UPDATE (29th March 2018): Following discussion with the source, some of the evidence regarding these claims that had originally not been included in this article has now been added
While this article has been in the works since the last public article on Flying Colors Foundation (FCF), circumstances within that time have changed due to the public announcement that, on March 31st, operations of FCF will cease. While following that announcement considerations were made to possibly no longer go ahead with the publication of this article, I have decided to go ahead with it due to the wider implications that go beyond the foundation and have ripple effects for those who were involved in the venture.
The information to be published in this article is from an anonymous source who will remain anonymous. I have personally verified their legitimacy as a source and I have verified the information they have provided me with in regards to FCF, the roles of certain influencers and the questionable nature of some of the potential business partnerships that had been discussed by the company. So that this source can work and provide me with this information under the banner of anonymity, I will not be stating exact details on the source’s relationship with FCF, but I can note that they have been involved with the company and are aware of the inner workings and internal communications of the business, including the nature of the involvement of multiple people working with FCF. Segmented archives of company chat logs have been provided to me throughout the process of writing this article. This article is being published with the aim of not only further clarifying the reality of the situation regarding the company but regarding the nature of the involvement of Gigguk and The Anime Man.
To start, however, I want to discuss Digibro’s $100 payment for consultation that I mentioned in the previous article. Since that article was published, multiple influencers have also noted payments at least at first under the aim of consultation. For each of these influencers they note that they were only paid for the initial meetings that they held, and that no further payments were given for their affiliation or for any future meetings. Geoff from Mother’s Basement noted on reddit that FCF had backed their consultation tier on Patreon and, in their own words:
‘I gave them the consultations they paid for. Afterwards, they asked me if I wanted to get involved past those paid consultations, and when they did, I was offered no additional compensation or payment. They also stopped being patrons at that point.’
They are keen to stress this is not a paid endorsement, but while this may be true, it does show that FCF did pay for consultations and to get the attention of potential influencers. Had this sort of payment been acknowledged this would not necessarily be an issue, but to deny that there were no payment to influencers for any involvement, yet initial meetings regarding the company were paid meetings, is a contradictory statement, and does damage the ability to trust FCF and what they say. These reports regarding payments made by FCF to individuals is further supported by Canipa from TheCanipaEffect, someone who is not an influencer with the company but was contacted by them in the past. They noted to me that in a meeting they held with the people behind FCF, ‘the first thing they spoke about in the meeting was creating new ways for influencers to build revenue’, and though this meeting was not directly for consultation, but was led up to by repeated donations to the $25 tier of their Patreon campaign, they did note that ‘I didn’t receive the money for consultation, but based on what happened with Geoff [Mother’s Basement], I’m fairly confident it was a way of getting my attention.’ The email contact that was publicly shared by FCF that had occurred on the 25th of September was with Canipa, following this meeting.
This makes it likely that, for initial consultations, other influencers who have yet to comment on the issue also received payments, due to the sheer number of people who have confirmed they received money from the organisation for discussions with them, or received money through general donations with the intention of grabbing their attention, but this would need to be acknowledged and confirmed by each individual influencer.
Otaku Pin Club
To move on, I’d like to clarify and add to a point made in my previous article and enlighten the situation with further information, this being the relationship between OPC and FCF. The divestment that FCF had claimed in their public statements to have undertaken had been a very recent action taken by the company, with direct management of both companies by David Suh and Francisco Lee still occurring as late as February 2018. This divestment because of this would have occurred within the last month. This was after FCF had acquired their non-profit status and, due to the nature of running a non-profit and a for-profit company at the same time marketing towards the same audience, would have been a conflict of interest for the time they were involved with each other.
However, far from this conflict of interest being considered an issue, there were attempts to leverage the connections between OPC and FCF to benefit both parties. In early November of 2017 plans regarding the possibility of creating FCF pins that would be given to team members and influencers with the possibility that these pins could also be monetised were brought up within FCF. Discussions on this idea did take place as well, with the idea being considered as something to go ahead with, but in the end the creation of FCF pins never happened. While the involvement of David and Francisco in both of these companies targeting similar audiences could have been seen as a conflict of interest in and of itself, with preliminary discussions in place to have these closely affiliated companies managed by the same individual directly work together to produce a product would have raised ethical questions.
While these are all important things to consider in the context of everything else that has come to light over the past week, there were two other major things that have come to light that further bring not just FCF but the people involved with the company in to serious question.
FCF were Involved With Otaku Coin
Just to bring people up to speed with this other questionable consumer venture promoted with the aims of ‘saving the industry’, Otaku Coin is a new cryptocurrency that is planned to launch in Summer of this year being offered by Tokyo Otaku Mode. They advertise this on the home page for the cryptocurrency under the ambitious claim of ‘establishing Anime Production Committee 2.0’, referring to the production committee system that currently funds anime and plans for the cryptocurrency to possibly be used by fans to help fund new projects they are interested in.
