A number of issues surfaced with the release of this classic title, and Krystallina felt in this week's Please Save My Money, they had to be addressed.
it A while back, I wrote about the The Vision of Escaflowne Kickstarter from FUNimation. (I also wrote about Skip Beat!, but that’s not the point of this article.)
FUNimation is one of the largest anime licensors and distributors in North America. Of course, like most companies, they focus on releasing the latest shows. Occasionally, though, they rescue some old titles. The Vision of Escaflowne is old (relatively speaking), but it still has its following and plenty of crossover appeal. However, many people took issue with a professional company essentially demanding a preorder quota (which FUNimation essentially acknowledged this was the case).
Well, the Kickstarter was massively funded, and people are getting their rewards delivered.
Was this Kickstarter a success? What went wrong? What went right?
One of the goals right from the start was to give The Vision of Escaflowne a new dub. The show was originally licensed by Bandai Entertainment, and an eventual English dub was produced for TV broadcast. FUNimation said that they were using new HD remasters and required a new dub. The old dub would be missing dialogue because of new scenes in the director’s cut of the series. The original dub was to be exclusive to the collector’s edition on DVDs.
However, in June, the company reversed course, announcing that the original dub would be available on both Blu-ray and DVD and included in all releases.
Well, that’s good, right?
Well, some people felt this was a bait-and-switch. They had preordered the collector’s edition (seen below) so that they could have Bandai’s dub for nostalgia’s sake, and suddenly this bonus could be had for a lot less than their original $175 pledge.
Straight from the Kickstarter’s FAQ:
“What’s the SRP of the retail version of these releases?
While we still haven’t nailed that down exactly yet, we are planning for the SRP of each release to be slightly higher than the corresponding pledge amount on Kickstarter–but please note that the retail versions will NOT include other additions like the Kickstarter exclusive boxes, the on-disc credit listing, poster, tarot cards, wallpaper, certificate etc. Thus, the retail version of Part 1’s SRP will be higher than the $65 of the corresponding pledge level that includes it; the retail version of the Collector’s Edition’s SRP will be higher than the $175 of the pledge level that includes it, etc.”
Well, Part 1 and Part 2 Blu-rays retail for $54.99 each, below the $65 for Part 1 + exclusives ($125 for both + exclusives). The Collector’s Edition, meanwhile, retails for the slightly higher MSRP of $179.99.
Currently, as of this writing, Part 1 and Part 2 are under $40 each on Amazon and Right Stuf; the Collector’s Edition was $149.99 on Amazon before selling out again. FUNimation also listed the Collector’s Edition at a discounted price at their store.
“But wait!” you might be saying. “Sure, the Kickstarter versions are as (or more) expensive, but backers paid for the extras!”
Firstly, according to posts in this thread and in the Kickstarter comments, not everyone who backed The Vision of Escaflowne has even received their copies yet! So getting The Vision of Escaflowne in advance certainly wasn’t a perk. I’m no Kickstarter expert, but I think most Kickstarters should — if not already do — send out backers’ pledges of the product before retailers get their stock.
Of course, maybe it takes longer because of the extras.
The $65 tier for the Kickstarter included Part 1 with these bonuses:
- Digital wallpaper
- Credit listing
- Art booklet
If you wanted Part 2, you had to pledge $125, but you also got a poster. For a lot of people, these bonuses are worth the money. But I think a lot of people would have liked the option to skip some of the items in exchange for getting a copy of the Blu-rays at a lower price. Don’t get me wrong; lots of Kickstarter products end up being cheaper at retail. But it seemed enticing when they stated the price would be higher. Having the standard editions be cheaper is just wrong; it’s deceptive.
The Collector’s Edition included a hardcover artbook as well as tarot cards as exclusives, so it does seem like it was a better tier than waiting for the retail version. However, the original dub being available in all editions made this version a lot less critical for backers.
In addition, the Kickstarter Collector’s Edition backers received clear cases for their Blu-ray disks as advertised. Retail buyers were surprised to find out they got blue cases. Considering the images on Right Stuf and Amazon show clear cases (as shown below), this seemed to be a sudden exclusive no one found out until after the set was shipped.
Or maybe it was a screw-up. Which leads to the next point…
The clear cases seem to be an intentional exclusive, as only Kickstarter backers seemed to receive them. However, since the image of clear cases are still on other sites, at the very least, the image is an error. Or it could be that the production line grabbed the wrong cases once the foiled boxes with hardcover books were done. Either way, it’s an error.
However, there were many other problems along the production line.
First, the DVDs with the original dub were not shipped with the Blu-ray sets. FUNimation has begun to send replacements out, but it’s a headache for both the company and the fans.
Also, the certificate of participation stated that this project was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Vision of Escaflowne. Only one problem: it’s the 20th anniversary!
