind Game‘s brilliance, but paling in its attempts at integrating proper visuals to the proper context.
If this is the work of a crowdfunded project, color me unimpressed (and I would be doubly disappointed had I sunk money with a pledge). There isn’t anything here beyond a shadow of Yuasa’s imagination, nor any particular attendance toward a good narrative. And I shouldn’t be needing to say this, but this surely cannot be excused by its short format. Puny stories can be good stories; they simply need to be more wise with how they spend their time (and not include that unnecessary wrestling intro, for example). Tell me Yuasa’s Happy Machine from Studio 4°C’s Genius Party anthology wasn’t more impressive.
Kick-Heart is an odd experiment nonetheless, and while I found the result rather drab, I’m still crossing my fingers for anime projects obtaining funds in this manner in general. Of course, this is not a new procedure, and it’s been used for at least a dozen years already. And in this respect, I honestly don’t see anything as substantial as, say, a 1-cour television series, ever brought to life through a forever insatiable cycle of hype. Longer titles will simply not last through this method of funding.
This brings up a deluge of questions with just how many potentially brilliant shows could be available if it were not for the restrictions of today’s funding standards. How much is lost when production is based on networks and studios’ drive for pandering, money grubbing, and/or otherwise? How often do we see a Mushishi, Ghost in the Shell, Mononoke, or Baccano compared to the harem or light novel malarkey intended for hand-fornicating NEET? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. It’s a bit cynical to speculate at the death of all-time favorite creations that could have existed in a more open world. But, until someone ever invents thoughtspeak, that’s where the road for the future lies. Well, f-fanservice isn’t all bad, right??