The service claims to be creating a new cryptocurrency that can be used to support the anime industry. Coins can be earned through a planned platform where activities such as watching and reviewing anime, attending conventions and being involved within the anime community could earn you Otaku Coin’s, which could then be used to buy anime and directly support the creators involved ‘easier than ever before’. They want to make being a fan ‘even more exciting’ and have Otaku Coin be the new currency for the consumption of Japanese culture, while supporting the industry at large.
There are a lot questions still surrounding this service, such as exactly how this new currency will support the anime industry since it would need widespread adoption and how it would actually be a stable currency for creators and studios to depend their livelihoods on, especially with examples as seen with Bitcoin and the massively fluctuating value of that coin which reached a peak of around $20,000 in December before plunging to the value of $8000 that it is currently at at the time of writing this piece. There’s also a lack of detail as to how Otaku Coin would function specifically with only vague details like earning currency by ‘watching anime’. For a currency such as this, specific and detailed explanations on how it would work are necessary, yet questions on this have failed to be answered in the 3 months since it’s unveiling, and a confusing chart the only thing to go on as to what the currency can do. And then there’s the involvement of controversial Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, where there are questions regarding what his involvement is.
Between the realm of cryptocurrency itself, questions around what the cryptocurrency actually does and how it works and how it will have a ‘value’ when earning coins comes from non-financial methods, as well as controversial figures being involved in the project, there are questions surrounding this project and how it will function and benefit the anime community, with it having already been a stage for controversy when it was first announced. As things stand as well, even if the project is a success it is questionable whether the currency could have a positive effect on the industry, with fluctuating value possibly effecting the ability for those involved to make a living from it, and the nature of the currency being earned through sharing and reviewing content creates an uneven system for content creators where disproportionate levels of Otaku Coin could be earned by those with bigger platforms as their content can cast a wider net, being shared more widely and generating more Otaku Coin on top of the ability to monetise content generally. This is further pushed by the idea noted on the Otaku Coin site itself that Otaku Coin can serve as a ‘marker of status’.
Why is this relevant? Because from chat logs obtained by myself, there were discussions in place to involve FCF with Tokyo Otaku Mode and Otaku Coin. Discussions were ongoing regarding this collaboration as of February this year, with plans for data collected in surveys by FCF to be shared with Tokyo Otaku Mode for the purpose of Otaku Coin as part of the two companies working together.
Otaku Coin has many questions to answer about how it plans to implement wholesale changes to the anime industry, how it plans to change the production committee system and how it plans to create a new currency of value that will benefit those within the industry and improve working conditions. None of these questions seem to be answered by the planned cryptocurrency that they are planning to launch. Meanwhile, with discussions for FCF to become involved in the work surrounding Otaku Coin having taken place, and with data having the potential to have been shared, had operations continued this would have been brought in to serious question.
The Roles of Gigguk and The Anime Man Within FCF
I mentioned further up in the article that payments had been received by people who became connected with FCF. However, I would like to particularly bring attention to two particular influencers, those being Gigguk and The Anime Man. I bring these two up particularly because their role within FCF was a lot larger than simply being an influencer. Here I want to discuss the exact involvement of these two within the organisation that would place these individuals not as influencers attached to the organisation, but as members of the core team while claiming to have a more distant role, deliberately misleading fans who were informed of their role being only as affiliated influencers.
As I mentioned earlier, Gigguk’s first discussions with the founders of FCF were in the context of Otaku Pin Club, and this occurred within the first quarter of 2017. Following this discussion, he met with OPC and it was in this conversation that the idea of a non-profit came about. In his own words:
‘So I’m pretty sure I was the first influencer to be involved, because the first time I heard it mentioned was at Anime Expo 2017. Here I was meeting with them regarding the collaboration with pins via the OPC. They had offhand mentioned an idea about a non-profit in this conversation, which I supported’
Following this they stated regarding how future discussions with FCF went:
‘A few months later they approached the name, and I think this is when they started to contact other influencers too, and I believe this all lead to the first powerpoint that you saw. As I mentioned, there were a lot of things I was uncertain about with this first pitch and I wasn’t on board with it — as were many others — but I still thought if they approached it right in the future, this could be something positive. They seemed passionate to make it work which was my initial motivation to help them with it. I offered my help if they had any questions about influencers or the Anime community with any further ideas, and also introduce them to some other influencers. This happened between late August and September’
This is where stories diverge, however. In The Anime Man’s own video about the Top 100 Anime Poll results, they shout out Flying Colors for data analysis, introduced to them by Gigguk as they state. This collaboration started around the 16th August, as I stated within the timeline regarding FCF in my previous article, showing conversations had started at an earlier point, more around the time of FCF’s official foundation, and his involvement with the organisation continued from here.
