Crowds, exhibitors up as Anime Fair open

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TOKYO -- A personal "movieoke" device grabbed animated content companies' attention as the Tokyo International Anime Fair kicked off Thursday to crowds 7% larger than last year's, according to organizers.

Registrants at one of the world's largest anime events, staged at the Tokyo Big Sight venue, numbered 12,325, up from the 11,523 recorded a year ago.

Walt Disney Television International, Fuji Television Network, Media Factory, PonyCanyon and Nikkatsu Corp. were among the 289 exhibitors at the show, which run through Sunday. Last year's show drew 270 exhibitors.

Namco Bandai Games turned more than a few heads with its talk-along anime machine. The device -- called Afrec -- screens 30-second scenes from popular animated programs or movies, while players perform their chosen character's lines. It is scheduled to be released in Japan in the coming months.

The fair, which also hosts a symposia series, stage events and special exhibitions, this year will hold an animated artwork competition.

"Compared to previous exhibitions, the visitors this year seem to have come with a very definite purpose," said Hitoshi Suzuki, chief producer of the event. "Every booth appears to be more attractive than in the past and the quality of the content of the special exhibitions is also better."
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