Under the dog kickstarter campaign in review: putting our faith in decent anime

Crowdfunding has brought about many changes for industries and independent creators — some have come and gone without a sound, but there has been one recent Kickstarter campaign that has captured the attention of anime viewers.

Leading the campaign was a team of animation veterans (and an endorsement from <em>Metal Gear</em>&rsquo;s Hideo Kojima to boot) consisting of Masahiro Ando, the lead animator of <em>Neon Genesis Evangelion</em>, Yusuke Kozaki, the character designer of the most recent <em>Fire Emblem</em> game and <em>No More Heroes</em> 3-D animation from Orange Co. (<em>Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Tiger &amp; Bunny</em>) and more.

The campaign ended successfully on Sept. 7, 2014 as one of the most funded projects under the Film/Animation Kickstarter category. With a grand total of 12,157 backers raising a total of&nbsp; $878,028, the project was successfully backed.

In this list are a mash of people that have helped define several great anime and games, most significantly, writer Jiro Ishii, who produced the DS Game <em>9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. </em>These creators banded together with the hopes of creating an anime in the same vein of<em> Akira</em> and <em>Ghost in the Shell</em>.

The reason for a Kickstarter? That the work would not be at the mercy of production committees, and hopefully lead to a project of true creative freedom and expression from this group of veterans. A lot of people must have felt the desire to truly see something that is creative and free of constraints, even if only 24 minutes in length.

The story will center on a high school assassin set in a not-so-far-off future and play on the depictions of action and espionage under pressure.

For the pledge of $20+ to back the project, backers received a digital download of the 24-hour episode being released in 2015 (or later). I had read through the page, and while reading the breakdown of the costs, I came to realize that a lot of people, myself included, don&rsquo;t quite understand how much money is needed to put up front before an anime can be created. Even with the idea green lit by the studios, the music, the advertising, and other aspects are at the mercy of other decision makers.

Most anime titles are created and aired with back-up plans on how to make up for the original price of creating the show through merchandising. I suspect we&rsquo;ll still be seeing the odd <em>Evangelion</em> merchandise 10 years from now, if 4.0 ever really does come out.

Anime Sols is a site that comes to mind, where English-reading members of the anime community can crowdfund obscure titles for DVD release, whereas, <em>Under the Dog </em>takes it from the bottom up. <em>Under the Dog&rsquo;s</em> pilot episode follows in the footsteps of the wildly successful Studio TRIGGER&rsquo;s <em>Little Witch Academia</em> Kickstarter that raised almost four times the requested amount to produce a sequel.

While these Kickstarters do show that it is possible for fans to put their money where their mouth is, it also highlights the shortcomings of creative freedom for the multitudes of episodes that are created each season.

Not every studio can spend seven years to create mind melding masterpieces like Takeshi Koike/Studio MADHOUSE&rsquo;s Redline. There are many people with a stake in the various shows, and it should be interesting to see how the reduced &ldquo;cooks in the kitchen&rdquo; will bring about the episode sincenormally the various people with stakes in a show will push for certain music, character types, and merchandise, this is a refreshing direction.

The trailer for the Kickstarter apparently costed around $100,000 to produce even before the start of the campaign. I have high hopes that this might bring about something worth watching.

There are clearly other anime created for the niche audience that is guaranteed to make back the money that was required to produced the episodes, which reduces the number of studios willing to take risks on making something genuinely unique or enjoyable under the weight of controlling production committees.

In a Reddit AMA, producer Hiroaki Yura touched on the topics of hoping to see something that isn&rsquo;t always moe, and wanting to see another film like the influential <em>Akira</em>. Surprisingly, Yura mentioned that the recent show that he felt embraced artistic freedom the most was TRIGGER&rsquo;s <em>Kill la Kill</em>, a tale of overthrowing an oppressive force through sentient clothing. Personally, <em>Kill la Kill</em> intersected at the place of things I love and hate, because it was a really fun anime, but I felt uncomfortable for a great many parts of it.

It&rsquo;s hard to ignore something that uses #keepanimealive as its hashtag. One particular speed bump for the campaign appeared when the <em>Under The Dog</em> organizers stated that they would be relying on fansubbers for translations, but later retracted it based on the comments from backers and industry groups like Polymanga and Crunchyroll. From the looks of it, they&rsquo;re going to have the project translated professionally, and will be considering several other languages outside of the originally stated English and German.

Overall, the understanding that production committees have specific tropes and content guidelines, that the anime bits and pieces that we love and hate, are not always true representations of the original creator&rsquo;s vision. This might be a step in the direction of seeing creations that are closer to the artistic and innovative side, rather than an endless parade of cash cow shows, grazing in the fields of &ldquo;meh.&rdquo; You can still head on over to http://under-the-dog.com and pledge some additional funds if you want in on a piece of animation history.

<em>Follow me on Twitter (@kaitou_al) for other anime ramblings.</em>