Top Anime Players Attend Japan’s TIFFCOM Market

Michel Hazanavicius’ OSS 117, Cairo Nest of Spies was awarded the Sakura Grand Prix at the closing ceremony of the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival in Tokyo yesterday. The 2006 French film, starring Aure Atika, also won Tokyo Governor’s Award at the festival which attracted 271,000 visitors during its nine-day run at two main venues and two satellite locations including Tokyo Anime Center at Akihabara Square. This film, along with five other award winners were picked out of 16 films shown in the competition at the event. The 19th edition of the TIFF featured 614 projects from 66 countries.

Although none of the anime features were among the contestants this year, animation is a key element of the three-year-old content market component of the film festival, TIFFCOM, A total of 161 animation houses, content providers and media companies (82 Japanese and 81 international entities) attended TIFFCOM this year, up 22% from 131 in 2005. Eight of the 54 production plans presented to TPG were anime or anime-related this year.

Eleven anime titles, including Satoshi Kon’s latest acclaimed feature Paprika and the TV series Oban Star-Racers (a co-production between French outfit Sav! The World Productions and Japanese studio Hal Film Maker which premiered on Toon Disney Jetix block in June) screened at the Animecs TIFF 2006.

Akira Amari, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, said in his closing ceremony speech that the Japanese Government is hoping to position TIFF as a total content festival covering movies, anime, game and music in 2007. ‘The content production as a whole is one of the key export industries in the 21st century,’ maintained Amari. Daiki Matsuyama, Animecs TIFF 2006 producer, also told Animation Magazine, ‘We are hoping to position anime as a key pillar of the TIFF next year,’

Some of the anime houses and TV networks, however, are not quite as thrilled at the prospect of TIFF becoming another international anime event in Tokyo. They are, in fact, more or less weary of having to participate in another international anime fair in Tokyo only less than five months prior to the Tokyo International Anime Fair, which has finally become a globally recognized anime fair after four years of struggle. One of the anime house executives who had just returned from MIPCOM pointed out that they were not able to return home early enough to prepare their booths for TIFFCOM.

Another anime house executive and a terrestrial network anime producer said that proliferation of international anime fairs in Asia may become a problem in the near future. ‘If you have one each in Tokyo, Pusan, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore, that’s already plenty to attend for anime buyers and sellers,’ he noted. ‘Maybe we need only one in Asia a year, rotating the location every year, for effective and efficient buying and selling of anime,’ he said, ‘though the idea is quite likely to be shot down by every country and city involved in the existing anime fair that is contributing to income gains from visitors and tourists.’

One of the reasons behind the TIFF going after anime is that anime is easier to import than Japanese live-action movies as an export item, thanks to decades of popularity of the genre all over the world. Backed by diehard fans and followers of manga in different age, Japanese anime is still going strong in ll genres of distribution media. TV Tokyo (home of the original Pokemon) continues to air 36 different anime titles in primetime toda. Yukio Kawasaki, animation business manager, content businesses division at TV Tokyo says that this company is the biggest single buyer of local anime in Japan and that at the same time anime accounts for over 90% of TV Tokyo’s program sales overseas.

‘In order to keep marketing anime abroad,’ opines Kawasaki, ‘you’ve got to plan at least three years ahead, because even the fastest selling anime show would face a five-year peak from which its dissemination drops.’ Following the successful marketing of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the US and Europe, Kawasaki is prepared to push Naruto across the world today, following its premiere on Cartoon Network in the US.

Tokyo Metropolitan TV (Tokyo MX), the only UHF station in Tokyo which is in its 11th year of operation today, has recently upped its anime lineup to 25 a week. While most terrestrial networksare cutting down the number of anime titles in view of the declining advertising revenue, Tokyo MX has emerged as a savior of anime houses offering more time slots for the genre, albeit at lower purchase prices.

On the production side, Aniplex, known for Full Metal Alchemist and Naruto is probably producing more TV anime series than anybody else, currently with a dozen titles on terrestrial networks, including the education channel of NHK, the public broadcaster. Founded as Sony Pictures Entertainment/Music Publishing in 1995, the production changed its name several times within the Sony group and became Aniplex in 2003. After setting up Aniplex of America Inc. in March, 2005, Aniplex founded A-1 Pictures as a 14,400 square feet animation production studio in May of the same year.

Toei Animation, Japan’s largest and oldest animation house, has also been a major player in the market, consistently offering five anime series a week for terrestrial TV locally. Having celerated its 50th anniversary this summer, it has increased its sales pitch abroad via its branch offices in Los Angeles, Paris and Hong Kong. The theatrical version of One Piece, one of Toei’ hit TV series which airs on 4Kids stateside, was released in about 100 screens in Korea recently.