In The Anime Man’s situation, while he had collaborated with FCF for the Top 100 Anime Poll between August and October, and he was a listed influencer from early on due to this, they became more involved with the organisation from around January time.
IMPORTANT: Flying Colors is a non-profit organization. I did NOT get paid to make this video, nor is anyone on the team. There have been some rumors saying this is all a scam, but I assure you they are all false accusations. Thanks for understanding guys!
In both the cases of The Anime Man and Gigguk, their interactions with FCF were not as influencers but as members of the core team behind the operations at the company. They were directly involved in business decisions and on decisions regarding the direction of the organisation, and were given access directly to central business communications.
The Anime Man had decided not to have any in depth involvement following the release of the poll, as I have mentioned. However, while I have a statement from Gigguk claiming that their trip to Japan in October of last year was not related to FCF in any fashion for either them or for Sydney, their girlfriend and a listed volunteer for the company, in Gigguk’s case discussions were held with The Anime Man to convince him to further involve himself with FCF, and it is from January of this year, following this conversation, that The Anime Man decided to involve himself further with the day to day operations of FCF.
Through my source I have come in to the possession of communications noting that they have both been involved in business dealings for FCF, including that they were involved in talking with other parties about FCF. Alongside this, The Anime Man had specific responsibilities to speak with companies in Japan and contact them about FCF once he became involved with FCF, and he was also going to be involved in the opening of a Japanese branch for FCF for the purposes of the work the business was planning to take on.
To further add to this, both influencers were involved as part of working with FCF to respond to comment since questions began to be asked of the organisation following their launch. The initial statement provided to me on the 25th March was discussed in this core business chat and collaborated on, as was Gigguk’s now-deleted public response, and responses to questions from other organisations, with these so-called influencers who were actually members of the core team knowledgable of the decisions that were being made behind the scenes and helping to formulate the correct responses. In this deleted public statement Gigguk says that any involvement with FCF came after their involvement with Otaku Pin Club which I can confirm is not the case. Following that they stated:
‘From there on I’ve been there as an informal advisor now and again, and I’ve helped introduce them to some of the other AniTubers, but they’ve been doing all the ground work in setting things up, reaching out and gauging interest, but I can vouch for the fact that they’ve worked their damned hardest with the best of intentions, and you’d be surprised how receptive people can be by simply just reaching out.’
This is simply not the case. Their statement (I have reuploaded the statement in full to imgur) suggests that they simply weren’t that involved while multiple chat logs received showcases that they were involved as part of the core team and taking a deeper role in the business ‘since the beginning’.
With The Anime Man, while his involvement as part of the core team was for a shorter length of time, he was involved in arranging and having discussions with potential Japanese clients, and was also going to work with FCF to open a Japanese branch for the company. This work was with the intent to establish relations between them for the future.
In the last 24 hours, Gigguk put a statement on his twitter regarding how he views his relationship with FCF.
The issues with FCF that caused its closure were mainly due to the poor communication and management and the lies about what was planned with the data collection with no mention of selling to Japanese companies. Issues can be taken with the other problems I have highlighted with the company, including the ones in this article such as involvement with Otaku Coin and the issue of the ties between Otaku Pin Club and FCF. With this article here, however, and the reason why publication continued as planned despite the announcement today that the non-profit would cease operations on March 31st, was that the issues highlighted to me by my source extend beyond simply the issues surrounding FCF.
For a YouTuber such as Gigguk and The Anime Man, an audience is built around that person. The viewer enjoys the content that they make but the fan supports the individual making the content, and the connections that can form between YouTubers and fans can be great. The thing with these relationships is that they’re built on trust, and the fan of a YouTubers content would trust the content creator and possibly be influenced by the content they create. That’s exactly why FCF contacted various YouTubers for collaboration and affiliation, as fans would become invested in FCF and involve themselves in the initiative if it was promoted by a YouTuber they liked to watch. And Gigguk and The Anime Man, both YouTubers with over 1 million subscribers, abused this trust.
While claiming simply to be an influencer, both were involved in the day to day operations of the company, and in the case of Gigguk this involvement, in their own words, goes right back to the beginning. Both were involved in business decisions, and in the past week have collaborated on public statements regarding the foundation, while continuing to claim that they are only influencers, with no indication of their deeper involvement.
This constitutes a misrepresentation of their involvement with the company when they were promoting it. They potentially misled their audience by not fully sharing their involvement with the company, and how invested they were in its operations. In Gigguk’s case, the statements he has made knowingly misrepresent his true role further and in The Anime Man’s case, he has quietly removed his video on the topic and kept quiet since.