Interview with Sam Pinansky of Anime Sols

May 27th, 2013

One of the absolute best things about working with JManga were the people involved. Robert, Yae-san, and Carl, the letterer who toiled so diligently for us. And it was my genuine pleasure to be able to work with Sam Pinansky of QuarkPro. Now Sam and his team have launched the ambitious new anime streaming and funding site, Anime Sols. I think it’s an interesting idea.

As Bruce McF said in comments here, “There’s nothing to DO at a Kickstarter other than to see how fast the thing is moving, and if it hits its basic goals, what stretch goals they come up with. By contrast, at Anime Sols, there’s a new episode every week for each series ~ one per day, given the series they have.So rather than a rush of pledges at the beginning and a rush of pledges at the end, if Anime Sols works, it could well have a steady flow of pledges as the series is running, and then hopefully a rush at the end when the time limit is hitting and its put up or shut up time.“I thought that a perfect summation of what I saw, and I wanted to get it all from Sam’s view.

Thanks so much to Sam for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my nosey-parker questions. ^_^

E: Tell us a little about yourself and about QuarkPro. How did you get involved in anime and what are you doing now in the field? 

S: I went to school to study theoretical physics and got into anime when I was in college. While getting my Ph. D I took Japanese on the side and really enjoyed the language, and at the same time I started translating some anime as a hobby by fansubbing. After doing a postdoc in Japan I decided to stay, worked as a freelance translator for Crunchyroll and other companies during the early days of legal streaming, and after getting a job at Tezuka Productions, I continued to do that kind of work and expand my network. About a year ago I switched jobs to work for the Yomiuri TV group company ADEC and now I’m International Media Strategy Group Chief at YTV Enterprise. My current job consists of running a localization group in YTV Enterprise as well as new project development and technical encoding assistance. Quarkpro is my own Japanese LLC I started so I could be an investor in Anime Sols.

E: Anime Sols appears to be a streaming service with a crowdfunding component. . Where did the idea come from? What is the goal of Anime Sols?

S: I had the idea for Anime Sols more than 2 years ago, prior to the crowdfunding boom we’ve seen with Kickstarter. My experience in fansubbing taught me that basically every genre has its core fans and that they as a customer base were being poorly served by the current licensing paradigm… Japan needed to be able to directly sell to western fans but also needed to be able to do so with low risk, and crowdfunding was the perfect answer to that question.

E: So the site is really a crowdfunding site with a streaming component. ^_^

S: The streaming is necessary because most of the titles are fairly unknown [in the West,] so it’s important to have a website that not only collects pledges, but is also a place for people to watch and discover new shows to enjoy. The goal of Anime Sols is to introduce classic anime which are not so well known in the west, and to enable shows which otherwise are not viable to get a traditional license have a chance to be released on official R1 DVD with subtitles. It’s my hope that a core of dedicated fans will form which will help to attract new viewers and fans for these shows and create a healthy market for classic anime titles.

E: What are the differences between Anime Sols and other crowdfunding sites? 

S: One of the main differences is that Anime Sols is not an open platform. The site owner is a partnership of Japanese animation and media companies, and it’s those companies which are also providing the content and raising money through goal pledges. This allows 100% of the funds raised to go to the rights-holders and also avoids a lot of messy licensing legal issues with crowdfunding. There are other differences between Anime Sols and Kickstarter, for example, your pledges are charged when the goal is reached, not when the deadline hits. Please see the FAQ on the website for more details.

E: What have been the major challenges you’ve faced with the idea?

S: The most difficult thing was getting the other partners of the Anime Sols LLP to finalize the contract. But before that, we also faced numerous hurdles in terms of getting enough partners and finding content which we could attempt this business model with. The site development was also faced with an extremely tight budget and required a lot of work personally. Currently we are trying to figure out ways to get the word out and increase the number of site visitors, which is the biggest problem we are facing.

E: Interviews like this help, to some extent, but yeah, it always helps to have more feet on the ground. Do you have expansion plans if this first wave works out? Other titles or more countries in the works?

