Anime Tube: The latest case of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”

Another day, another questionable Kickstarter, it seems; an ambitious-sounding project known as Anime Tube has raised numerous questions over its legitimacy after the fact it may have been stretching the truth somewhat came to light.

Anime Tube claims to be “the future of anime apps”, offering the opportunity to “stream anime for free, chat with people around the world, connect with Aimi-chan (Anime Tube’s AI virtual assistant) and more”.

The app would offer ad-supported anime for free, with optional subscriptions for those who wished to remove ads. The obvious aim was for the service to be an “all-in-one” sort of affair that was independent of Sony’s dominance in the anime streaming space.

Anime Tube Kickstarter

The Kickstarter for the project asks for a surprisingly modest $50,000 (£36,276 according to Kickstarter’s currency conversion) and met this target within a matter of hours. At the time of writing, the project has about $111k pledged from 954 backers, though as I type this those figures have already dropped a couple of times.

The Kickstarter for Anime Tube was actually picked out as one of Kickstarter’s “Projects we Love”, which helped it gain a considerable amount of traction, and a sponsored advertising campaign by popular Internet comic studio Merryweather Comics certainly helped bring some attention to the project.

However, serious questions were raised over the legitimacy of this project early this morning when Shawn Kleckner from Right Stuf Anime politely enquired as to why Anime Tube was listing titles that Right Stuf Anime held the licensing rights to when no negotiations had taken place between them. Anime Tube’s Twitter account initially responded to Kleckner indicating that they had “contacted him on LinkedIn”, but this tweet has subsequently been deleted.

Anime Tube Twitter

Kleckner subsequently followed up by tagging in numerous other anime distributors and licensors, including Funimation, Sentai Filmworks, Studio Ghibli, VIZ Media, Toei Animation, GKIDS Films, Discotek Media, Media Blasters, Netflix, Crunchyroll and Manga Entertainment — all of whom had some of their titles listed as possible inclusions in the proposed app. This list included platform-exclusive titles such as Netflix’s Beastars.

The Kickstarter for Anime Tube also made a point of prominently mentioning Akira, Star Blazers, Galaxy Express 999, Studio Ghibli, Sword Art Online, Death Note and Attack on Titan, though this was likely more for search engine optimisation purposes than an actual promise these titles would be included.

A significant amount of attention was brought to the project when popular voice actor and YouTuber Connor Marc Colquhoun, better known as CDawgVA, posted a tweet featuring a screenshot of Kleckner’s question and Anime Tube’s now-deleted reply. Following Colquhoun’s tweet, Merryweather Comics publicly withdrew their support for the project and refunded the money they had been given for the sponsorship deal.

Anime Tube
An extract from Merryweather’s comic

“It was our first offer to do a sponsored comic, and the money was honestly pretty good,” explained Merryweather. “Our team and I looked into it, and found while we thought it was a very ambitious project, we expected outside investors to cover costs, not just Kickstarter money. This morning I woke up to several of my industry friends telling me this would be a mistake supporting, and I trust them. Therefore, we have refunded the sponsor money they gave us, and I am currently taking down all posts and videos, and forwarding this message.”

Merryweather brings up a good point: the campaign lists just $10,000 set aside for “professional fees” associated with licensing anime. The Kickstarter’s FAQ page claims that “anyone who is giving you details on how much streaming licenses cost is either not telling the truth or breaking an NDA”, but provides no further details itself.

Likewise, when questioned on Twitter as to how they expected to compete with Sony’s dominance over the streaming anime sphere with such a small amount of money, they simply responded that crowdfunding was “only one of many strategies [they] have”, but again provided no further details.

Anime Tube

It may yet be that Anime Tube has everything organised and sorted out with regard to licensing behind the scenes — although Kleckner’s question makes this look somewhat unlikely — and as such Merryweather in particular has been hesitant to describe the campaign as a “scam”. But there are certainly numerous red flags surrounding the project right now — and as such caution is advised if you’re thinking about showing your support for Anime Tube right now.

The existing anime streaming services out there could certainly do with some competition — and an all-in one sort of service where you could access everything you wanted to watch for a single subscription is definitely an appealing prospect. Unfortunately, given the nature of licensing, that sort of thing is unlikely to happen right now — and as such Anime Tube very much seems like a case of being “too good to be true”.

It’d be nice to be proven wrong, so the project is worth keeping an eye on — but for now, exercise caution and think very carefully before opening your wallet!

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Pete Davison
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