How Good Smile, a Major Toy Company, Kept 4chan Online

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In recent years, Good Smile has branched out into content creation, working with various animation and film studios, has opened online wholesale companies in China and elsewhere, and has even sponsored a S uper GT racing team.

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In 2021, former employees of Good Smile’s Los Angeles office—embroiled in a legal dispute about the future of their employment—countersued the company. In legal filings, they allege Good Smile was responsible for the distribution of potentially obscene sexually explicit anime products and merchandise (“lolicon”) and that it, unbeknownst to its family-friendly corporate partners, was funding 4chan.

The accusations were picked up in The Ankler and The Hollywood Reporter, which cited a Good Smile representative admitting a passive investment in 4chan. The lawsuit was settled out of court, and the allegations were never proven.

Last year, WIRED obtained documents detailing a nondisclosure agreement involving Nishimura, Good Smile, and Tokyo-based telecommunications firm Dwango. The three parties, the document said, were in talks to acquire 4chan. In December, The New York Times confirmed that Nishimura purchased 4chan with funding from three unnamed Japanese partners.

When asked about Good Smile’s involvement in 4chan last December in an interview with publisher Shueisha, Nishimura confirmed the relationship

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. He and Good Smile’s president, Takanori Aki, had met at an anime convention and become friends, Nishimura said. “However, Good Smile Company is in the process of leaving.”

Good Smile did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

As details of Good Smile’s contribution to 4chan have emerged, some of its partners have become anxious. A Disney spokesperson declined to comment about Good Smile on the record. However, a source at the Disney Company, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak about internal business decisions, confirmed that they have a licensing arrangement with Good Smile that expires in May. Disney, the source said, had been unaware of Good Smile’s relationship with 4chan. After being alerted to those ties by WIRED, they said, Disney has opted not to renew its deal with Good Smile. 

From Future Search Brazil to 4chan’s Future

As Good Smile’s involvement in 4chan has become clearer, more questions have swirled about Nishimura’s other partner.

Nishimura founded the image board 2channel in 1999 and quickly cemented himself as a cult figure in Japanese culture. Even before he inspired Chris Poole, 4chan’s founder, to start the English-language knockoff, Nishimura had given millions of Japanese—particularly young men—the freedom to speak anonymously, candidly, and bluntly. That, in turn, generated an ironic, anime-obsessed subculture that traded in a particular brand of hard-right, anti-feminist, anti-Korean, and “identitarian” politics.

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