S: We have a number of further titles lined up that we would like to continue with, and we’re beginning talks with other companies to see if they have any titles they would like to place on Anime Sols as well. Expansion into other territories is something we will be looking into further down the line once the business is more established.

E: After a set is funded, you said that you’ve lined up distribution. Is that going to be worldwide?

E: Pledges can only be made from the US and Canada and will be distributed through Righstuf. however, we will be producing at least 1000 sets for any goal that is reached, so any sets which have not been pledged for we plan to distribute to the usual retailers such as Rightstuf, and they are free to sell to whomever they want, including international consumers who wish to import the R1 release into their own country.

E: Do you have a message for fans?

S: I hope that anyone reading this article takes the time to come to animesols.com and register, and then check out some of the over 60 episodes of classic anime we have streaming now for free, plus new episodes every day!

***

Thanks again, Sam, for your time – and for your vision. I love the idea of fans helping to fund the work that they personally love – it’s so much more meaningful that just sitting back waiting for someone else to invest in it for us. You have my support and the support of a lot of people who would love to see some of those classic titles see the light of day. Here’s wishing Anime Sols the best of luck.

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11 Responses

  1. daikon says:

    This is an interesting model. I wonder if something similar could work for manga licensing?

    • Digital Manga Publishing has used Kickstarter to launch a few titles, all Tezuka titles. They also have gone the opposite way with the Digital Manga Guild, taking the money out of the pockets of the people who do the work, in order to make it cheap for readers to buy the content.

      One of the issues with using a crowdfunding model is that it is (at this point) mostly driven by popularity. More obscure titles will have a harder time getting funded, which is exactly why Sam and his team are looking to get the word out. Obscure manga titles are legion. You can check out Manga Reborn to see a slightly different take on manga crowdfunding for manga.

  2. BruceMcF says:

    Note that I had more to say about AnimeSols and Kickstarter finance in general than could fit into a comment, so I wrote a blog post, “Experiments in a new media economy.” at Voices on the Square, crossposted to The Stars Hollow Gazette and Daily Kos.

    However, the actual news is that the survey now up at AnimeSols includes Dear Brother (Oniisama e) as an option. Its the only one in the list of offerings that I could say for sure that I would pledge $40 for.

    (Sorry for originally posting this comment in the wrong story)

  3. I really hope this takes off. I’m enjoying the goofballness of the original Yatterman series and have ordered the first set. I’m also pleased to see Creamy Mami’s number climbing.

    • BruceMcF says:

      Yes, if there is going to be a set that makes its target, its going to be Creamy Mami ~ those who want to support the site but don’t see anything they want to own could do worse than tip a $5 or $10 pledge to Creamy Mami.

      In my survey general comments, I suggested that both the end of the target period and the shut down of streaming should be four weeks after premiering the final episode in the set, and if two weeks to go comes and it hasn’t hit, the balance should be put up as a project on Kickstarter, with the standard “fulfillment is from the US, if you are outside of the US, you will be responsible for shipping charges and for customs” disclaimer.

  4. BruceMcF says:

    Is there an Okazu Bump effect (akin to the Colbert Bump)? Just looked at AnimeSols, Creamy Mami ticked up from 20% to 23% of their goal in the last two days.

    • I can’t say. I know we get a fair number of outclicks , but it’s impossible to know if there are actions directly from those clicks unless they are on the Yuricon shop.

      • BruceMcF says:

        Yes, its an open speculation rather than a check-able fact. For instance, an Anime Addiction podcast just went up with an AnimeSols interview.

        (Mind, while the Colbert Bump certainly exists within the Colbert Universe, whether its a real thing is also something a bit more speculative.)

        Anyway, the good news is that Creamy Mami has broken 25%+, so the Doom and Gloom “none of the sets have even hit 1/4 funding” has to be set aside in favor of “none of the sets have even hit 1/2 funding”. At Creamy Mami’s current pace, that would fall in turn in roughly two week’s time.

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