In the past week, we’ve seen a fresh, new idea rumble through the American anime market. Anime Sols, a joint venture between anime giants, injected a hefty dose of the Kickstarter spirit into the market. With a flexible pricing model and a no-risk pledge format, the service has the potential to create waves within the industry. It’s still early in Anime Sols’s life, but the service has already posted over $11,000 in potential sales.
Recently, I was granted the opportunity to converse with Sam Pinansky, Anime Sols’s Representative. And, through our conversation, we talked about the ins and outs of Anime Sols, from its inspiration, and the company’s strategies for the future.
I’d like to thank Mr. Pinansky for taking the time to answer our questions.
Anime Herald: How do you plan to get Anime Sols’s name out to the masses? What steps do you plan to take to bring customers to your service?
Sam Pinansky: The single most important factor in getting Anime Sols’s name out there is our core fans and users of the site. We’ll work hard on twitter, facebook, doing interviews like these and also working with other anime sites to do contests and special promotions, but the users themselves will be the key.
Anime Herald: What goes into the selection process for new titles? How do you gauge which titles will be a fit with the niche you’re cultivating, and how do you plan to lead customers to notice (and ultimately pledge to) titles as they arrive?
Sam Pinansky: A lot of the decisions are based on practicality. Many titles have difficult rights situations and may require the agreement of other companies that aren’t convinced of our new business model. Also, we clearly want to choose a variety of titles which have minimal exposure to western audiences. We definitely want to keep our customers excited about new titles and many of the classics from Pierrot and Tatsunoko are part of multi-year series, like the Time Bokan series or the Magical Girl series. By introducing western fans to these series hopefully we can build a strong following to support their release over many years.
Anime Herald: Will Anime Sols’s services be available in other North American countries, like Canada or Mexico? Are there any plans to expand into a worldwide focus if this takes off?
Sam Pinansky: Anime Sols is already available in Canada as well as the US. Currently we do not have plans to expand into other countries, but it’s something that we would like to do in the future, once the business model has demonstrated success.
Anime Herald: The crowd-funding model is an interesting approach to anime sales. What led Anime Sols to go with this model, and what do you feel sets you apart from services like Kickstarter or IndieGogo?
Sam Pinansky: I actually came up with this model more than 2 years ago, prior to crowd funding really taking off. From my background, I was keenly aware that even the most niche anime always had a core of fans who really loved the shows, just as long as they were available with subtitles to watch. So, doing the math, it seemed like a real possibility to use crowd funding to prefund the creation of DVD sets, and using this business model create a legal method of distribution for classic titles that otherwise would have no chance to be licensed through normal channels. Our service is really fundamentally different than Kickstarter and IndieGogo, although on the outside they are similar. Kickstarter is a service platform, where outside users can create funding drives, and Kickstarter’s business model itself is based off fees. Anime Sols on the other hand is more like a glorified pre-order system, where we are both the site platform AND the company trying to raise money. So while to the user it is a similar experience (pledge money, get stuff when goal is reached), from a business perspective Anime Sols is very different and our profitability is crucially dependent on goals being met regularly.
Anime Herald: When would you expect a producer to choose your service over traditional anime funding? (e.g. forming a committee with a toy company and TV network)
Sam Pinansky: Although we would love to experiment with ideas like that in the future, currently we do not plan to use Anime Sols to crowd fund productions of new anime. That would probably be a new, dedicated funding site outside of the Anime Sols LLP, for business structural reasons. Also, it is unclear under Japanese law whether it is even legal to crowd fund the production of an anime as there are strict rules that pertain to equity investment in Japan. Such an endeavor would have to be set up with a careful legal framework… I am, however, looking into it.
Anime Herald: What is your target market at this point? How do you plan to reach those who may not be sold on the concept, or the current offerings?
Sam Pinansky: Our target is, of course, fans of classic anime! But more broadly, we’d like to target older anime fans and fans of classic animation in general who maybe haven’t really watched any anime older than from the 1990s. There’s so much excellent stuff out there that the west has hardly been exposed to!
Anime Herald: In addition to anime streams and crowd-funding product, how do you plan to deliver value to the customer? What will you do to ensure that customers continue to return on a regular basis?
Sam Pinansky: First, we plan to continuously release new subtitled episodes, at least 1 a day so there will always be new content to check out. We plan to expand with a forum for discussion as well as guest articles on the history of anime and our shows, as well as special opportunities for supporters that you won’t be able to find anywhere else!
Anime Herald: Anime Sols, as a product is vastly different from that of the traditional packaged and digital businesses. How do you see your service influencing these established forms of media in the long run?
Sam Pinansky: I hope it can demonstrate the viability of classic anime in the marketplace and lead to more exposure and marketing for the characters and shows on our site. Anime Sols still produces physical collectible goods and I think those will still serve a crucial part in the marketplace for years to come, even as digital streaming replaces traditional TV viewing.
Anime Herald: The initial lineup is an interesting mix of titles, from properties to old-school darlings. What led you to choose these properties, specifically?
Sam Pinansky: Actually, I first wanted to do a site that just focused on Magical Girls! But our partners wanted to use Anime Sols to try and expose all different kinds of genres of classic anime to the west, so we’ve tried to select something for everyone. From kid-friendly adventures like Blue Blink, to classic sci-fi like Tekkaman, to transforming robots of Tobikage, or the seminal works of Tezuka in Black Jack, plus of course my favorite magical girls in Creamy Mami, or the comedy gold of Yatterman, there really is something for everyone to love. And even more so, something for everyone to _discover_.
Anime Herald: What is it that you would like to change most about the anime industry through Anime Sols?
Sam Pinansky: I think the biggest change I want to see from the industry is for them to believe more in themselves. Anime Sols started from nothing but an idea, and fought through many days when it looked like it would all be for nothing. But hard work and believing in the fans proved to be enough to launch the site successfully! If more people in the anime industry could believe in the power of their own works and have faith in their customers, I think the industry will have a bright future ahead of it.