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New York ComicCon 2007
Anime Innovation Tokyo

by Mikhail Koulikov,

Probably the most interesting anime-related panel of the 2007 NYCC took place on Saturday night. Hosted by Hiroaki Takeuchi (producer of the ‘Program’ and ‘World Record’ segments of The Animatrix) and John O'Donnell, president of Central Park Media, this panel introduced American fans to a range of innovative animated titles currently being developed in Japan.

Mr. Takeuchi opened the panel with a short paper on the current state of the anime industry in Japan and the need to bring in new talent and new ideas. According to the paper, the three biggest challenges the industry will face in the near future are the demographic changes affecting all of Japanese society (in particular, the emergence of a working-age and even middle-age audience for anime), the rise of IT technologies that allow anime creators to work outside a production company system, and a realization throughout the industry that content needs to be developed not just for consumption by Japanese audiences, but with the global market in mind.

Partly in response to these trends, THINK Corporation, the media production company Mr. Takeuchi is a senior executive of, has recently launched Anime Innovation Tokyo, an incubator that will sponsor the production and marketing of groundbreaking animated films by first-time and emerging directors. AIT, which will identify new anime creators and offer various production assistance is a 100% subsidiary of THINK Corporation, and also receives funding from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The four projects created by AIT's directors that Mr. Takeuchi showed were: Taropicana, produced in a 3D cel-shaded style; Love Rollercoaster, directed by former Sony Computer Entertainment videogame designer Hiromasa Horie and incorporating a 3D look that is also highly reminiscent of claymation; Cencoroll, a traditional hand-drawn animation feature created by Atsuya Uki, a grand prix winner of Kodansha's Afternoon Shiki contest; and Pooky's, a 3D CD work aimed at younger children.

After showing trailers for these four anime, Mr. Takeuchi introduced several other films that are currently in production. Probably the most interesting of them is Catblue: Dynamite, an ongoing series by Romanov Higa that, for lack of a better term, can be described as catgirlspoitation (the setting is an American city sometime in the 1970's and the main character is a catgirl who can wield a gun in her tail). Others include Nitaboh: The Shamisen Master, a biography of a blind shamisen (traditional Japanese guitar) player; Little Heart Songs (about a school chorus and set against the background of the rapid modernization of Japanese society in the 1950's); and Metal Hazard Mugen, a TV series with a style inspired by Mamoru Oshii.

Additional information on AIT and the titles it has subsidized is available at www.anime-innovation.jp

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