Tokyo anime fair draws early crowds, optimism

270 exhibitors descend on '07 confab

Exhibitors at the Tokyo International Anime Fair were "pleasantly surprised" at the amount of interest on the opening day of the event Thursday and optimistic that this year's festival will be the most successful yet.

Marking its sixth year, some 270 exhibitors are attending the event, being held at Tokyo's Big Sight exhibition center.

"We have found that we are not needing to go and talk to people at all as they're already coming up to us with things to discuss," said Alex Yeh, chief operating officer of Japan's Madhouse Inc., which opened an office in Culver City two years ago. "We have had people involved in distribution from Shanghai, France, Sweden and the U.S. approaching us already, and the fair has only been open a couple of hours.

"This is a very interesting time for anime and we believe the dynamics in the industry are changing," he added. "There have been suggestions that there is too much anime available, but we believe that if you have great products, then the company is always going to thrive."

Bryan Brumfield, marketing director of Oakland-based production firm Imajen, also was impressed with the first-day turnout, saying the company's images and products were "attracting a great response."

"We have an original storyline and concept that we want to take to the next level by turning it into an animated series, an action feature, a video game and so on, and we thought the best way to showcase that anime is to bring it to the home of animation," he said.

"We know where we want to go with this," he added. "We want to develop the story and spin it off into a property along the lines of 'Star Wars' or 'Lord of the Rings' — and we realize that will be a long process, but already we have had very positive expressions of interest from people here from Japan, Korea and Thailand."

All of Japan's major film and television companies are represented at the event along with game companies, schools providing entertainment industry education and marketing companies that specialize in a wide range of merchandising.

The event also includes a fashion show, a range of symposiums, performances of songs from animated productions and a creator's world section, which showcases the works of seven former award winners.

New technology also was on display, with Montreal's Di-O-Matic attracting interest for its cutting-edge software technology for three-dimensional character animation.

"This is our first time here and it's very good to meet as many people as possible face-to-face and become better known in Japan," Marie-France Caouette said. "We've been surprised at just how much interest there is and, while we have a strong presence in the U.S., we are hoping this will raise our profile here."