Friday, March 26, 2010

Tokyo International Anime Fair 2010

I've loved Stan Lee since making the goldmine discovery of ancient '60s Marvel comics in the shed of my grandmother Nanny Bergen's house in Richmond, Melbourne.

The titles that grabbed me then were The Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and The X-Men, and my admiration of Lee increased two-fold when I was about 12 and sent him my idea of an Aussie super hero called Southern Cross (yep, he had the Eureka flag emblazoned across his chest) - and Stan "The Man" actually wrote back to say that he liked it.

He didn't actually use it - but he said he liked it. 'Nuff said, and all that jazz.

Which brings me to a discovery I made yesterday at the first day of this year's Tokyo International Anime Fair.

We call it "TAF" for short; for reasons as-yet-unknown, the organizers drop the “I” bit, maybe because it just looks better in terms of the logo design.

Think displays by anime producers like Production I.G, Gonzo, Mad House, Toei, Studio Ghibli, Aniplex, Sunrise, and Bandai flaunting their upcoming wares, and not just the scantily clad pseudo-cosplay girls outside their booths.

TAF is also the host of the annual Tokyo Anime Awards and this year’s Animation of the Year was Mamoru Hosoda’s superb Summer Wars.

Anyway I'm digressing (as usual).

One of the best anime studios, Bones (they made Fullmetal Alchemist and Wolf's Rain) had a stall that featured this giant fellow (above) and a bunch of fliers promoting Heroman (ヒーローマン), a new series set to start screening on Japan's TV Tokyo this April.

It's billed as "Stan Lee's newest superhero" and credits him as original creator, with scripting on the show by Gyo Yamatoya (Naruto).

This year's TAF (my ninth in a row) was that kind of event - oddly surprising, occasionally invigorating, yet on the whole a wee bit lacklustre compared with its predecessors.

While the industry proved that there's still a lot of life to it there was no stand-out anime series or movie to talk up here, no Summer Wars or Ghost Hound; no new series of Fullmetal Alchemist.

One of my favourite animation companies, Studio 4°C, did however have these funky underpants retailing for ¥4,000.

There were also some interesting looking series I'll probably get round to talking up once I finish wading through the hundreds of posters and fliers you get swamped with at these events.

Live action rather than anime-wise, there was some promotion for December's big budget remake of Space Battleship Yamato (宇宙戦艦ヤマト) and Klockworx has a new movie coming out in May called Big Tits Zombies (it's subtitled Deadly DD-Cups).

No doubt we'll be reporting more on that shortly.

“TAF is the Mecca for anime fans around the world,” Makoto Tsumita, the former marketing manager for the international division of essential anime production house Gonzo, told me about three years ago.

At that time Japan produced almost two thirds of the animation watched around the globe, “and 70 percent of this is produced in Tokyo,” a spokesperson for the TAF Executive Committee Secretariat told me in article that year for the now defunct Geek Monthly, making the argument that this city was the natural setting for the hugely successful anime trade affair.

“It’s the best place for foreign buyers to find everything under the same roof,” reported Stephane-Enric Beaulieu, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.

In 2007 the event drew close to 107,713 people over four days, up 8.8% from the previous year’s attendance. If yesterday is anything to go by, we may see a dip this year - they had 13,076 visitors on the first day, albeit business-only.

Also, thanks to the success of Avatar, there's a heavy fixation this year on anime in 3D; at the Gonzo booth you can catch comparisons of 2D and 3D renderings of Last Exile and Blassreiter, and neither series - even though I dug both in their original format - looked so cool as they do with this technology.

TAF opens its doors to the general public over the weekend, and takes place at the cavernous Tokyo Big Sight - located in Koto-Ku on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, situated right next to the Odaiba area and Rainbow Bridge... ostensibly one of Tokyo’s most famous romantic viewing points.

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