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Friday, July 3, 2009

Agency moves on 'manga cafe'


Staff writer

Amid continuing objections from the Democratic Party of Japan and others, preparations for the proposed National Center for Media Arts, or "state-run 'manga' cafe" as it is known by its detractors, have begun in earnest.

The first meeting of a new preparatory committee to hammer out a basic plan detailing the nature of the Tokyo facility, its administrative structure and program content was held Thursday at the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

The committee's plan will build on an earlier report, issued in April, that announced that the new institution will engage in the research, collection and display of manga comics, "anime" animation, video games and digital art.

The agency hopes to start construction of the center, probably in the Odaiba district, by the end of the current fiscal year and open it to the public as early as 2011.

At the start of Thursday's meeting, agency head Tamotsu Aoki alluded to the controversy surrounding the proposed institution. "We have received a great many opinions regarding the plan," he said, before reminding the committee members that many people, "both in Japan and abroad are observing our actions with great expectation."

University of Tokyo professor Yasuki Hamano was elected chairman of the committee, which comprises 14 academics, private-sector employees, artists and museum curators specializing in media art, film/video, anime, manga and computer games.

In two hours of discussions, members said the new facility should engage in the digital preservation of manga, provide a venue for young manga and anime artists to show their work and act as a showroom where visitors from abroad could see the best media art Japan has to offer.

Committee member and president of The Pokemon Company, Tsunekazu Ishihara, noted the recent controversy surrounding the center had served one good purpose: "At first I was worried no one would understand that media art entailed manga, anime and so on. Now I think the whole populace now knows what it is."

In answer to concerned inquiries from several members, agency vice chief Itaru Takashio explained that although his agency had at first said the institution would be self-funding, he did intend to apply for annual funding from the government to cover the institution's nonprofit activities, including education, research and maintenance.

The committee must publish its basic plan sometime this month, supervise a competition to select an architect in August and announce a detailed project plan in October.

The controversy surrounding the plan — DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama said last week the ¥11.7 billion allocated to it in this year's supplementary budget should be used to help single mothers — resulted in an unusually high media turnout at Thursday's meeting. While such meetings usually attract fewer than 10 visitors, Thursday's drew more than 100.



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The Japan Times

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