Indie VTuber Bao the Whale has named the person at the middle of a developing story revolving embezzlement and perjury across many known VTubers and their related projects and commissions. The person, identified as James Wicks, is now at the center of the discussion of this ongoing story.
- Bao initially revealed in a stream on May 25 how an animation studio supposed to animate some of her original songs, received $34,517.86, a huge amount of money gathered from her subathon. With no output being given out, Bao said that the studio had only refunded her $20 as of her tweet on said date.
- Several well-known VTubers in the indie scene have come forward to tell their side as well, including Captain Hannah, who almost lost $3,000 if not for filing a dispute on PayPal; and Lucius Merryweather, who claims that they are being badly mouthed by said individual.
To summarize the beginning of my stream, I lost all of my subathon money. It was going towards animated music videos for my original songs. The studio in question has refunded me exactly $20 to date. This is how much they owe me. pic.twitter.com/gHVZBB6g4q— Bao 🐳☔️ Love Me Not EP (@baovtuber) May 24, 2023
With Wicks being revealed as the key entity involved in the issue, NewsDrop takes a look at some of the publicly-available information being associated with said act:
- Wicks was previously affiliated with Tonari Animation, an animation studio which has worked with multiple popular VTubers, such as an original animation for Hololive’s Gawr Gura, as well as an animation for the music video for Wanderers, an original song by Nijisanji’s Ren Zotto. More recently, they were involved in animating the lore video for Saruei’s 2.0 Debut.
- He then appeared to be a member of a small studio named Studio Cell, who was involved in an original animation for OniGiri, following her moving to Japan and signing with talent agency GeeXPlus.
Bao and other VTubers have echoed the same sentiments regarding Wicks’ ways to win them as clients:
- Bao has said that the person in question was employed in a legitimate studio at the time, and she was shown legitimate work done for corporate VTubers. Moreover, she was promised at the time that Wicks’ portfolio was “backed by trusted friends and colleagues.”
- Vienna has also echoed the same sentiment, adding that Studio Cell went under following reports of many of its employees not being paid on-time.
- Captain Hannah shared that back in March this year, she commissioned Wicks for a 1.5 minute video commission, adding that after she pulled out her commission following the issue coming into light, the studio tried to “buy off some time” until the payments were no longer protected by PayPal under its Buyer Protection program.
- Geega added that aside from being baited by said entity to work with them, and were being given with overpromises on the quality and given deadline for said projects. Moreover, the entity was also heavily involved in leaking other projects and breaking non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to other non-involved parties.
- Saruei claims that as her team allotted $23,000 for the production of her 2.0 animation lore, it was reported that only $10,000 of that budget went to the team, with $13,000 still yet to be refunded by Wicks.
How he got me:— Bao 🐳☔️ Love Me Not EP (@baovtuber) May 29, 2023
- Employed under legitimate animation company at the time
- Showed me legitimate work with corporate vtuber companies
- When I first inquired, he was working with trusted friends and colleagues on projects
- Portfolio was backed up by trusted friends and colleagues
Following Bao's public callout, Wicks has since then deleted his Twitter account.
Update As of 1:00PM, Manila Time: Bellamy Brooks, an animator and producer who is affiliated with Tonari Animation, has spoken out about Wicks' affiliation with the studio.
- Brooks has warned the public about entities claiming to be a part of an animation studio and trying to score clients, a scam is most likely to happen. She adds that legitimate studios do not solicit jobs.
- Wicks was employed by Tonari Animation as the company's marketer. He was fired from the company due to undisclosed reasons. Following that, he established Studio Cell.
- The 'ConnectVT' which first appeared in Bao's receipt was Wicks' Discord server, personally used during multiple collaboration streams via the game Gartic Phone. This was confirmed in response to our query on the entity. ‘ConnectVT’ was the name crossed out on Bao’s screenshot of the expenses her company Bao’s Fish Market LLC have sent the bill into.
- Further research has revealed that Wicks, alongside Tonari Animation CEO Jarrett Martin, founded Sawa Con LLC, the holding company behind the convention event Sawa Con, a Lousiana North Shore area-based convention. The company is based in the town of Abita Springs, Lousiana.
Update as of 3:15AM, Manila Time: A day after James Wicks posted a lengthy dossier addressing alleged fraud against popular VTubers, he stated that the previously-announced second part of the statement will no longer be released. This comes after he says "multiple police responses" made to their home address, based on false calls.