The Future of Little Witch Academia

Something almost unbelievable happened last night. Trigger Inc. set up a campaign to crowdfund the next episode of their 2013 Anime Mirai title Little Witch Academia, and in less than five hours, they met their $150,000 goal and more.

This is remarkable for many reasons. While there have been other projects related to Japanese animation that have tried this crowdfunding model (mainly with regards to legal distribution), this is only the second original piece of animation work from Japan to come out of this. The fervor with which this was funded tells us that there is a Western market for these products at Eastern prices, and that we have yet to reach the mythic “Kickstarter fatigue” for this medium. If current statistical trends hold up, this campaign has the potential to raise millions of dollars.

I say that without yet mentioning the amazing outreach by the creators at Studio Trigger.  Through keeping open and ongoing dialogue with Western fans and providing free, easy, and legal means by which we can watch the first Little Witch Academia, they’ve done a remarkable job of endearing themselves to the fandom at large. This is further exemplified in their campaign pitch where they claimed to have first learned about crowdfunding through the English commenters’ repeated use of the word “Kickstarter.”

This is a masterstroke on the part of Studio Trigger executives. It shows how much they value the Western market and fandom by directly acknowledging their comments and wishes. In turn this fueled the initial funding frenzy to 180% of their initial goal at the time of this writing, one day into the campaign. This shows a belief in the fans on the creators’ parts, and the fans responded in kind by participating with a sense of invigorated ownership and a belief of their own in the quality of the product.

But this ownership and belief on the part of backers and fans has given rise to a sense of possessiveness. Reading through the commentary you’ll see two common refrains: don’t use any of the funding for an English language dub track; or no funding until an English dub is confirmed. On the cutting edge of democratized funding, we are in the midst of a subs vs. dubs debate.

One late Saturday night when I was 17, I was flipping through cable channels when I came upon a boy complaining about how “nothing amazing ever happens [t]here.” In less than half an hour, I can confidently claim that my life had changed. There was a kind of manifest love on my screen that I responded to viscerally, perhaps also as a consequence of my age. It had just the right amount of “cool,” sardonic wit, disaffected angst,  sexual imagery and symbolism, and aching sincerity to speak to me and other adolescents of like mind. Perhaps another title could have had the same effect for me later on, but I came to FLCL at the exact right moment at the exact right time to instigate a life long love for this medium. FLCL was my gateway anime, and ten years later, Little Witch Academia has the potential to be the same for a new generation. This is my belief.

The argument is, that instead of spending money to hire additional English actors, the money can be used to pay the animators to lengthen the new episode itself and keep the Japanese cast. The animation is what the initial backers and the current fandom fell in love with. I understand, and sympathize, but if we were to limit the creators to only lengthening the project we do them a disservice. We all believe that Trigger will put out something unparalleled, but we need to show them something more than belief in this instance. A high quality professional dub of Little Witch Academia that can be accessed by any number media venues (including broadcast television or perhaps even a theatrical run) can have a lasting impact on the right person at the right time.

Anime as it is, is part of an entertainment industry that has a very narrow and specific appeal. Americans don’t like subtitles. Yes, it’s not just Americans that will reap the benefit of a successful Little Witch campaign, just as it’s not just them who are seeing to its success to begin with. But America is still a vast market, and success there through TV broadcast or video stream services (or even cinema!) can ensure not just an ease of access to this title, but possibly brand new fans. New fans, in turn, can contribute to the robustness of the industry as a whole, which means more creative work can be created to cater to all of the markets around the world.

But for that to happen, we as backers need to relent just a bit. We need to understand that dubbing something like this isn’t a waste of our money. The through-line of Little Witch Academia is a simple and universal one, that “a believing heart is your magic.” We in turn need to reciprocate to the creators our belief in their creative decisions, but we also need just a little more than that.

We need a little faith.

source: ぺろり


Filed under Little Witch Academia

23 responses to “The Future of Little Witch Academia

  1. As a non-english speaker I wouldn’t like to see the money on something like that, can see why some people would like, but the only ones that can benefit from that is the english speaker audience.
    Still, really happy to see this studio going well with the public.

