- This piece is NOT about 4chan, you will not find anything about 4chan here. Go somewhere else.
- We are not here to defend GOOD SMILE COMPANY (GSC) AND MAX FACTORY in regards to their "dark history" from their early years.
After reading the story "Who Owns 4chan?" (https://www.wired.com/story/who-owns-4chan/) published by Wired on May 26, 2022, we have no issues whatsoever with freelance journalist Justin Ling [https://twitter.com/justin_ling] looking into the owner(s) behind 4chan. However, one small tiny detail in the article caught our eyes.
We are completely outraged by this text near the end of the original article:
Scroll through Good Smile's online shop and it's impossible to avoid sexualized images of young girls. A figurine of Wendy, a character from anime Gun X Sword described as being in her "early teens," features her in only a nightie. The English description of the product advertises her "sex appeal made by the crevice in the panties and her wonderful thighs. Caught defenseless whilst changing, a truly dioramic pose for a figure." Dozens of other products are similarly suggestive, with some depicting characters who are canonically pre-pubescent.
Why do we have issues with this block of text? It is NOT about the "suggestive" product description. Rather, it contains completely WRONG and MISLEADING information.
The "Wendy" figure in question is the one from here: https://www.goodsmile.info/ja/product/364/, which clearly states that it is a product released by MAX FACTORY, not GSC.
This is what Justin responded through Twitter DM when we pointed this out to him:
"Yes, I see that it's manufactured by Max Factory, but it's listed for sale on the Good Smile website. I don't think a correction is warranted. Thanks for the note."
You are completely WRONG, Justin. Reporting "facts" is your basic job as a journalist.
Here are the actual URL to GSC "online shop", as mentioned by Justin in the text (but never included for references):
Read carefully and you can see the "online shop" are on completely different domains.
What you can do is try searching for "ウェンディ" on their Japan store and "Wendy" in the USA store, and guess what: you cannot find the product on their real "online shops".
However, Justin "insists" you can find this figure on GSC "online shop", so are we actually looking at the same "online shop"?? Justin's point can still be valid if he "comes clean" and just said GSC helped MAX FACTORY made this product in the past, but NO, Justin insists it is "listed" on the "online shop".
Is Justin really cannot connect the dots to see a company's product portfolio page and the actual "online shop" for GSC are two completely different things??
So with Justin's simplistic and "naive" logic, if we go to BestBuy online store and saw a Sony Playstation 5 console "for sale", then BestBuy "owns" Sony outright????
This is MISINFORMATION, plain and simple.
Also, by simple inference, Justin is suggesting that this "Wendy" product is available for sale from GSC "online shop", with product inventory that can come back from 0 to whatever quantity at anytime, because it is "listed" on the "online shop". A play-on-words with what normal North American online shoppers would expect how an online store operates: if the product is "listed" there, but not available for sale, that means it "will" down the road, unless you take the product off the store.
This is one blatant attempt to MISLEAD all readers into thinking this product is still available, WHICH IT IS NOT, period.
And to our surprises, Justin clearly has no clue about this, nor did the simple task of fact-checking himself: GSC "Online Shop" DOES NOT EXIST in January 2008. See for yourself with the handy Wayback Machine: http://web.archive.org/web/*/https://goodsmileshop.com/ja/. GSC official website is never used for e-commerce at any point in time, and this fact effectively "nuked" the whole idea of ever able to buy this "Wendy" figure from the real GSC Online Shop at ANY POINT IN HISTORY.
It is clear Justin wants to create a fake illusion of GSC is STILL in the business of selling products of under-age characters with "suggestive and erotic poses", which is a topic for discussion in another time.
What Justin failed to mention to his readers: it is just a part of the “dark history” this niche toy industry will never wipe away, nor they will do it in the first place.
GSC and other toy companies that started out in early 2000s by making garage kits (expensive and hard to produce in any meaningful quantities, not to mention you have to paint it yourself) obsolete and created a market for collectors with mass-production plastic products. Who is their original target customers?? Japanese fans of ero-game characters.
It is part of the history, and nobody is hiding this fact from the public.
These companies never really cared about the North America market in the first place before 2010, with everything made before then were just for the Japanese market and some may got exported to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and some got imported by small toy shops in North America through their Hong Kong connections.
In the case of this "Wendy" product, do you think the original rights holder (that would be the Gun X Sword anime Production Committee) had NO CLUE that MAX FACTORY would pull this off without their knowledge and consent??? OF COURSE NOT. You can bet MAX FACTORY got "directions" from the animator who drew the original illustration for the product. If you have worked with any Japanese or Japanese companies, they are known for their "attention to details".
