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Tokyo International Anime Fair

by Jon Tarbox (Senior Editor, Raijin Comics),
The production and export of anime, along with the related industries of manga and video games, has seen uninterrupted growth for the past decade; this despite a recession that has plagued Japan for more than a decade. There are currently more anime programs being broadcast and more anime movies in production than at any other time in history. This growth has been supported by a huge increase in the number of foreign adaptations of anime products in North America, Europe and worldwide. At the same time, the award of the Best Animated Feature Film to Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" at the Oscars marks the emergence of anime from its subculture status into the mainstream of the world entertainment market.

Realizing the value of this industry, the Tokyo municipal government is throwing its weight behind supporting anime as an export product. Starting in 2002, the city sponsored the Tokyo International Anime Fair as a way to serve several functions at once: to consolidate and expand the opportunities for growth abroad, to promote Japanese animation as the world's best, and emphasize the City of Tokyo as the heart of this expanding global industry.

The 2nd annual Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) was held at Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Hall, from Wednesday March 22nd to Saturday the 25th. Most of the major Japanese anime studios such as GAINAX, Studio Pierrot, Production I.G and Studio 4c were out in full force. Foreign anime-related companies were also present, including ADV, Cartoon Network, Tokyo Pop and Central Park Media. Total number of attendees was 64,698.

Approximately 80% of Japanese anime production businesses operate in the nation's capital. This annual event brings together these business and foreign companies in a focused effort to stimulate all corners of the industry, including general business activity, exports of animation production and related information overseas, and the promotion of the anime industry as a whole. Furthermore, to anime consumers and the general public, the fair represents a rare chance to get acquainted with the makers of their favorite animated works on a more personal level.

The International Anime Fair consisted of three parts: a trade fair for exhibiting companies; symposiums and events such as stage shows and displays; and a competition of outstanding works that will be decided by ballot. The trade fair promoted the anime business through business negotiations and sales of anime works or TV programs. There were also booths selling merchandise related to anime. This year's Fair also had a "Creator's World," established as a way to provide business opportunities to young creators.

Events include a special display of world anime techniques, stage shows featuring popular characters, and live talk shows with voice actors. There was a full schedule of screenings, including critically-acclaimed anime released last year, classical masterpieces such as France's all-time biggest anime hit Kirikou et la Sorciere ("Kirikou and the Witch") and soon-to-be-release television shows and films.

Industry Day

The first two days of the event were for industry participants only. Including publishing labels, art retailers and even telephone companies, the number of anime-related businesses present throughout the event increased over last year – from 104 companies with 288 booths in 2002, to 138 companies managing 408 booths this year, including 25 companies from overseas. Many of the booths included private meeting rooms and company representatives to arrange the buying and selling of production licenses, distribution rights, and other deals.

These are days when production houses make major announcements. Justin Leach of Production I.G (makes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) told this writer that his company will be producing 10 minutes of anime for Quentin Tarantino's newest film, "Kill Bill."

Tokyo Anime Awards

The most popular event of the first day was the Tokyo Anime Awards competition in which outstanding works and the creators that gave birth to them are recognized for their efforts. A full listing of the awards can be found on the Festival's web site: www.taf.metro.tokyo.jp.

Not restricted to only nomination entries, this competition held on the first day of the fair also incorporated open entries for works to be acknowledged. Particularly benefiting from this open entry system were shows that fit into the Pilot Category, which included a number of pilot films and other unfinished works from promoters and investors. Given the undeveloped potential of the numerous works featured and the broad range of original ideas represented, the award given in this category serves to encourage the production of new, daring anime. Furthermore, entries in this category are not limited to those from within Japan, so those who have a theme or work they would like to showcase are advised to try submitting their entries from overseas for next year's competition.

Special Events

The event area featured exhibitions of special projects, symposiums, stage events and anime theaters. Incorporating a variety of themes that ranged from seiyu and digital anime to production-related finances, these symposiums and lectures were well received by both industry experts and the general public.

The “World Exhibit of Animation Techniques – For Future Animators” Was very popular. Using images and other valuable materials, this special exhibition provided a thorough explanation of the nature in which technology used in Japanese animation developed over time. Effectively incorporated in this explanation were production processes and anime photography equipment used in the making of the first TV anime to be broadcast in Japan, “Tetsuwan Atom” (Astro Boy).

The development of the industry, especially of the international market and overseas export, was a major theme of the event. Booths incorporating this theme served as a major draw for overseas attendees – another example of the increased utility of the TAF in carrying out its function of stimulating the overall anime market. Japanese anime has and continues to cater to a global market with the grand production scale and high level of technological incorporation boasted by the medium, and it is expected that producers of not only the anime works themselves but those of affiliated merchandise will increasingly look to factor an overseas audience in their operations.

The event was considered a major success. The number of exhibitors, booths, and attendees all dramatically increased from the first year. Event organizers pledge that next year's event will be even more spectacular. More information about the event can be found at their web site: www.taf.metro.tokyo.jp. It includes complete information in both English and Japanese.

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