  2. Some Guy

    I feel like you’re missing the point a bit: Would having a dub be a bad thing? No. Would having Trigger pay for it be a bad idea? Yes. Someone like Funimation can pay for a dub at their expense if there’s truly a demand (lest we think Trigger is going to be the one to directly negotiate getting LWA2 on Toonami or equivalent? Realistically, no.) and they could do that at any point. In contrast, if Trigger doesn’t make an additional whatever amount of LWA2 to pay for the dub instead, it’s not like Funimation or someone could come along later and add that (well, okay, the original creators “could,” but almost certainly wouldn’t). You’re framing it as a matter of dub or no dub when it’s not really like that. It’s just a question of who should pay for it and when.

  3. Miura Azusa

    The point is that the fund are limited, and anime s expensive. More materials will benefit everyone while dub only benefits American. Stop being anglo-centric and realize that not only Americans enjoy anime.

    • fathomlessblue

      I’m rather curious how one stops being ‘anglo-centric’? Should I shave away my cultural identity at the risk of not alienating others?

      Whether you seem to appreciate it not, The Little Witch Academia Kickstarter was launched on an English (although, obviously not exclusive to) language website, by an English speaking intermediary group, on behalf on Studio Trigger, who asked, in English, for help in funding the project to it’s maximum potential. I think it’s pretty clear where they’ve set out their stall, in regards to the community they are chiefly expecting to deal with.

      Also, you may be surprised to learn than other countries outside America also use the English language, and will in fact make good use of a dub.

      • Countries outside America, generally speaking, are either used to subs or dubs in their own language.

        Something that keeps striking me as odd is how even news channels dub their footage.

        • fathomlessblue

          Naturally, I just a little bothered by the assumption that the English language is somehow a peculiar phenomenon, native to America. The UK (obviously), Canada, Australia, plus the vast number of countries taught the language to some extent means it’s hardly something benefiting just one set group on the planet.

  4. fathomlessblue

    As a particularly fervent supporter in the Time of Eve Kickstarter movement for adding the Pale Cocoon and Mizo no Kotoba shorts into the set, it might sound a tad hypocritical complaining about fans trying to dictate terms onto a studio, but the level of entitlement in some of those comments is rather staggering. There’s a vast difference in asking questions or making legitimate requests, and effectively blackmailing a company with your money, if they add something you dislike. Adding, not removing features.

    Let’s be honest here; Little Witch Academy is essentially a western kid’s show. A lot of people seem to take offense at that notion, as if it removes some of the magic from the franchise, but it’s undeniable. You can see it in the concept, the animation, the dialogue and the direction. The Trigger staff, even as part Gainax has always been adept at tapping into this style, even if the actual content of shows like Gurren Lagann and PS&G were decidedly more adult. LWA doesn’t have this issue. It could easily be shown on a Saturday morning slot and gain a measure of popularity, therefore I wholeheartedly agree with any attempt to help it find the greatest audience possible.

    Personally, I’m not overly interested in a dub for LWA, just as I wasn’t for Time of Eve. However, the vitriolic reaction in some of those comments is overkill, especially considering the price of a dub next to some the overall funding projections. Maybe it’s as the above comment describes and the issue is purely a concern over Trigger’s funding going straight back into the animation, yet many of the reactions strike me more of an exclusive club mentality, of not potentially allowing the property to be seen by the dirty, unwashed masses who aren’t used to subtitled properties. Given some of communities who foolishly believe themselves solely responsible for the success of the project, this unfortunately appears a partial truth.

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  6. Wholly agreed. I’d love to see even more Little Witch Academia, but adding a dub could shift this from just being something great to also being something important. This Kickstarter reveals the power and passion of the foreign market – a dub is an investment in the future of that market.

  7. I suppose the nature of entertainment leads one to think first about how/if she is being served. However, the individual viewer does not exist in a bubble with her piece of entertainment. It’s not as if anime is a booming industry at the moment, and any ways in which Trigger can expand LWA2’s potential reach and tap into a new customer base represent exciting opportunities for growth.

    Not only is this good for Trigger, but, if you look at the big picture, it’s good for you, the individual fan. Success with the dubbed version means more money for Trigger, which means they will be able to make more and better products, which means that other studios will likely try crowd funding, etc. etc.

    Essentially, I think it is a bit small-minded to be upset that a single aspect–an aspect that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the product–of a project that you otherwise want is not being made to serve your immediate interests.

