Good Smile, one of the world’s most popular toy companies, reportedly acted as the brace for one of the internet’s worst cesspools, financially backing 4chan. The site has gone on to facilitate harassment campaigns, racism, misogyny, and homophobia while being a vortex for internet conspiracy theories.
Wired reported on Wednesday that, based on partnership agreement documents, Japanese toy company Good Smile has financially backed 4chan for nearly eight years. The merch provider is known for its Nendoroid series and other scale figurines and action figures based on multiple major IPs, especially anime, but also Warner Bros. and Walt Disney properties. The documents reportedly show Good Smile put up $2.4 million to keep the site going when it was changing hands back in 2015.
Gizmodo reached out to Good Smile for comment, but we did not immediately hear back. The partnership agreement had been filed to the New York Attorney General’s office regarding the 2022 Buffalo shooting, where the perpetrator referenced 4chan as where he uploaded his manifesto.
Good Smile has been connected to 4chan in past reports. Last year, based on nondisclosure documents, Wired reported that Good Smile had played a part in the site’s 2015 acquisition. Former VPs for Good Smile in the U.S. have accused the company in legal documents of trafficking in “sexually explicit” figures of underage girls, committing tax evasion, defrauding the U.S., and being involved with 4chan. According to The Hollywood Reporter, top brass at the subsidiary went to Good Smile’s offices in the U.S. back in 2019 and were told by Enna Hozumi, the VP at Good Smile US, that Good Smile Japan had “acquired” 4chan and that it was being “managed” at the company’s Tokyo, Japan headquarters. A company rep told the Reporter that Good Smile made a “passive investment” into 4chan.
The fine folks at the anonymous imageboard site 4chan have been involved in numerous harassment campaigns, such as recent attacks targeting LGBT suicide hotline workers. It’s been labeled as the seedbed for the QAnon conspiracy movement and for the incel community. The online board was cited specifically by the perpetrator of the deadly 2018 Toronto van attack who specifically targeted women. It’s otherwise continued to be a haven for far-right radicals and trolls of all shapes and sizes.
In 2015, Christopher Poole, who goes by “moot” online, sold 4chan to Hiroyuki Nishimura, the creator of the site 2channel which inspired 4chan. Nishimura has continued on as the site’s administrator. His hands-off approach to running the site has reportedly steered 4chan into becoming the internet’s bastion for the far-right and other peddlers of bunk information. According to the documents cited by Wired, Nishimura then dumped $800,000 of his own money into the site along with $4.8 million from one of his companies additionally financed by a separate Japanese telecommunications firm Dwango.
The lingering question amid all this is “why?” 4chan is not a money-maker by any stretch. It has been hurt by ad blockers and Nishimura suggested the site could close. He later broke 4chan into two with the addition of 4channel. Nishimura has told the Japanese publication Shueisha that he met Good Smile President Takanori Aki at anime conventions, and they became “friends.” He also told Shueisha that Good Smile is working to end its ongoing deal with 4chan, as apparently the toy company’s major working partner Disney is trying to end its relationship.
According to the report, Disney’s licensing deal with Good Smile is up in May, but it is planning on allowing the relationship to expire. Gizmodo reached out to Disney for an official comment, but we did not immediately hear back.