Terrie's Take 733 -- Anatomy of Manga Project on Kickstarter. E-biz news in Japan.
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Nov 4 01:40:06 JST 2013
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, Nov 04, 2013, Issue No. 733
- What's New -- Anatomy of Manga Project on Kickstarter
- News -- New high-impact-resistant carbon fiber
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Gods in Kyoto, Fugu in Roppongi
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Back in September, the Nikkei ran a news item that the Financial
Services Agency (FSA) is planning new legislation that will permit
companies to engage in crowdfunding, with the resulting law coming
into effect in 2015. After that date, each company that decides to
raise money from more than 50 subscribers will be able to work through
a new class of brokers who are not brokerage houses but who are
registered with the Japan Securities Dealers Association (JSDA).
While this sounds like the FSA is just trading one piece of
bureaucracy for another, the law will indeed create some meaningful
changes: 1) the minimum capitalization of JPY50MM for a company to
trade its stocks will be reduced, 2) registration paperwork will be
simplified, 3) share classes with limited voting rights will be
allowed so as to simplify administration, 4) and of course companies
will be able to sell their shares to more than 50 subscribers at a
Crowdfunding in the USA has created sponsorship as an alternative to
selling shares, and is best represented by Kickstarter.com, a company
that started in 2009 and which has since facilitated 5m people funding
more than 51,120 projects to the tune of US$856m. The site first came
to our attention in May 2011, after the SafeCast.org folks, then known
as RDTN.org, raised US$36,900 in 30 days for their radiation tracking
network. Actually, a year later, Safecast.org raised a further
US$104,000, for a project to build a citizen's Geiger counter. On that
project, they came in 2,500 times over their target!
With the jaw dropping numbers of Kickstarter.com, we often wonder why
there hasn't been a successful Japanese version. We know that several
attempts have been made (such as camp-fire.jp), but with these sites
only raising several hundred million yen in the last two years amongst
hundreds of projects, it seems that the need to be generous with even
small amounts of money is just too alien a concept for most Japanese.
The thinking seems to be, "Why would I give someone I don't know money
in exchange for little more than a promise or even less?"
Such thinking is pragmatic at an individual level perhaps, but most it
is certainly denying Japanese start-ups of a valuable funding source.
And hence the need for the FSA to hurry along its plan to introduce
share purchases via crowds, since at least the investing public
understands and appreciates shares.
But all is not lost. Even though Japanese companies can't raise cash
at home through crowds, they most certainly can via Kickstarter and
its various competitors, as Safecast has demonstrated several times.
Of course Safecast has an incredibly geeky (i.e., intellectually
appealing) product and its timing just as the radiation effects of
Fukushima on the food chain were becoming a concern meant that they
scored big. But what about more normally-skilled players, such as
Japan's hordes of manga creators, photographers, songwriters, and
others who might want to tap into Kickstarter's cash flow?
This is something we were thinking about when we were researching the
Kickstarter site and ran across Jed Henry and his Ukiyo-e Heroes
project launched in August 2012 and which was 3,013% funded, to the
tune of US$313,341. What was Jed promoting to receive such a large
bundle of cash? You might be surprised (we were): he was selling
woodblock prints -- the old fashioned kind. Jed is an illustrator,
gamer, and Japanophile, and came up with the unique idea of a series
of old-fashioned woodblock print heroes, parodying modern hero-based
manga in traditional style.
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To make his images more appealing and to cross the content-product
barrier (online games and images having low perceived value on
Kickstarter and thus low success rate) he recruited renowned
Tokyo-based woodblock craftsman, Dave Bull, to put each scene on
traditional blocks then to paper. Jed offered these early version
prints as rewards to his backers, and so encouraged them to fund his
project to make even more scenes -- creating a virtuous circle that
fueled his huge success. Jed has since gone on, with Dave's help, to
create a second project which does explore the online space, but as
the numbers indicate, there are rather less backers willing to give up
the fine-art paper-based aspect of Ukiyoe Heroes -- although the
second funding was also successful and produced another US$67,765.
We thought it would be interesting to interview Jed and get a glimpse
of how he made his projects so successful, in the hope that other
creators based in Japan (versus Jed being in Utah but being very
Japan-focused) will learn and go on to promote the best that Japan has
Jed's projects on Kickstarter.com are here:
TT: Why did you think that woodblock images would be successful in the
USA? Most people would think that they are passe.