    As to someone like Funimation handling the dub, I’d rather see LWA2 come out of the gate with the dub already in place in order to capitalize on the momentum of its general release. The world should be blitzed with LWA2. If everybody who wants to see the movie is talking about it and buying it at the same time, I see that as a more positive thing than if, say, there is a six month or year gap between the Japanese and English language versions. Why cut the hype in half?

    Also, for the record, I never watch dubbed anime.

    • Some Guy

      That’s the ticket, isn’t it? Both sides of the equation want a sure thing promised to them right on the spot. Of course, if those who want more LWA2 get their wish, those who want a dub might eventually get their wish, too. Just later, like they always do, in a way that worked out for the likes of FLCL and Cowboy Bebop because many who watch dubs are apparently okay with their anime not being day-and-date with Japan’s releases. If those who want a dub get their sure thing, though, the other side never has a chance of getting what they want. So the question is what’s more important: Having a dub be surer and quicker, or having more/better anime to dub in the first place? And of course, we should keep in mind that one episode of LWA probably will not actually ever air on Toonami, what with their preference for series and other reasons. In fact, it’s quite possible it’ll never see much more than the first one: A release to the backers and a retail one through a small, niche R1 company (I don’ think it’s even been released in other regions, has it?). So, which one were we supposed to gamble on again? To permanently take away from the actual animation on the slim chance that not letting someone else take care of the dubbing expenses will lead to LWA becoming a phenomenon, or the one where LWA2 is as good as possible and someone else could still dub it later? It’s nice to have pie-in-the-sky dreams, and I do wish Trigger the best, but I’d rather they not wager their and our own money on this being the silver bullet to starting the next anime boom in English-speaking countries and instead just focused on making LWA2 as well as they could. Because it seems you want the sure thing of a dub based upon what’s honestly an unlikely hypothetical, while the other side wants their sure thing that has a payload axiomatic to its own existence. You’ll have to pardon me, but I’m not seeing why LWA2 must suddenly operate like almost no other anime before it in the dubbing department to achieve the same success a number of those other dubs already have. I’m not sure, either, that setting realistic expectations based upon precedent and then asking Trigger to budget accordingly is quite “small-minded,” but maybe my view is simply too myopic to understand.

      • Why all my expectations for this anime? Basically because I think LWA is really good and really accessible. It’s good enough that Trigger should take the opportunity to push it to untapped (or infrequently tapped) markets because it has a great chance to succeed. It seems like a smart long term business decision for them and one that has the potential to have long term benefits for fandom.

        And, I’m not thinking about television (the time of Toonami has come and gone), but iTunes, XBox Live, Netflix, possibly a run in small theaters.

        More importantly though, I want to address the assumption that the production of a dub precludes giving the film a longer run time. What basis do we all have for stating this? Are we just all assuming this is the case? What if Trigger has a relatively fixed length of time they want LWA2? What if they planned to set aside a percentage for a dub, no matter how much they got, or a fixed amount of the original goal was meant to be put aside for the dub? Omo talks below about people playing “armchair anime producer.” Isn’t assuming the truth of this (possibly false) dichotomy a prime instance of that?

        • Some Guy

          While I myself look forward to LWA2, I think you’re quite overestimating the potential of it, but that’s just speculation and opinions which at this point is now pretty moot due to Trigger’s latest update. I mentioned it in another comment, but I didn’t presume LWA2 would have a possibly infinite length. Simply, until they confirmed they had enough to make as much as they were willing to make (as they now have), that should take precedence over a dub. Why did I and many others suspect they didn’t already plan to make one? Both because there was no mention of it anywhere on the Kickstarter page, which would make it kind of a jerk move if they used the money for something without telling their backers about it, and because a member of Trigger was on Twitter leaving a mix of ambivalent and somewhat negative tweets about the prospect of a dub, as well as creating a poll as to whether there should be one or not, which isn’t the typical behavior of people who are already planning to dub something. So, the notion that a dub wasn’t part of the original planned budget doesn’t seem like much of a wild assumption to me, but more like an obvious conclusion. Ergo, it would be an additional expense.

