The Anime Tube Kickstarter Rightfully Goes Down the Tube

How do you get your anime fix? For most modern viewers, the answer probably is Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Netflix, maybe Hulu or HIDIVE, or perhaps Tubi and RetroCrush. Some people may only buy physical copies, but that number gets smaller and smaller each year.

But no matter where you watch, it is true they all have their drawbacks. YouTube is full of illegal uploads. Hulu requires a subscription. Crunchyroll can be slow to update. That’s not to say there are some excellent streaming platforms out there, but no service is perfect.

It is true it would be nice to have one, maybe two reliable outlets to check out all the latest releases and old classics instead of having to have a bunch of apps/subscriptions. But that’s not going to happen — no one wants to cease market share to a rival company. Besides, there’s not even a satellite or cable provider that has access to every channel available. Monopolies have their own dangers and drawbacks, like less innovation since there are no real alternatives. And even though it may be annoying to deal with series being pulled, finding out the one new title you’re really interested in is on the one service you don’t have, or dealing with glitches and such, the anime streaming space has come a long way. But still, even as all the major services continue to fight to be the premier anime streamer, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new services.

But one platform unlikely to hit your device is Anime Tube.

The Anime Tube Saga

There are already some detailed, well-written articles about Anime Tube, but here’s my own recap.

There was an Xbox/Windows app called Anime Tube Unlimited, also know as Anime Tube Pro and Anime Tube Universal, from a developer called AEON Enterprise. While versions have been around since at least 2017 (a Facebook account was created back in 2015), around June 2020, it started to be or was pulled completely from the Microsoft Store.

Anime Tube didn’t directly host illegal content; rather, it was a multi-source app that used piracy sites as resources to load videos.

Fast forward a year to June 2021. A developer by the name of Game Face (which is registered to the same address as AEON Entertainment) launched a Kickstarter for a new anime streaming service called Anime Tube. The goal was $285,000, and the campaign reached $63,000 before cancelling in under a week “in order to make some needed changes”.

(This Kickstarter is currently unable to be viewed due to a DMCA notice on behalf of VIZ Media, but whether they actually meant to completely remove this campaign is debatable since it was only removed recently, in July.)

This new version kicked off July 6th with a reduced target of just $50,000.

The information page claimed Anime Tube will include features like options for free viewing or ad-free subscription viewing, AI interaction, and chat. Pricing for Anime Tube would be based on how many shows they were able to acquire but would aim to eventually produce dubs.

What those titles would be, though, caused quite a stir. In promotional material, Anime Tube used images from some of the most popular anime like Fullmetal Alchemist Naruto/Boruto, and Sword Art Online. The campaign published a list of series it was “under discussion” with, but later the campaign pulled it and said it was just a list of “test data”.

The staff behind Anime Tube insisted that bigwigs in Japan were excited for Anime Tube, pricing for streaming isn’t as high as other services make it out to be, and a lot of info is currently confidential.

Anime Tube was given the Kickstarter “Project We Love” stamp of approval.

But as more and more insiders and concerned fans raised alarms, Kickstarter suspended the project on July 9th.

With the Kickstarter canceled, no one has been charged or anything. According to their Facebook page, one of their few social media accounts that wasn’t deleted after the 9th, Anime Tube had 2 days to appeal their suspension, and that deadline has passed. Several comments show support for Anime Tube and a willingness to redonate, while others just express confusion or are calling out the campaign as a scam.

Sample of supporting comments for Anime Tube after its suspension

A Scam or an Overly-Ambitious Project?

Now, to be clear, I do think it’s possible for a new service to pop up. New manga publishers and reading services are popping up, and Retro Crush isn’t that old, so it’s not like the industry is stagnating — far from it, actually. Anime Tube had some good ideas like chat making it like Netflix Party or having an AI assistant make recommendations like Siri or Alexa can. But you know what else is a good idea? Flying unicorns that survive on garbage that can fly 100mph to take us wherever we want to go. Doesn’t mean I can start a crowdfunding campaign to make one or put a Hasbro My Little Pony on my page and say, “This is what I’m hoping to make.”

While it’s clear Anime Tube was a pie-in-the-sky project (and I’ll explain further as to why in a moment), whether the Kickstarter was a scam or not is a more complicated question.

First of all, their “in discussion” list, which was 19-pages long, might as well have been a wish list to Santa Claus. You can read the full list at Anime News Network,

I did another look through Anime Tube’s licensing list and this caught my eye.

How could they possibly be “in talks” for Candy Candy?? It has been in lawsuit hell for decades, to the point where not even Japan has any DVD home video releases. pic.twitter.com/bOMLY7LBdB

— Honey Flash (@ShoujoRukiia) July 9, 2021

@AnimeTubeApp Why do you have listings for my titles on your kickstarter’s “Anime Licensing Currently in Discussion”? We are not in discussion with you.

— Irresponsible Dark Lord Kleckner (@shawnekleckner) July 8, 2021

Right Stuf/Nozomi’s CEO

Lol absolutely not, and it would be a very quick conversation as most of our titles are exclusive with a streamer already. (Which is how the industry works.)

— Dave Jesteadt (@davejesteadt) July 8, 2021

From GKIDS’ President

Too good to be true? I’d say it’s definitely in that wheelhouse.

A 19 page PDF listing all the series they plan to license. I can only assume that they’re sitting on millions of dollars already, if they believe they’ll get all of them. pic.twitter.com/kaieuNGntm

— Ali Saenz (@ali_saenz) July 8, 2021

Even without crunching the numbers as to whether any streaming service is feasible to launch with $50,000 (especially when the original goal was over five times that), the list was the #1 red flag. Even if, as Anime Tube alluded to, they were going to deal with Japanese corporations and not the current US/English license holders.