Again, did Justin dig into the history of this "Wendy" product and provide some contexts as he should?? NO, and he conveniently makes GSC looks like one "evil toy company" making too many obscene products of underage girls and sell them to kids.
Historical context in this case is extremely important, but it is one inconvenient truth that Justin probably feels it will "weaken" his argument.
By now, it is clear Justin and the editors at Wired are complete outsiders with ZERO knowledge on how this industry works, as well as how GSC operates, and missed a couple of important investigative assignments in our opinion:
- GSC also operates as a full-service provider for other toy companies, from planning (dealing with rights-holder), product prototyping, manufacturing through their contract factories in China, and handle all logistics (shipping back finished products from China to Japan and retail distributions), this is why you will see all kinds of products from different companies throughout the years, not just MAX FACTORY. How the products will "look" are completely between the external companies and the rights-holder to agree upon. GSC is just here to help their clients "execute" the projects.
- All these toys made by GSC and other companies have an age suggestion. Guess what number that is?? 15+, and every collector knows. Even for those cute Nendoroids. None of them are here to make toys for little kids, never have and never will. They will verify your age on the GSC Online Shop for "those items".
And most importantly, Justin and the editors at Wired do not really want you to know the following information, nor they know any of it in the first place.
All toy products from GSC and other companies in this space all follow this basic work-flow:
- Brainstorm, prototyping, get the approval from rights holder
- Gets the prototype ready, announces the product for pre-orders, and send it off to manufacturing at "set quantities" for ONE batch
- Receives the finished product, go through QA checks, then releases to local stores in Japan and any other wholesale partners worldwide
- Once this batch is sold out, it is literally SOLD OUT and NOT IN PRODUCTION, only until the day when company announces said product will get a "new production run", then the cycle repeats itself
For this "Wendy" product, it got just one batch-run for January 2008, and that's it. All sold out for a long time ago. Being "listed" on a website that is not an "online shop" does not mean it is still "for sale", don't ever think you can out-talk any "industry watchers", Justin.
Justin could have saved himself by talking to other "industry experts", and there are plenty of retailers in the USA and Canada now. But NO, he went with it thinking nobody will call him out. Not on our watch.
At Otaku HQ, we pride ourselves in providing information as accurate as we can. We might not be perfect, but that's what we strive for.
As a journalist, Justin, your goal should be reporting "unbiased, fair, and accurate" information to your readers. Sadly, you are trying to do the exact opposite on this tiny detail and think you can get away with it.
Justin and Wired can try dismissing us as nobody, but we got the facts, and them? Not so much.
We emailed Wired editors through firstname.lastname@example.org on May 27, 2022 with no acknowledgement nor reply from Wired. Justin was contacted through his Twitter account on May 29, 2022 and only replied back the next day, making clear that he saw nothing wrong and would not make any changes even with all the facts laid out to him.
We totally disagree.
Our demands to Justin Ling and the editors at Wired are extremely simple:
- Make the correction on who released this "Wendy" product, clearly stating it is MAX FACTORY, not GSC.
- Clearly stated that this "Wendy" product is not available for sale through any stores since 2008 (with GSC Online Shop did not even exist back then and certainly never carried the product), and you can only find the figure on GSC product portfolio page as a historical reference.
You can keep the rest of the original text to make your original point, we do not care.
Before closing, here is another nugget Justin dropped in our Twitter DM session:
Nothing there says it's still for sale. It says it's listed on their site. They still wrote that copy, they still offered it. And there's lots of other figurines that are for sale that are similar.
Justin, we have another investigative assignment for you, since you skipped too many already. It is super-simple:
Go to GSC official site and count how many products made by GSC that have explicit nudity or "cast-off" nudity (just like "Wendy") since 2006. BUT, You can only count from the following brands:
- GOOD SMILE COMPANY
- GOOD SMILE Arts Shanghai
- GOODSMILE RACING
- ORANGE ROUGE
- With Fans!
Why the handicap, you ask?? Well Justin, you want to show how "evil" GSC is, right? Prove it with their wholly-own brands are making nudity left-and-right is the best way to make us eat our words.
If you think you can find more than 100 products, Justin, KEEP DREAMING. Count yourself lucky if you can actually hit number 20 by the end of it, and certainly most of them are not even from the past 10 years.
Written by Otaku HQ
First published on June 2, 2022 under the title Open Letter to Justin Ling and Wired on "Who owns 4chan?" Article from May 26, 2022.
Article title updated on August 23, 2022.
May 19, 2023: Justin Ling Twitter account went inactive after April 20, 2023, and who says we are letting him off the hook?? His "ugly" website [https://justinling.ca/] and his Mastodon account [https://mastodon.online/@justinling].