          At this point, with the length finalized, I’d be fine with the addition of a dub, but since they don’t mention it anywhere in their new stretch goals, I suspect it’s currently pretty firmly in the realm of “not happening.” Which I guess means one side doesn’t get a dub, the other side doesn’t get the even longer LWA2 they hoped for, and both sides just get 40 minutes of almost assuredly great anime. Well shucks.

  8. Why should Trigger (and by extension the people, myself included, who donated to the kickstarter) pay for a English dub? How many Japanese studio’s pay for a foreign dub themselves? Virtually none that I’m aware of.

    If people want a dub then it should come from whatever company licenses it (eg. Funimation or Viz).

    A dub wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the original kickstarter page so in a way it’s deceiving to then use the money for one.

    If people want a dub that badly open a second kickstarter for just that purpose (I VERY much doubt it will reach it’s goal)

  9. Will LWA earn a cool $1 million? Probably not. Right now its number of backers have already exceeded the Time of Eve/Kick-Heart audience, which we can assume are the ‘core’ international anime bankrolling audience. While there will be additional bandwagon backers because the content is so accessible and Western-friendly (and proven successful), I don’t think there are significantly more hardcore anime backers than the ~3500 previous KS projects have demonstrated. The hardcore have made their pledges already. Even if LWA doubles its total backers at current support levels, it’s set to make a bit under $600k. A rousing success, but not the delirious millions the trending numbers suggest, and certainly not enough to get a full series.

    But the raging dubbing debate has been troubling. Look at how both Time of Eve & Kick-Heart, productions with much less broad mainstream appeal, successfully added English dubs and numerous other foreign language subtitle tracks with little controversy, but for LWA all sorts of characters come out of the woodwork. I’ve seen arguments from “dubs are only for a tiny niche audience” to “I’ve never ever heard a good dub so they are all terrible and evil”, incredibly narrow-minded and extreme prejudices cultivated in hidden away corners of the internet based on a couple poor localizations from years ago.

    Consider now the prevailing anti-dub logic, “a domestic distributor should fund it don’t use my money”. Well how about my money? I torrent and steal anime with the best of ’em, but I furnish a sizable physical collection of anime series with one of the main purposes is to share with friends and family, folks who at best can be described as merely casual fans. So what’s gonna happen? Are a few hundred angry nerds that hate English/America who shouted a lot going deny the hundreds of others like me (that also made sizable pledges) a feature (that any can choose to ignore) we could get use out of, perhaps to evangelize others to the medium? Or would we be made to buy another copy with a dub by mystery licensor X (which isn’t assured) to be made available at a later date?

    What language are these folks using to watch this anyway? Do they watch the raw Japanese, or do they believe professional subtitling is free?

    Using Time of Eve & Kick-Heart dubs as a benchmark, we can estimate dubbing another language will cost around $40-50k for 100 minutes, enough to cover a whole 3 episodes of LWA should the funding be there. Is that extra 5-6 minutes of animation those funds could pay for that crucial in a project that is, by even conservative projections, going to be flush with money? I’d rather Trigger hire the folks to dub this themselves, while it can be assured to pass their own quality control, than hoist it off as something for someone else to do, maybe. The very presence of this project on Kickstarter means Trigger is very interested in its Western audience and would like to cater to us a bit.

    “I hope LWA 2 will be made as good as possible and can be seen by as many people as possible. A dub could certainly be a benefit there.” Said by Todd DuBois, writer and editor of Toon Zone, a man who might know something about popular animation in the mainstream. A dub might not be for you. Fine. It’s for clubs, conventions, Netflix, XBox, and all the acquaintances and kids that might be turned off by too much reading but might appreciate a little magic and imagination.

    • Some Guy

      I can understand your frustrations at potentially having to buy another copy of LWA2 to get the film with a dub to share with others, but could you also understand the other frustration at, if a dub were to be included at the expense of the animation, those on the other side being guaranteed to never even have the option to buy a version of the film that has what they wanted? I see you apparently want to position this as “angry nerds” (as opposed to the non-nerd alternative that’s going out of their way to watch a Japanese cartoon?) that simply want to deny you a dub out of spite, but perhaps while you focus on what these effigies are potentially denying you, you might also focus on what getting your desires would certainly deny them.

      • The cost of a dub is a couple minutes, maybe a scene. If this project goes where everyone thinks it can, the contributions will cover everything the creators have conceived and then some. Surely a dub won’t impede the great creative endeavor this will surely become.