It is true that companies like Crunchyroll and FAKKU had their start in piracy, and the founder/owner George admits he/his company were behind the previous Anime Tube-named apps, and it appears he/they also released other similar piracy apps.

Okay, so I looked into all four companies associated with the same address as Anime Tube.

Each of them is a Windows 10 developer whose apps (Including Anime Tube!) have been taken off the Microsoft Store. pic.twitter.com/eBBiPo6Qnm

— Blick Winkel(H. Anthony Israel) (@blockwonkel) July 9, 2021

But Crunchyroll and FAKKU didn’t relaunch with every AAA title in ads with small notices saying, “Hey, we’d like to get these, but we dunno if we can or even how many we are going to start with! Oh wait, we’re not saying we’d actually get them, just that Anime Tube could handle them if we could!”

In fact, they couldn’t claim one title was ready to air on Anime Tube…or even what regions Anime Tube would support. Not even a guarantee of USA, North America, or Region 1 support.

So while they estimated 100 shows would be about $.99 a month, what was the contingency plan if they only had 50 shows? 5? After all, on a per-month basis, you can’t really go down from $1. Credit cards and fee processors are going to take some of that after all. For instance, that would be about $.15 for Apple and $.33 for PayPal. To operate a store, as they want, would require more money. Not to mention server fees, staff costs, etc.

However, I guess they don’t need to worry about Apple fees if Anime Tube is not going to be on the App Store or Google Play. You know, the way most people load their apps, and the only way they can if they want to avoid warranty issues.

There Founders Claims are just incredible pic.twitter.com/5z5GOCKc3S

— Jamie (@Jamiex305) July 8, 2021

But moving on. Their testimonials were all just random people likely leaving a review? No last names, no organization they’re affiliated with, just three comments from people with generic male names? (No offense to all the Stephens, Roberts, and Jameses out there.) Sounds like a SNL sketch of a product advertisement.

That’s great and all, but what does Bob have to say?

The Kickstarter itself had several parts removed, including the aforementioned list and an FAQ answer stating licenses do not cost “hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars”.

Anime Tube also reportedly blocked users on social media who questioned them.

Even if Anime Tube is run by clueless individuals who think they that a business proposal is a two-sentence document with an MS Paint drawing attached to it, their people didn’t do a good job of allying fears this was more than a scam.

Perhaps this Tweet summarizes my feelings best:

While it is VERY fun to dunk on Anime Tube, the depressing reality is that their initial support and monetary backing really does highlight that a good amount of fans are dangerously unaware of what goes into licensing/streaming a property.

— That guy who likes anime dubs a LITTLE too much (@MrAJCosplay) July 8, 2021

Because before it was suspended, 938 people gave over $100,000 to an app campaign that raised more alarms than a 10-hour loop of the Alarm Minion from Despicable Me 2. Wow.

I suspect though most backers fall into one of two categories:

1) Those who hate Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix and any of the big names and want to support anything that is not them for whatever reason.

2) Those who were users of Anime Tube Pro/Unleashed/Unlimited and think this new version was going to be the same so they could watch any anime whenever.

A lot of the people in #1 may never be reasoned with since a lot of piracy supporters use the same old excuses (“I can’t afford it!”, “My talking about it is going to get more people interested, so that’s good enough!”, “The subs/dubs aren’t good!”, etc.), but it’s the anime watchers in group #2 that need to be reached out to. I’m kind of reminded of those warnings on older anime about not sitting too close to the TV, just this time, “Please make sure you are watching this on a legal outlet!” Because even though 938 people is just a sliver of the fanbase, they still raised $100,000 — that’s an average of over $100 per person.

Is it possible Anime Tube’s developers had some sort of connections in Japan? I imagine though, since they only contacted Right Stuf/Nozomi’s Shawne Kleckner after Klecker was refuting their “in discussion” list, that their Japanese reachout campaign consisted of emails explaining, “Hey, you got nothing when we letting people stream illegally, so you should let us stream your show for, say, $1,000, you’ll be making something compared to nothing!” Maybe also they thought they could get some revenue by turning their mascot, Aimi-chan, into a Vtube-like star and just use her to stall as they find some anime to pick up.

Or maybe they thought they’d collect some cash, email everyone instructions on how to sideload apps on their device to circumvent protections, and call it a day. Because if Anime Tube’s staff really wanted to make amends for their history making illegal apps, posting hard-to-believe stories, being vague about so many details or only revealing them in other outlets, using pictures you don’t have the rights to, and having to frequently scrub your public proposal aren’t the ways to do that. I’m sure if a high schooler had submitting a project with this many errors and causes for concern, they would have failed the class.  

I wouldn’t be surprised if Anime Tube shows up on some other sketchy site to raise funds, and unless they somehow have managed to have actual contracts and announcements this time, hopefully the industry professionals and concerned fans who were instrumental is raising awareness stop them from collecting any funds — and any other scammer who decides to copy Anime Tube’s approach but with a more lowkey approach to try to sneak through the cracks. Because there are scammers who will happily take $10, and $100,000 like Anime Tube raised before the Kickstarter was halted is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

Did you follow the Anime Tube saga? Do you think they were actively trying to con people or just no nothing about the anime business? Have you ever donated to something that turned out to be a scam?

The post The Anime Tube Kickstarter Rightfully Goes Down the Tube appeared first on TheOASG.

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