How an American Music Producer Used Japanese Anime for Global Impact

Posted by Doug McGowan
on Fri, Nov 24, 2017 @ 03:48 AM

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You know how sometimes when you look at something, it makes you think of something else? Well, that happens when I see the short film/music video Shelter. After getting past the impact of the story, this piece always gets me thinking about the enormous reach of collaboration and localization. Maybe it will for you, too—if you have marketing on the brain.

Collaboration creates magic

American electronic music producer Porter Robinson collaborated with French electronic music producer Madeon to create Shelter in 2016 and did a US and European tour. These two talented people first met when Porter was 14 and Madeon was only 12 years old as rival talents frequenting a music production internet forum. Shelter is their only collaboration to date, but it exquisitely reflects the musical styles of both. 

Porter then took Shelter a step further by partnering with content distributor Crunchyroll and approaching Japanese animation studio A-1 Pictures to visualize the song with a storyline he had in mind. Normally I wouldn’t recommend viewing the behind-the-scenes video before the actual production, but in this case I do, because it tells the Porter + A-1 collaboration story far better than I can write it.


It starts with a sound story and solid commitment

Of course, no amount of collaboration or technical savvy would have made the video a success (close to 25 million views as of November 2017) if there wasn’t a powerful story to be told. And for this, kudos go to Porter Robinson and his passion to make his dream a reality. It was that passion that moved the folks at A-1 Pictures to really get onboard. 

The story is about a young girl named Rin that…wait, at this point, any mention of the storyline will be old news for people who have already seen the video, and spoilers for all who have not. So, instead of spoiling the fun, without further ado, here is Shelter as per the Porter Robinson official channel on YouTube. It’s six minutes long, and will be time well spent. Have tissues at the ready—especially if you’re a parent.

Porter Robinson & Madeon - Shelter (Official Video) (Short Film with A-1 Pictures & Crunchyroll)

See it? Get it? You’ll probably need a few minutes more to think about what it all meant. Watching it a second time will no doubt help, since so much information is jam-packed into the six-minute clip, and you’re likely to have missed some hints here and there. Or, visit the English-Japanese bilingual Shelter official site at sheltertheanimation.com.

A-1 Pictures provided the visual quality to keep you engrossed in the world unfolding on-screen, while Porter provided the music and the story that collectively keep you engaged and invested in the plot. 

Localization that hits home

Porter Robinson wanted to tell the Shelter story using the genre of anime, and he chose his partner well. Whats more, instead of forcing a western scenario onto the creators at A-1 Pictures, he pursued a Japanese story featuring Japanese characters. When the main character Rin flashes back, it’s full of scenes that are unmistakably Japan, from the Shinto shrine to the relatively small dining room. 

Shelter manages to tell most of the story through slices of imagery. But some crucial details are conveyed through a smidgen of speech and text. In case you hadn’t noticed, YouTube subtitles are available for this video in Arabic, Traditional Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Porter localized the interface while using Japanese themes to convey an inherently universal message.

Without subtitles, the reaction videos from Girls Play, LanokirX, Claudio Oyarzo, Ratchetness, and NadiaCala probably would have been far more confused and a lot less deep.

Maybe anime is not your thing. Maybe electronic music is not your thing. Maybe science fiction is not your thing. Even so, I would recommend Shelter for a moving experience that hints at effective messaging, targeting, and teamwork. 

Last but not least...

The marketing and localization takeaways are:
  • Choose partners based on the value they can bring to your project, not based on lowest cost.
  • Have passion for the project; if there is no passion, there is 0% possibility that passion can be felt by the customer.
  • One size doesn't fit all; remember there are ways to globalize without sacrificing local character.
  • Harness the means of expression that resonate with your target audience.

If you have plans to do business in Japan or with Japan, or would like to see some examples of content localization into Japanese, please check out the Moravia Japan Blog here.

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