        It’s as if this argument assumes all 4000+ backers will enjoy every last extra and special of this endeavor. Why the singling out of just an English dub? Why can’t we have it all?

        • Some Guy

          What If I were to offer you the inverse argument? That is, the sacrifice for to get an additional couple of minutes, maybe a scene is just one dub in just one language? It’s a matter of perspective. If they had all the funds they needed to make as much LWA as they were prepared to make and then also wanted to add a dub on top of that with excess funds, by all means. But until then, it seems your protest is that one side is asking to get the thing they want while you can’t see why they won’t sacrifice that to give you the thing you want and they have no interest in. Since unless and until there are enough funds to make LWA as long as Trigger is willing to and fund a dub on top of that, we cannot “have it all,” someone is going to walk away unhappy getting less than everything they wanted. Only one side, your side, has any chance of ever getting what they wanted later on, but you want the other side to sacrifice any chance of getting what’s a higher priority for them so that you can have a guarantee of what you want.

          I can’t presume to speak for the numerous other people who’d rather see the animation be prioritized, but in this particular instance I’m singling out an English dub because this article did. But I’d be just as displeased to see the funds go towards making a Diana nendo or something like that if the maximum possible amount of LWA wasn’t already funded.

  10. Qualifying statement for those who might come across this article but not read the Kickstarter page itself:

    Studio TRIGGER already had a second episode of Little Witch Academia in the works. The Kickstarter was created to add 15 minutes to the 20 minutes that they had initially planned for the episode. So strictly speaking, the project is not coming out of the crowdfunding model, but it certainly is being enhanced. Given the phenomenal success of this Kickstarter though, perhaps it will not be long before we see one that is fully born from crowdfunding.

    I definitely approve of Studio TRIGGER for reaching out to their overseas fans, and vice versa. Crowdfunding may only be successful in these cases where the creators’ reputation and audience’s hype meet in the right place, but I think other studios can take a lesson in being receptive to their global audience. When creators can work on what they’re passionate about and viewers can watch what they’re excited about, that’s when magic happens.

  11. omo

    A couple things.
    1) This dub/sub thing feels like retarded. But what’s amazing is that there’s a discussion about distribution in disguise here. I was hoping this article actually spin this out because the cue to FLCL is spot on…and entirely misses the point of what it takes for a FLCL to get on a Toonami or MTV or w/e. What people should be talking about is distribution. Of course in the end it’s Trigger’s call (and job/responsibility) to take care of it, but we need to realize the power of Kickstarter partly comes from the ability to take distribution into the studio’s hands, without publishers meddling with things. Or helping with things. Or pitching it to a TV station. Or all nine (million) yards it takes to get an anime into a (sub)urban teen’s hands. They don’t call it the anime industry for nothing.
    2) And this leads to my second point. I’m probably a lone naysayer here but if you feel disgusted about Penny Arcade’s kickstarters, you ought to feel the same with Trigger’s. Most blog posts/etc misses the point that the LWA2 kickstarter merely adds minutes to an existing project that would’ve be available without the Kickstarter anyway. If Production IG’s tight little team can pull together Kick Heart basically from scratch with probably half the money LWA2 KS will pull in, what should we realistically expect from Trigger? Another 15 minutes? 30? 5? And more over, will this added run time be beneficial? Would it screw with the timing and pacing of the episode? Is this the stuff we ought to worry about? Will the studio that will likely produce a hit title next season really need fan money up front to make an OAV episode?

    In the end I think the dubbing comments are well worth the merit–it’s a mode of consumption some of us prefer. Letting those voices to be heard is what Kickstarter is all about. The rest is just armchair anime producer by a bunch of people who probably shouldn’t be.

    • foon

      This. I was at the LWA panel at AX where they first announced the Kickstarter (at least, I think we were the first to hear about it) and the first thing I thought was, “seriously?”. This is a studio that, while new, is obviously going to have a huge hit on their hands come fall season due to name recognition of its creators (and the fact that it’s probably going to be awesome). Do they really need crowdfunding a for second episode of something that was already popular? It just seems like an abuse of Kickstarter to me. The thing I did like about it is that it means Trigger is specifically reaching out to its Western fans, but the only reason I care about that is because I’m one of them.

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