JED: I have found that in this digital age of limitless flashing
media, people crave an authentic experience - something that roots
them to people, places and history. That said, I had no idea that so
many people would connect with this print series. I was just making
something that I thought was cool. It felt niche enough to stand out
as unique, but mainstream enough to find a broad audience. When my
designs exploded across twitter, tumblr and Facebook, I knew that my
hunch was right. It was 50% calculated, 50% lucky guess.
TT: How did you come up with the ideas for the prints -- they seem
quite authentic and each has an obvious story line to it.
JED: I spend a lot of time studying authentic prints from the 18th and
19th centuries. I'm a huge fan of the later designers like Tsukioka
Yoshitoshi, Kawanabe Kyosai and Ogata Gekko. These artists lived at
the end of Sakoku, in a time when Japan was opening to the West.
Because of this, their artistic styles exhibit both traditional and
Also, my prints often portray story moments because they follow the
strong narrative tradition of Ukiyo-e. Traditionally, many Japanese
prints would show a moment in history, or a scene from popular
fiction, much like Western novels often contain illustrations.
TT: In fact, the story lines seem quite compelling -- are you planning
to branch out into anime as well?
JED: Absolutely! I would love to start creating parody prints of
popular Anime series.
TT: Why do you think that Kickstarter supporters find your images and
business so compelling?
JED: Because of the parody nature of the project, our prints had a
distinct pop culture appeal. I think that gaming fans had fun looking
through the different designs, trying to identify all the characters.
>From a business standpoint, Kickstarter campaigns work best when they
operate like a store front. Looking back I now realized that woodblock
prints were the perfect fit for that system, because they're fairly
quick to reproduce, and thus can be offered for a fair price to a
large number of people.
TT: How did you get to know Dave Bull and how did you convince him to
join the project?
JED: I first emailed Dave in 2010. My query probably sounded like a
lot of comments he gets - something to the effect of, "I want your
life. I want to be you. Can I come to Japan and meet you?"
Surprisingly, Dave got back to me very quickly. He was courteous,
despite my stalker-ish professions of hero worship. He even called me
on the phone one day, and listened to my aspirations as an artist. We
threw some collaborative ideas around, but nothing really materialized
from that first contact. Then about six months ago, I came up with the
Ukiyo-e Heroes project. Dave quickly saw possibilities in my designs,
and immediately offered to make a print of one. He jumped right in and
began work, even though we weren't quite sure how to sell them.
TT: We notice that you did a second project on Kickstarter that was
not as overwhelmingly successful as the first one (although it was
nonetheless successful). Why is that?
JED: Several factors made my second Kickstarter a very different
experience. First of all, it's a video game for mobile devices. If you
look through Kickstarter history, mobile games have a hard time
getting funded. Because of the flood of free mobile games on the
market, there's a perception that these games aren't worth much. In
contrast, I want to make a mobile game that offers a rich, compelling
experience for gamers. I'm very grateful to all the wonderful backers
who made the game possible. We're working very hard on it!
TT: Do you think there are opportunities for other Japanese
traditional artists on Kickstarter, or is it the past-meets-western
values aspect of your project that touched people so well?
JED: I can't predict what the market will support - I have enough
trouble trying to figure that out for my own projects! I can say that
funding a Kickstarter project always comes down to several factors.
First, you need to have a large fan base before you launch. Second,
it's crucial that your Kickstarter rewards are attractive to backers.
Lastly, your project needs to be as original and professional as
possible, to help it spread across the internet.
TT: Manga and anime have been staples for U.S. kids, especially geeky
kids, for a generation now. Do you think the subculture that
represents is growing stronger or weaker and why?
JED: I think the international otaku community is an amazing
phenomenon. Because of the internet, geeks all over the world can
unite under a single manga banner. It's amazing to me that some of the
most talented manga/anime artists are sprouting up in places as varied
as China, Brazil and even Iran.
TT: Do you have any golden rules about how to use Kickstarter?
JED: Here is what I found.
Step 1: Seed. Be on several social networks. Find the ones that work
for you, and post regularly. These will be a window into your life,
to help fans connect to you and your work. Have a good website that
acts as a more permanent space. This is more like a gallery - a space
you can control and show your work.
Step 2: Feed. You need to feed your fan base, in order for it to grow.
Make sure you're posting excellent work on a regular basis. Ideally,
3-5 times per week. Quick sketches and mid-process photos are great.
