Following directly on from the Gundam panel, it was the turn of Viewster to take to the stage with a panel chaired by Anime Limited’s Jeremy Graves, Viewster brand manager Hank Smith and Omakase curator Tommy Pedrini.
Stressing that they loved the UK and often worked in partnership with Anime Limited to provide content to fans there, focus moved to the concept of Omakase. Tommy explained that Omakase was concept drafted by Viewster’s LA branch, intended to provide an alternative to competing merchandise box subscriptions by focussing on better curation of the items within each box and twinned with Viewster’s streaming anime library/subscriber only digital content. Said digital content is intended to make the Omakase experience more immersive for subscribers rather than just simply being a box of merchandise that arrives every two months.
The service is currently available in the UK, US and Canada, with further expansion planned. The cost for a UK subscription is $29 plus $19 shipping and handling costs. The higher shipping cost for UK customers is due to the issue of UK customs fees. The higher price will be used by Viewster to pre-pay customs VAT, leading to no waiting as a result of Omakase boxes being held up for customs review. The base standard for each box will be five items, two of which will be exclusive. Each box will highlight a specific anime theme/series, with talks currently underway with licensors on three different continents in hopes of making a selection of planned ideas possible. To highlight the unified theme concept, Tommy discussed the Hatsune Miku Alpha Box (which we at Toonzone received), clarifying they are aware of the popularity of Vocaloid and may revisit it for a future release for general subscribers. Also discussed was the Beta Box sent to select public testers, with its Back To School theme allowing them to test the possibilities of a linking theme vs a linking character.
This led to the first official box, themed around Kill la Kill and with registration closing 23rd November. The exclusive items for this release will consist of a gold foil cover hardback manga, a Senketsu scarf and a mystery item themed around Mako.
One facet of the digital content will be ‘Omakase Debuts’, being ‘retrocasts’ of titles that pre-date the current trend of streaming and simulcasts. Related to this they mentioned their licensing of Meine Liebe, Saint Beast and Sora no Manimani.
With the digital exclusive comics and music for subscribers, a key focus is ‘fans gone pro’; people who started out enjoying anime and manga and were inspired by it enough to forge a career related to it. The first two comics will be REPLAY by Ashley Davis and King Death by Buttersafe, whilst music will be the album me-nag-er-ie by dub voice actress Cristina Vee & DJ Bouche. Additionally the January music content was previewed by a video of Area 11 frontman Sparkles (complete with the song “GO!! Fighting Action Power, the closing theme to ShiftyLook’s Bravoman web toon) announcing that he would be producing a 1980s/anime inspired concept album exclusively for subscribers. Further to this it was confirmed that the January box itself will be Naruto themed.
The floor was then opened to Q&A/prizes giveaway. Asked if the music content will support Lossless downloads, this is being looked into as they very much want the music to be mobile content. On expanding beyond the three current Omakase territories, this is dictated by licensing contracts and Europe and Latin America are currently see as the most viable markets for expansion. Regarding an option for those who would like the ad free viewing but not the physical merchandise, this currently isn’t an option due to operation costs but dependent on what happens Viewster may revisit the option in the future.,
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