Kindaichi R Key Art - 20140702If you haven’t given a listen to last week’s ANNCast, go. Do it now. I’ll wait for you.

Have you listened now? Awesome. The show had a number of truly fascinating tidbits scattered through the episode. Particularly interesting bits include the following:

  • For example, the company’s seen only two titles funded to completion so far: Creamy Mami and Dear Brother, with Mami taking the crown for top performer.
  • Anime Sols’s pledge drive for Tezuka books failed due to the fact that they were previously published in English under a different title. The old release is readily available on Amazon for under five bucks
  • Due to the fact that Anime Sols is a Japanese partnership, they get the final say on pricing… and they don’t care if they don’t make money from Anime Sols. They’d rather destroy outstanding copies than sell at a sharp discount. The company may need to destroy their remaining stock if the company doesn’t renew its LLP agreement.
  • Anime Sols needs one DVD set to break even a month to break even, roughly. They haven’t broken even yet, but the company didn’t do terribly.
  • Anime Sols‘ three successful titles are linked by one thread: they have a pre-existing fanbase from fansubs.
  • The most successful titles in terms of funding saw nearly zero streaming views. Anything past the third episodes of Dear Brother or Creamy Mami saw fewer than 100 views, in general.
  • Anime Sols will begin “opening the vaults” by uploading nine titles for streaming. The first three episodes will be translated, most for the first time. To see each cour funded, fans will need to pledge about $1,500. The shows that perform the best will see a DVD goal.

The biggest take-away, though, is that Anime Sols announced four new titles. The company will stream Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo and Wonder Three, in addition to Tatsunoko Production’s Toshi Gordian. On top of this, the company will take pledges for a DVD release of Kindaichi Case Files Returns (I am not calling it “The File of Young Kindaichi Returns.” Sorry, everyone!)

And, to be fair, this is big news on a few levels. Dororo, Wonder Three, and Toshi Gordian never saw formal releases in North America. Despite their status as classic anime titles, they’ve eluded the market, be it due to limited sales potential, license costs, or some other factor.

That’s not to say that they’ve been entirely out of the west, mind you. Dororo’s manga was released by Vertical and a loose video game adaptation of the story hit Sony’s PlayStation 2 under the title Blood Will Tell.

Likewise, both Wonder Three and Toshi Gordian saw syndicated run on European airwaves, creating a small cult following in the countries which it aired.

In North America, though, the three titles are pretty much non-starters. A scattered fansub episode from ages past may arise from time to time, but they never really enjoyed any form of wider release. To see the titles have a potential for a full release via streaming is truly encouraging. Whether we’ll see them funded to completion or not remains to be seen. However, it will be interesting to see what the market deems worthy of a full run, and what will fall by the wayside come the funding due date.

While I don’t expect this model to have immediate results, if these funding drives prove successful, we may begin to see a ripple effect in the industry as a whole, as the risk for more niche content goes down, and customer engagement grows and drives word of mouth.

The fourth revealed show, Kindaichi Case Files Returns, is one that really seems to be a new frontier for the company, though. It’s a new show, that’s still running in Japan. At the same time, the show is a mystery series that revels in its slow, building narratives and features cases that run for four or five episodes. Its closest comparison in the western market would be Detective Conan, though the two are vastly different in their overall tone and execution. The show, while one of my favorites in the past season, certainly has a limited appeal, so it will be interesting to see if Anime Sols can reach the funding goal on it.

The next few months certain seem interesting for Anime Sols as a whole. Their new initiatives, from streaming drives to pushes for newer content, certainly do push against the bounds of the niche they’ve settled into. However, these approaches may be exactly what the company needs to do to move from merely surviving to thriving.