It gives fans inside information, which helps them feel connected to
Step 3: Harvest. You can "Harvest" by creating a product for your fans
to buy. Ideally, every step of the Feed stage contributes to the
...The information janitors/
- Government tax revenues up
- New high-impact-resistant carbon fiber
- Big Tesla deal for Panasonic
- FTC decision over-turned by high court
- Jetstar Japan to get a big capital injection
=> Government tax revenues up
At least one good sign besides the stock market being up that
Abenomics is starting to have some effect is the fact that the last 6
month's tax revenue is running about 4% ahead of the same period last
year. The Finance Ministry has said that tax income for Apr-Sep will
be around JPY13.5trn, JPY1trn-JPY3trn more than in 2012. Most of the
extra revenue is coming from extra tax on employee bonuses and private
investor (the Mrs Watanabes) income. (Source: TT commentary from
e.nikkei.com, Nov 2, 2013)
=> New high-impact-resistant carbon fiber
The world's largest carbon fiber maker and one of the originators of
commercially viable carbon fiber, Toray, has announced that it has
developed and will start producing in 2016 a new carbon fiber-resin
composite that is 30% stronger than existing composites. The new
material uses a polyphenylene sulfide resin that gives it the same
impact strength as aluminum, making it suitable for use in autos in
place of metal parts. Toray is test manufacturing the new material at
its Ehime-ken plant. The secret to making it was apparently in
figuring out the chemistry to make Polyphenylene Sulfide bond properly
with carbon fibers. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Oct 30,
=> Big Tesla deal for Panasonic
Panasonic will be happy with the commitment it has received from Tesla
to supply the auto company with nearly 2bn lithium battery cells over
the next 4 years. This is about ten times the volume that Tesla bought
from Panasonic in 2012-2013, and reflects Tesla's bullish view of how
many cars it plans to ship through to 2017. ***Ed: Put another way,
Tesla has shipped roughly 25,000 vehicles (since 2006) as of writing,
meaning that the Panasonic order should power up to 250,000 vehicles,
not including any units running similar power cells from Samsung, LG,
and others. Impressive or over-optimistic?** (Source: TT commentary
from reuters.com, Oct 30, 2013)
=> FTC decision over-turned by high court
Interesting development last week when the Tokyo High Court
over-turned a decision by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) at the
behest of a private appeal. The rare conflict came about after the FTC
ruled that the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and
Publishers (JASRAC) was not being monopolistic by forcing all
broadcasters to pay the organization fixed-rate copyright payments
regardless of how many times the material was actually used. Several
companies have been trying to compete with JASRAC to manage copyrights
but are unable to offer broadcasters a cheaper alternative. As it
turns out, the High Court found that the JASRAC fee imposition is
indeed monopolistic, and therefore the FTC's decision was struck down.
(Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Nov 2, 2013)
=> Jetstar Japan to get a big capital injection
You've got to admire the folks at JetStar Japan. Unlike certain
others, they are doubling down on their commitment to make things work
in Japan. Apparently both of the company's major shareholders, Qantas
and JAL, will pump up to JPY11bn more capital into the LCC. The minor
shareholders, Mitsubishi and Century Tokyo Leasing, are expected to
hold back and thus their stakes in the business will fall. JetStar
says it will mostly use the money to develop short-haul international
flights from Japan to China, Korea, and Taiwan, while Qantas simply
said that JetStar needs to "...secure its position in the domestic
Japanese market." ***Ed: Our take is that JetStar is finding its Japan
costs to be much greater (Macquarie Equities reckons about
AUD50MM/year) than first calculated. Being cheap doesn't mean that
Japanese customers will forgive JetStar's frequent delays without some
kind of compensation each time it happens. They also need a lot more
hand-holding -- meaning more staff and logistics.** (Source: TT
commentary from smh.com.au, Oct 29, 2013)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days
of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the
+++ WEB CONTENT/TECH VACANCIES
=> Are you in web content or engineering? If so, this section is for you.
** HIGHLIGHTED POSITION
- Experienced Sales Manager
If you have experience selling media, software, or other intangibles
and are bilingual (Japanese and English) and looking for a place to
grow, Japan Inc. Communications is looking for a sales manager to lead
its new media sales team. The role will be to develop the market for
our media products, the largest sites of their type in Japan, and to
grow the sales team to 6-10 people over the next 12 months. The role
involves selling to clients in Japanese, while English is the primary
language in the office. The position is open to anyone with 3-5 years
relevant sales experience. If a non-Japanese, then visa sponsorship is
Friendly team, interesting technology, incentivizing remuneration
package, and varied work are all part of the opportunity. Please send
your resume to info at japaninc.com.
