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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fair demonstrates just how global 'anime' now is


Staff writer

The Tokyo International Anime Fair is surely going global.

News photo
Visitors at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2008 at Tokyo Big Sight check out three-dimensional animation Saturday created by Redrover International. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTOS

The fair, which opened to the public Saturday at Tokyo Big Sight for a two-day run, marked a record number 79 foreign companies participating this year in its seventh year.

"I think most importantly, it allows foreign companies to understand the culture of animation in Japan," said Benjamin Colling, director of admissions and student services of British Columbia's Vancouver Film School, which also participated last year.

"Of course, there are other talented countries, like France, but the style and creativity that comes out of Japan is so unique that it's important for foreign companies to understand its benefit," he said.

As foreign companies get exposed to Japan's "anime" animation culture, the reverse is also true, he said.

North America has better technology in areas such as computer graphics because many companies there spent a huge amount of money compared with their Japanese counterparts. However, Colling said, Japanese animation is more creative and better in storytelling, so they can influence each other in a good way.

Kris Nalamileng, managing director of Bangkok-based 2Spot Communications Co., which designs cartoon characters and produces goods and animation, said this year is the third time for them to join the fair.

"Every year, we want to come back," Nalamileng said. "It's good to come, enjoy the atmosphere (and) see what others are doing."

News photo
A model poses Saturday as Doronjo, a character from the popular animated cartoon "Yattaman," at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2008.

He added that the fair is also a chance to meet Japanese customers and foreign visitors. "So I think it is good to have many other countries (participate), like (South) Korea and Taiwan," because it's supposed to be more international, he said.

The event is also an opportunity for companies to appeal to the Japanese market.

"I think (participating in the fair) is the first approach to the Japanese market," said Hiroshi Okubo, vice president of operations at Redrover Japan Co., part of Redrover International, which creates three-dimensional software and hardware and animation in South Korea and Canada.

Redrover Japan was established in March to focus on the Japanese market.

"Our company is not well-known here in Japan yet, so we recognize that the fair is like the first gate (into) the Japanese animation industry," Okubo said.

As the fair has become more international, other countries' animation industries are improving as well, although Japan still leads the scene, Colling of VFS said, pointing out that South Korea in particular is getting better.

The nation's 3D technology is actually now better than Japan's, because the government is backing up the industry and creators, Okubo of Redrover said, adding he was impressed by the fair's huge turnout.

The venue was jam-packed with visitors, ranging from children to seniors as well as many foreigners.

Zvonimir Bulaja, whose business partner is participating in the fair, came to the event from Croatia with his family.

Though he was aware of the popularity of anime in Japan, Bulaja said, "I didn't know it's this important and this big."



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