FEATURE - Hiroaki Yura, the "Under the Dog" Interview

The producer of ambitious Kickstarter anime project speaks...

It is down to the wire for the ambitious Kickstarter anime project known as Under the Dog. As the campaign concludes, producer Hiroaki Yura speaks to us about the future of the anime biz, crowdfunding, and Under the Dog’s staff and story. Read on below! 


Crunchyroll News: Can you give us some background on yourself and the Creative Intelligence Arts company that you represent?


Hiroaki Yura: I used to be a classical violinist who got pulled into recording video game and anime music. Eventually, I got asked to produce and direct the music and started doing awesome projects with awesome people.


Creative Intelligence Arts, Inc. is just a tool to help me with my work legally. Not only we make music for triple A games and anime, we also produce independent works with our group of friends. We did a successful Kickstarter last year called Project Phoenix, which was an JRPG full of industry veterans.


What made you bring Under the Dog to Kickstarter for funding instead of going through the traditional route?


We wanted creative freedom and independence in the work that we do. A lot of the anime these days are dictated by the production committees who essentially control the production process. We also knew this type of anime was not so in favor with these production committees due to the fact that they don't target core otaku audiences in Japan, therefore it would be likely to not take off at all.


Since we are targeting the general public, encompassing the whole world, not just Japan, we felt it was appropriate to bring Under the Dog to Kickstarter.



How would you describe the story and characters of Under the Dog?


This is a story about the struggle for freedom in all different kinds of meanings, to try and reach out to hope where there is little to none. The story is unfolds like a great real escape game, for Anthea and her team to free themselves from the intricate wall set before them and freedom. That's how much I can tell you before I start writing an essay on it!


What made the CIA staff decide on a dark SF story set in the future for Under the Dog?


The 1997 original script by Jiro Ishii was soooooo good... we wanted that world to come alive.



How does the established Japanese anime industry view crowdfunding projects currently? Is it seen as something that is disruptive to the current system?


It is very disruptive to the current production committee system that everybody uses. However, not knowing how crowd funding works, and the usual fear associated with Japanese people have with foreign ideas, not many companies view Kickstarter as a viable source of funding... yet!


Aside from merely providing the financial backing, what are some of the advantages of working with the established order of anime production (production committees, sponsors, TV networks, etc.)?


Production committees are all about making money through merchandising and mitigating costs if the project fails. Some advantages are that these companies will help bring out word about the animation through their connection to respective media and being able to work with big budgets. But to us, big budgets don't mean much if we don't make things with clear artistic intent without any outside influence.

CIA’s projects seem to have a lot of international staff onboard. How did you connect with creators outside of Japan and what are some of the challenges in coordinating the work flow?


I used to live in Australia. I was brought up there actually, since I was six. I've also worked for several months in California with Blizzard Entertainment. And naturally I made a lot of friends everywhere, wherever my work took me. Coordinating the work flow is hard when you have different timezones. I'm usually awake during JST, PST/EST and EU timezones which really gives me sleeping problems these days...

This isn’t the first Kickstarter project you’ve been associated with. Before Under the Dog, there was Project Phoenix. What was that experience like?


Fantastic! We reached 10 times the amount needed and it was great to interact with backers who thought alike! We had to push back our schedule a lot due to the fact we had 10 times the amount though...

How is producing a crowdfunded anime different from producing more traditionally funded anime that you have worked on like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Steins;Gate?


We'll find out soon enough! But I don't think there will be a huge difference except for some publisher type producer sitting at the back of the studio.


What role do you think crowd funding will play in the future of the Japanese contents industry?

I hope it becomes more readily accepted and used in the future!


Do you have any final message for Crunchyroll News’ readers?


Thank you for reading this interview and please support Under the Dog!


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