The final dream of a little star.

Development and inspiration blog from a slow moving
visual novel author.

Regarding the suspicious Key Documentary Kickstarter

Recently, a Key documentary Kickstarter hit the Internet and was suspended after nearly raising over $10,000 USD. I’d like to take a moment to point out all the issues here, as they don’t seem to be keen on representing themselves in a negative light. In addition, to remind everyone to use caution before giving people money on Kickstarter as you have little to no legal recourse if they don’t deliver.

I found the Kickstarter via one of the many CLANNAD Facebook fan pages shared to my timeline. I don’t dislike them but this one was filled with spoilers, admins who get too personal, misinformation and most regretfully - no credit to the original artists whose works they use to constantly promote their page.

The page had nearly 80k likes, which is likely more people in the USA that know CLANNAD was based on a Visual Novel. If I recall correctly, there’s a similar Angel Beats! page operated in the same style which also advertised. As a result, Steven Schoenwald (aka the self appointed “Clannad Man”) had the all the advertising he needed.

At first glance it looked suspicious as there’s nothing to back Steven’s claims aside from the Key 15th project, which appears to be directly related to the creator anyway. The claims of his involvement with other Key projects appears highly dubious. As such, I’d also suspect his ability to provide goods produced by the Key15th project or the other goods he seems to be producing himself for this sake.

On another note from the FB page, there’s no guarantee they can pull these goods off it seems, as another post on the page advertises they’re looking for vocalists for the Key15th album ‘REBIRTH’ which is also listed as one of the rewards. There is no compensation offered to participants.

The other reward tiers seem to make likely dubious claims as well:

  • An “unopened” copy of a Little Busters! vinyl record which typically sells for $50 is $750.
  • In addition, these are generally only available via used goods stores who reseal in a way that would make it impossible to determine if it was actually unopened or used.
  • They violate Kickstarter guidelines: Projects cannot resell items or offer rewards not produced by the project or its creator.
  • Unrelated rewards, Madoka/ToLoveRu/Haruhi goods? Are you kidding me? This is about Key right?

If we write off the desperate attempt to rip-off fans and all else as some kind of ignorance… and dismissing the lack of skills for how to run a project (like this Kickstarter). Does he appear to be someone who could pull it off?

  • There’s no evidence of planning, locations, or cost breakdown. It’s just ‘rewards’, ‘risks’ and ‘about Steven’.
  • The Grand X-Change Co. he mentions for production seems to be his own organization as a domain lookup indicates it’s owned by “Steven Schoenwald”. They seem to have no evidence of ever serving clients. 
  • The locations and ‘picture to screenshot’ comparisons for locations in Key stories are widely available across many Japanese and even some English blogs. Perhaps a better approach would be to index these and provide a link to them?
  • If he had looked into it at all, it would quickly become clear that 17 days is insufficient. As someone who has been to multiple locations Key stories depict, they’re a bit further spread out than just the Osaka area where Key is based.

There’s no evidence of any information/plan they have to offer towards a documentary. The idea to “seek out, describe history and significance” looks like nothing more than blogs have already shared online. Maybe this time they’ll offer some video in place of photos of static locations, capture them in the wrong seasons and get harassed by Japanese people about filming in public.

So then, let’s not shall we?

After the project built up some steam, Twitter started discussing it and eventually someone dropped it in front of the president of Visual Art’s, (under which Key is a brand).

To which he replied:
ナニこれ。私は聞いてない。ということは、新しい詐欺なの? I have not heard. That means, new scam? RT @Fuji_fruit: @vavasyatyou http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ib…

At this point, Key fans on Twitter stepped in to offer some explanation and eventually he hilariously replied in English. (If you’re involved with these projects and capable of the research for something like this, wouldn’t you have the sense to reply in Japanese?)

Here’s the main chain of events, straight from the reply train on Twitter: (I’m going to provide rough translations because I’m lazy.)

米P@でんぱ組松本ゲット ‏@kome_P 28 Oct
@vavasyatyou そうだと思っています。「日本に行きたいからお金ください」な感じですね。それにkickstarterで他人・他社が作ってた商品をリワードとして使ってもダメです。でもその商品を作った会社のみが通報できそうです・・・ @Fuji_fruit
We think so. Feels like “give me money so I can go to Japan”. And even Kickstarter says using other companies creations as reward products is not acceptable. It seems only the company responsible can report (to Kickstarter).

米P@でんぱ組松本ゲット ‏@kome_P 28 Oct
@vavasyatyou 他社が作った商品について @misuzulive さんがもっと詳しい情報を知っています @Fuji_fruit
For products other companies made (continued). @misuzulive-san knows more about it.

Misuzu Kamio ‏@misuzulive 28 Oct
@kome_P @vavasyatyou @Fuji_fruit はい、それは著作権侵害のように見える http://www.kickstarter.com/help/forms/dmca
Yes, looks like copyright infringement.

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 28 Oct
@vavasyatyou Hello. I am responsible for this project I would love the opportunity to speak with you about the project at your convenience.

米P@でんぱ組松本ゲット ‏@kome_P 28 Oct
@misuzulive @vavasyatyou @Fuji_fruit このプロジェクトは立派な同人二次創作か、自分のための著作権侵害かは問題ですね。2万ドルの費用の内訳が公開していません。
For the issue of if it is worth of being called doujin or commercial copyright infringement; it’s not shown without a breakdown of costs for the $20,000.

