Iwatobi Swim Club Aug01


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Iwatobi Swim Club

Japan’s creative media industry is often delightfully (and perhaps at times, stubbornly) unaware of it’s Western fan bases. In times past, Western Otaku have often had to suffer through intermittent releases of their favorite anime, manga and video games, only to be ultimately crushed to find out that due to slow sales, or increasing translation costs, new series or sequels to their favorite works would never be released in their home country.

But oh how the times have changed. With that advent of open social platforms, and with the help of online language translators, Western fans are making their demands known to their favorite Japanese studios by flooding their Twitter  Facebook and blogs with love, support– and yes, even demands that Western fans be given a chance to enjoy their works.

The swim team that got young anime fans all aflutter

A excellent example of this was the fan campaign to turn a popular light novel High Speed! by Kōji Ōji, or Iwatobi Swim Club, into an anime. Released solely as a 30-second studio demo, anime fans (especially those of the shojo, and boys love variety) were all abuzz by the short video clip of a high school swimming team.  Despite no plans for production, anime fans quickly responded, dubbing it the “Swimming Anime”  and began to blast their excitement for the new anime across, Tumblr, deviantArt and YouTube.

The “Swimming Anime” demo that launched a massive fan-lead campaign

Quickly developing a rabid following, a wide variety of fan works sprung up expanding upon the nameless characters and their universe. With only a 30-second demo to gleam from, fans’ imaginations went wild speculating on the characters personalities, relationships, and creating fan fiction, fan art on DeviantArt, gifs on Tumblr and remixing the concept video on YouTube. A subsequent online petition calling for the studio to turn it into a real series was launched, and with the fans overwhelming support, director Hiroko Utsumi and Kyoto Animation decided to produce a full fledged anime. And for the Western Iwatobi Swim Club otaku– they got the anime they wanted, guys in bathing suits,  subtitles in English, and legal access via Crunchy Roll.

Perhaps the tides are turning. With such fan-lead success stories such as Operation Rainfall, TouHou Project, Little Witch Academia,  there is no way to deny that with such passionate international fan support, fictional media is no longer beholden to international borders. Rallying fans is no longer restricted by language or cultural barriers, and fans from all over the world are joining together to make their voices heard. For the brands that are willing to listen, their next big hit may already have a fan base ready to activate.