Robot, Manga Projects Draw Buzz at Tokyo Content Market

Jose Fusta Ragan/Corbis

The market comes to a bustling conclusion, leading right into the Tokyo Film Festival

The sales floor was still buzzing late Thursday at the Tokyo Content Market as buyers huddled in booths hammering out deals or laying the groundwork for future agreements. Across town, the Tokyo International Film Festival was preparing to roll out the red carpet for its opening night, which is expected to be attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yuki Sato, a representative of U.K. Trade & Investment at the British Embassy booth, said her organization had been pleased with the interest from Japanese buyers in British content. U.K. content has been of appeal in various Asian countries, including China.

"We're here to help connect British distributors and content producers with Japanese business partners," Saito said. "We don't do any direct sales, but we've had a lot of very productive conversations that we believe will lead to business for production companies and buyers back in the U.K."

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Patlabor Next Generation, a seven-part live-action robot TV series and feature film, which is being promoted at the festival with a 10-feet tall action figure at the Roppongi Hills festival venue, has been attracting a lot of interest from buyers from Europe, the U.S. and Hong Kong, according to Mai Koto of Tohokushinsha Film Corp.

Mamuro Oshii, general director for the Patlabor project, sees the series as a lead-up to the feature, scheduled for release in spring 2015 in Japan.

The giant robot at the main festival site has helped generate buzz, according to Koto. However, having Takashi Yamazaki's Parasyte selected as closing film for the fest hasn't produced much of a boost at the market, according to Toho.

"Buyers know about Parasyte because of the original manga comic rather than it being the closing film," said Rui Machida of Toho, who explained that other manga adaptations, Takashi Miike's new film As the God's Will and the big-screen version of Attack on Titan, were also garnering a lot of interest.

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Japan's major TV networks had a big presence at the market this year, with the big four of NTV, TBS, Asahi and Fuji TV all taking larger scale and more eye-catching booths than usual. The extra effort looked to be paying off with meetings at their booths going on until the afternoon of the market's final day.

Jiwon Choi, regional manager for the Korean Film Council, reiterated many exhibitors' concerns that TIFFCOM's remote location in the Odaiba district of Tokyo has been something of a hindrance for dealmakers. In previous years, the event was held in the more central Roppongi area at the same time and place as the Tokyo International Film Festival.

"Some mid-size Japanese buyers we deal with have told us Odaiba is too far, so Korean companies end up holding meetings at restaurants in Shinjuku or Ginza," she said. "This is the only big content market in Japan though, so we will continue to attend."

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The Tokyo International Music Market, which merged with TIFFCOM two years ago and appeared to struggle somewhat in its early incarnations, seemed to have found its legs at this year's event, with well-attended live performances from aspiring local pop signers and bands and attendance by international companies and events, such as South by Southwest.

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