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 28 Oct
@vavasyatyou この記録映画のKickstarterプロジェクトの責任者、Clannad_Manと申します。もしよろしかったら、貴方とこのプロジェクトについて申し上げたいと思います。
(I used Google Translate for this one because that indicates the quality of Japanese used here.)
My name responsible for the Kickstarter project of this documentary film, and Clannad_Man. I think If you’re in the mood, you would like to say about this project with you.

馬場隆博 ‏@vavasyatyou 28 Oct
@Clannad_Man 私と日本のKeyファンに対して、説明をしてください
To myself and the Japanese Key fans, please provide an explanation.

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 28 Oct 11:57PM EDT
@vavasyatyou 今説明を整っているので、 少々お待ちいただけませんか
I’m preparing an explanation now, can you wait a moment?

馬場隆博 ‏@vavasyatyou 28 Oct 11:58PM EDT
@Clannad_Man わかりました
I understand

Alfred Fernandino ‏@Trantez 29 Oct
@vavasyatyou @Fuji_fruit 設定画が50ドル。。。犯罪じゃね?
A $50 dollar setting screen? A crime yeah?

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 23h 1:01AM EDT (1hr+ later)
@vavasyatyou 私はKeyの大ファンで、貴社の作品が全て大好きなのでKeyファンのために何かしたかったんです。もし私のプロジェクトが詐欺に見えたり、害をもたらすのであればすぐにやめます。
As a big fan of Key who loves all your work, I wanted to do something for Key fans. If you believe it’s harmful, I will stop immediately.

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 23h
@vavasyatyou 私はTwitter内だけでなくもっと詳しく説明したいですし、私自身のことももっと話せる機会がいただけたらありがたいです。
I want to explain in more detail outside of Twitter, and would appreciate if you give me a chance to tell you about it myself.

馬場隆博 ‏@vavasyatyou 23h
@Clannad_Man 当社はファンが行う著作物の2次創作(イラストを真似たり、曲をアレンジして発表したり)を歓迎いたします。また正規販売品の販売には関与しません。しかし一次著作物の無断使用や2次創作物の無断商用利用はお断りしていますのでご注意ください。
We appreciate doujin works (illustrations and musical arrange) and artists can sell these. However, unauthorized use of original works or unauthorized commercial use of douijn works is prohibited.

馬場隆博 ‏@vavasyatyou 23h
@Clannad_Man 私は英語がよくわからないので、プランについて日本語でご説明いただければ助かります。また、そうすれば鍵っ子(日本のファン)のみなさまも、彼らの常識に照らしあわせて、いろいろアドバイスしてくれるかもしれませんよ、と。
I don’t know English well, therefore it’s helpful if you explain your plan in Japanese. Additionally, the Japanese fans, in light of their knowledge, can assist with their advice.

馬場隆博 ‏@vavasyatyou 22h
@Clannad_Man ちなみに「魔法少女まどか☆マギカ」など、株式会社ビジュアルアーツが有しない権利作品については、それぞれの会社さまなどにお問い合わせください。
By the way, Visual Art’s does not have rights to works such as “Magical Girl Madoka ☆ Magika”. Please contact the respective companies for each.

Steven Schoenwald ‏@Clannad_Man 21h
@vavasyatyou ただいま、詳しい説明を整っていますが、日本語に訳すのが時間がかかります。誠意のしるしとして、Kickstarterのプロジェクトを停止します。このプロジェクトは肯定的な意思だけの尽力で行うのを証明したいです。
Currently we’re arranging a more descriptive explanation but it takes time to translate to Japanese. As a sign of good faith, I will stop the Kickstarter project. As I want to prove the sincerity of the project.

flamingspinach ‏@flamingspinach 20h
@Clannad_Man @vavasyatyou KSで「諸君、我々の熱心はVAの社長にまで届いたぞ!この調子だと絶対に認められるはずだ!」とか言ってるけどさ、実のところお前らの不審な活動が@Fuji_fruitによってバラされただけなんじゃね?なに偉そうに言ってんのw
You’re saying something on Kickstarter like “Everyone, our passion has even reached the President of VA! If we keep it up we’ll surely be acknowledged by Key!” But actually all that happened was that @Fuji_fruit exposed your suspicious activities, isn’t that right? lol, what are you going on about

This appears to be in regard to a post on the kickstarter update, which includes statements like:

  • "due to a conversation I had with Visual Art’s President Takahiro Baba, this Kickstarter is being suspended. While we were not asked directly to do so, it is being done as a gesture of good will" 
  • "does not necessarily mean that the project is dead, but rather that it may need to be modified in certain ways for it to be deemed more appropriate"
  • "Consider this: the international Key community is so passionate about their visual novels / anime that it caught the attention of even the President of Key/Visual Art’s! That isn’t an easy feat."

Looks like they never thought of seeking approval in the first place, don’t feel apologetic and don’t seem to realize or care they committed an offense. As a huge fan of Key, this is not the type of person I want to be supporting, or representing international fans. Maybe they’ll go through with this and be arrested upon entry into Japan?

In conclusion, these actions seem to confirm that Steven Schoenwald does not posses the knowledge to handle a project like this. It would also appear that he is either extremely ignorant or highly suspect. Please do not support this individual and do your own research when it comes to backing people financially.

(update: Flamingspinach notified me of a wording error in very last tweet from chain of events, it has been fixed.)

  • 30 October 2013
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