** OTHER MEDIA POSITIONS VACANT
- Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(www.japantourist.jp), JPY3M - JPY5M
- Bilingual sales trainee for web media properties, JPY2.5M-JPY3M +
- Japanese language web project manager, bilingual, JPY4M - JPY5.5M
- Bilingual web designer, for mostly Japanese-language websites for
foreign firms, JPY4M - JPY5M
- English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years
experience, JPY3.5M - JPY5M
Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: jobs at metroworks.co.jp.
+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
----------------- ICA Event - November 29th-----------------
Speaker: Stephen Givens, Corporate Lawyer based in Japan
Title: "Does Softbank Know What It is Doing Outside Japan?"
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Friday, November 29th, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Monday 25th November, 2013. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan
=> No comments this week.
---------------- Help Still Needed in Tohoku --------------
The Japan Emergency Team, operator of Japan`s only Disaster Relief
Vehicle is asking for help to keep the Disaster Relief Vehicle
running. The DRV, a 30 foot converted Motorhome sleeps up to ten, has
shower, cooking, facilities and is still on site in Tohoku where it
assisted in providing showers, food and emergency assistance as it
still does. In addition it has a mobile `convenience store` which
provides necessities to those in temporary housing.
The Japan Emergency Team was formed in 1989 when 38 students from Chuo
University went to assist in the San Francisco Earthquake making
history as the first overseas disaster assistance from Japan. When
there is not an ongoing disaster in progress the DRV visits schools,
government and other events to promote disaster awareness and is as
much in demand when there is a disaster as when there is not.
Sponsorship includes a logo on the side of the DRV, participation in
regular disaster awareness events and more. Those able to help are
asked to contact team at jhelp.com for a sponsorship packet or to invite
the DRV to an event.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Kyoto Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto
Master Artists of the Rimpa School 2 - Sotatsu Tawaraya
Kennin-ji Temple is situated very near Kyoto's Gion geisha quarter. Go
straight along the busy Shijo-dori toward Yasaka Jinja Shrine, and
turn right at the corner of famous teahouse "Ichiriki-tei", then walk
along Gion's Hanami-koji street. This is where you really feel like
you're in Kyoto! You'll soon come to Kennin-ji Temple, which was
established in 1202 as the first temple in Japan to include Zen
teachings. Mindful of the wishes of other Buddhist powers, such as
Enryaku-ji Temple, Kennin-ji started as a school that combined Zen
with the Tendai and Shingon sects of Buddhism.
The temple's most famous screen painting is of the "Wind and Thunder
God". However, in order to preserve it, a precise replica is now on
display while the real, original painting, is kept at the Kyoto
National Museum. The painter was Sotatsu Tawaraya. On the right side
of the screen, the Wind God is running across the sky to make wind
with his white cloth. He has a green body. On the left side, the
Thunder God is making thunder by beating his drums. His body is white.
The contrast of speed and power, green and white, and parallel and
horizontal movements is amazing.
=> Mother's Restaurant Roppongi Hills, Tokyo
Fine dining fit for a sumo wrestler
The chance to try rare and interesting foods is one of the many
factors that drew me to Japan. I had the opportunity to try a new
restaurant recently in Roppongi Hills called Mother's and had the
satisfaction of yet another brand new dining experience. Mother's
Restaurant in Roppongi Hills specializes in fugu (blowfish), suppon
(softshell turtle) and nabe (hot soup/stew bowls). It was my first
experience tasting fugu and I was somewhat relieved to hear that
Mother's uses pesticide-free, high-quality farmed fish.
My course started with a beer and a nicely flavored squid and mushroom
appetizer that I quickly devoured. Since Mother's specializes in fugu,
we added an appetizer of fried fugu. The flavor of the fugu was enough
to make me want to go back for more. The fish has a bit of a whitefish
taste to it and can be slightly tricky to eat around the bones, but
the taste was excellent.
SUBSCRIBERS: 7,429 members as of Nov 04, 2013
(We purge our list regularly.)
+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
HELP: E-mail Terrie-request at mailman.japaninc.com with the word 'help'
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