In an email distributed to all Pixiv members last month, it was announced that Japan’s largest artwork community would be introducing a ‘Requests’ functionality for all users. Its name should already imply what the service sets out to do. The system allows any artist on the service to begin accepting paid requests from the community, and should they like a concept, accept it, and produce it within a 60-day deadline.
As we have covered on The Otaku’s Study before, there are a few active artwork commissioning sites on the Japanese market which welcome international requesters. One such example is SKEB, which makes use of the DeepL artificial intelligence translation service to allow anyone with a credit card/debit card to commission the thousands of artists on their service. There is also a range of options in the English-language market, from DeviantArt and FurAffinity, to services which provide you with YCH (Your Character Here) artwork to bid for such as YCH.commishes.
But how does Pixiv Requests set itself out from the crowd? Is it the next big thing for artwork commissioning from now on? Or a fad that will soon fizzle out into obscurity? Please keep reading for my initial impressions!
The Great: Pixiv Requests Mitigates the Risk of Financial Transactions
Similar to the other Japanese artwork commissioning services, what is excellent about Pixiv Request is that it serves to minimise the risks to both client and artist when it comes to the financial transaction. From a client perspective, over the years, I have been screwed out of money by paying a supposedly reputable artist upfront and never hearing from them again. Furthermore, I can imagine there have been many artists screwed out of compensation for their services by clients who never pay up.
With Pixiv Request, users pay their request fee upfront, which is then held by the service until the final work is delivered. Should the artist deliver art within the 60 days, they will receive the full agreed-upon fee automatically, but should they either decline the request or are unable to deliver within the 60 days, the project is cancelled, and the client is refunded fully. Granted it does suck when you wait two months for a project to fail, but at least you are not out of pocket.
Interestingly, there appears to be another level of protection when it comes to making a request. At least with the request I made, once the artwork was posted, it was manually checked by a member of the Pixiv concierge team prior to being marked as completed. If this is more than just a random check, while I envision artists will have a lot of flexibility when it comes to what they deliver, at least it acts as a guarantee that a) The client isn’t given something that is entirely different from their request and b) That the client isn’t just given a blank PSD file.
The Great: Multiple Request Types are Allowed
Over the years, Pixiv has expanded to support many different creative mediums from artwork to novels. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Request service offers clients to request more than just illustrations. While this will hopefully expand to other formats over time (Maybe even VRoids), at the moment illustrations, ugoira (animated works), single/multi-page manga and novels can be requested via the service.
While nothing is stopping an artist from doing a multi-page illustration featuring facial expression variants, it is nice these can be included as separate images and not just locked to a layered PSD file for the successful client. Especially compared to other services which typically favour illustrations over manga or written works, it is great to have an all-in-one solution.
The Good: Making requests are easy, but isn’t very flexible or feature-rich
Making requests is as simple as finding an artist you like who is currently accepting submissions, clicking on the request button and filling in a few details. Required details include: Request Category, a summary of the content you would like the artist to draw, recommended tags for the author and a request amount (From 3,000 yen up to 300,000 yen). There are a few other options available to clients, including the ability to make their request anonymous, and the ability to request (if the artist has enabled it) a NSFW R-18 or R-18G creation. This is the basic functionality that other services offer – although an opportunity to keep at least the request details private would have been nice. But as I will discuss later on, there is a reason why they may not have included it.
Provided you have an artist in mind, an idea in your head and the money in your bank account, you can easily have a request sent off in a matter of minutes if not seconds. However, some limitations keep it from filling a niche other Japanese services don’t offer. First of all, while you can request a NSFW art piece, those located outside of Japan are not able to. Secondly, there is no auto-translate functionality. Given that anyone can sign-up to take requests, this means that those of any language wanting to request an artist of another language must use an outside tool rather than one built into the system.
Pixiv Requests follows the idea that artists should be able to field requests from their fans and not be bothered by them. I get the philosophy behind this and appreciate that not every artist wants to receive dozens of enquiries about estimated delivery dates and the like. But I feel that this is a missed opportunity, and believe that artists should at least have the choice of maintaining ongoing discussion with the client through drafts or one/two-way enquiries. Even having more optional options around client usage outside of “personal use” would have been welcome. At this point, any such commissions still need to go through email or instant messaging. I feel that being able to manage this entirely through a service like Pixiv’s would be a game-changer.
The Not So Great: The Trade-Offs for Co-Requests May Not Be Worth It
One of the unique ideas behind Pixiv’s request system is that if someone sees an approved request they like, they can put the same amount of money down on it and essentially support the client requesting the artwork – receiving any bonuses they do. On paper, the idea is sound, especially for those who may solicit broad ideas that many people would like to support to make a grander project. But outside of a few official requests made by Pixiv themselves, I have not seen more than one or two co-requested projects. In my opinion, this is because many requests are simply too niche and specific to have wider appeal warranting such a system.
I have a few reservations about this, more from the perspective of someone who requests artwork of their original characters. First of all, because of requests needing to be public to offer this system, it means that there is no way of making your request hidden from everyone else. I am not so much against an artist sharing the final work, but I always err on the side of just anyone getting access to my personal reference sheets. Secondly, it makes me see a future where artists might accept a lot of requests, but only ever do the ones that receive X number of co-requests. If I were to put, say, 20,000 yen upfront on an art request which is accepted, then I would treat that as an in-good-faith indication that they would deliver on that project. I could be overthinking this, but as someone who gets incredibly excited about the few commissions they do request… it pains me when they fall through.
The Tentatively Not So Great: The Launch Campaign
What is the best way that Pixiv could catch the attention of their userbase when they first launched their Request service? Generating strong PR by getting well-known artists to advertise they are taking requests is definitely one way to go about it, and that is what they did! I was excited to see the list of artists they got involved in their launch campaign, and even despite their high prices, can imagine there would be a lot of demand for many of them. That said, while some such as へんりいだ, 上倉エク, 葉月ナツ and しらたま❄ have accepted public requests while others have accepted “official requests”, many currently have accepted no requests at this time.
Not knowing the individual circumstances, it is hard to know exactly why some haven’t got any requests at this time. It could just be that due to their price, some artists may have received very few requests, or none that were of interest to them at this time. However, in terms of the PR opportunity for Pixiv, it is hard to feel excited about only a few of the (rightfully) highlight artists accepting requests. That said, I am saving up for a particular artist on this list, and am hoping they approve my request!
Fortunately, it appears that the community has embraced the system, with dozens of my followed artists beginning to take requests and a fresh stream of offers appearing to be accepted daily. A list of in-progress requests and a list of your followed artists taking requests can be found HERE.
I do not see my days of reaching out to artists of interest via Twitter, IM or Email over anytime soon. However, Pixiv’s Request service is quite ambitious in its early days, and if embraced by its incredibly large community, might be a very useful tool in the future for artwork commissioners or those looking to support their favourite artists. Its most significant values at this time are its interoperability with the rest of Pixiv’s services, and that users across the world can use its services as both client and artist. However, I am sure that some would appreciate the lifting of NSFW art restrictions to international audiences, and a few more controls over the requests visibility would not go astray.
All commissions made for the purposes of this review were paid out of my own pocket, and I was not contacted by PIXIV or offered anything to write this.