Some of the disappointment stems from what backers feel are cheap products. The pendant looks and feels very plastic-y, the print on the disk covers are washed out, etc. Fans also were upset that their signed posters contained only three signatures; many expected 10.
Obviously, a lot of questions surrounding quality is subjective. There can be variances on any printed item. Alone, these comments probably wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows.
I’ve already discussed the fact that some Kickstarter backers still don’t have their rewards despite the Blu-rays being out for a week already.
I have read comments about rewards being shipped in a half-hazard manner. Especially for a “collector’s edition”, items should be packaged carefully. The posters in particular often appear to have been quickly smushed into shipping tubes. As such, some items arrived damaged.
From the comments and images I’ve viewed, there’s the usual two groups of damage: problems from shipping and problems from manufacturing. Either way, here are some of the complaints, many far too common:
- Cracked cases
- Dented chipboxes
- Pendants falling apart
- Fingerprints or even scratches on the discs
- Ripped posters
Lots of fans have uploaded pictures to their various social media accounts, posted it on threads, and even made videos.
What is Good
If you’ve ever read any of my comments or articles, you may have noticed that I have mentioned I want to see more older series. In a world where anime and manga news is dominated by simulcasts and licensing current hits, I appreciate it when companies look for titles outside of this decade.
Other positives for the campaign:
- The box art for the collector’s edition is gorgeous. This type of Japanese boxart is not often found on North American releases.
- Eventually putting the original dub on all releases is good; the fact the collector’s edition lost another exclusive is not good though.
- They added the much-requested Club Escaflowne videos.
What Went Wrong With FUNimations’s Escaflowne Release?
It seems like a two-fold combination: choosing the Kickstarter platform and then a rush job.
Obviously, the second one is self-explanatory. FUNimation had a date, and they wanted to wrap it up.
Second, I think FUNimation just didn’t realize how different a crowdfunding campaign is compared to a regular preorder system. FUNimation themselves said to basically consider the Kickstarter as a preorder site. The problem is that fans really viewed it in the lens of traditional crowdfunding. FUNimation wanted guaranteed preorders; fans wanted input. They wanted to voice their opinions on the dub cast. They wanted to know why the original dub couldn’t be added to Blu-rays. To learn what the exclusive items are. The two sides just didn’t see eye-to-eye.
The fact that they had to make Kickstarter versions of the releases was also probably an issue. I imagine they thought they could make everything at once and easily pack the respective versions out to fans and retailers. It sounds good in theory, However, even for an experienced company like FUNimation, didn’t work. They should have done waves, and if there were production issues on the Kickstarter sets, delay the standard editions.
The pricing is also a big concern. FUNimation should have decided what the set price was going to be for The Vision of Escaflowne and planned the Kickstarter tiers around them. It’s not just Kickstarter tiers versus MSRP; buyers know that there’s a good chance prices will dip well-below MSRP at retailers. In this case, FUNimation had to know Right Stuf would eventually sell the standard editions for under $40 a set. So choose a reasonable amount to cover whatever bonus items they want to include. Better yet, decide what those exclusives are in advance, and make them tempting.
Should Fans Back Future FUNimation Kickstarters?
Right now, FUNimation themselves has had several issues back-to-back (The Vision of Escaflowne, Code Geoss audio problems, and a whole list of missteps). This makes fans wary of buying their releases, let alone giving them money in advance for something not even produced yet.
The good news is that second Kickstarters usually run more smoothly than a company’s first. FUNimation should:
- Establish MSRP for the final product so buyers are well informed
- Come up with some tiers at — or, even better, slightly below — MSRP with some extras to try to get people to commit
- Find ways to get fans’ input during and after the fundraising period
- Update regularly so fans know what is going on
- Make it clear what items are Kickstarter-exclusive and what will be available at retail
- Set a street date for the retail version a few weeks or so after Kickstarter versions, making customers feel special for getting the item early
Of course, one advantage most future anime releases will have is that they don’t include new, undubbed footage in the actual series. Companies may want to get the original cast back together to dub extras or new episodes, but not much should be missing in the middle of an episode. That prevents another “what about the Escaflowne original dub” crisis.
That being said, I still really don’t like the idea of companies — let alone large ones — turning to crowdfunding. I also thought $65 seemed a little high for a FUNimation release of 13 episodes, and it’s easy to see why now.
In short, FUNimation should have nailed down most details in advance. Kickstarters are rising in prominence, and with that rise in recognition comes a rise in expectations. Issues like bad print quality are a disappointment, but we’ve all had times when a preordered product just isn’t as nice as we thought. However, problems like cramming posters into tubes and letting non-backers get almost as good a deal — if not better — on the Blu-rays are serious. I might be tempted to back a FUNimation crowdfunding campaign if it was a really rare, personally beloved series, but I probably would wait for a retail version. The price would have to be right, and I want to see how well they deal with the fallout over The Vision of Escaflowne.