Tokyo's Japan Content Showcase Sets Records, New Venue Draws Mixed Reviews

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Tokyo's Ikebukuro neighborhood

"I think I preferred the old Odaiba location for business ... but being more central will be better," says one market participant.

The Japan Content Showcase (JCS), which is affiliated with the Tokyo Film Festival, has not only moved to a new venue this year, but is also celebrating some records. 

The sixth edition of the Japan Content Showcase, as the market around the Tokyo Film Festival was rebranded a few years ago, registered 371 exhibitors, up from 356 last year and its highest number ever. Organizers also say it has brought to town 1,549 buyers, up from 1,539 last year and also a new record. 

Helping accommodate the bigger crowd this year is a bigger space as two key parts of the market, which runs through Thursday, have moved from Odaiba, a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay, to Ikebukuro, a neighborhood that attracts anime fans and is looking to transform itself into a broader arts and culture hub over time. As a result, the total area used for the market has increased by 30 percent compared to last year.

The venue in Ikebukuro, the Sunshine City Convention Center, is now home of the TIFFCOM marketplace for film and TV, as well as the animation market Tokyo International Anime Festival. The third element of the JCS, the Tokyo International Music Market, has remained in the Shibuya area. 

"TIFFCOM has grown and, for this reason, we have selected Ikebukuro as our venue this year," said Yasushi Shiina, CEO of TIFFCOM and the Japan Content Showcase, ahead of the market, lauding the "much bigger space, with the number of exhibition booths increasing drastically."

After a slow start, the TIFFCOM content market was in full swing by Tuesday afternoon. Market participants said in first reactions that they were still getting a feel for the new venue, with some less than enamored with the new Sunshine City venue in Ikebukuro, which is more central, but features a maze-like complex with exhibitors spread across three halls on two floors.

Atsumi Shibata, manager of international sales at Hakuhodo DY Music & Pictures, noted the dated and timeworn look and feel of the Sunshine City venue as a drawback: "[Odaiba] was a better atmosphere; there were chandeliers. Here you can see the pipes in the ceiling." 

"Still, we've got meetings booked from 9:30 to 6:30 every day," added Shibata, whose company is repping Japan’s foreign-language Oscar entry, Her Love Boils Bathwater, at the market. "It's still the best place to sell Japanese content."

Flora Kang, a sales agent for Taiwan's Eagle International, agreed that the layout and atmosphere of the new location were wanting, but said that her team appreciated the move for extracurricular reasons. "Being more central will be better once we finish work," she said. "We're looking forward to checking out some restaurants and nightlife with our film business friends and colleagues." 

For many Chinese buyers, who are visiting Tokyo amid a slight resurgence of access to Japanese fare in their country, the market got off to a busy start.

Yoyo Qu, head of international acquisitions at Chinese entertainment company Jetsen Huashi, had already placed several bids for Japanese titles on day one, although it was the company's first time attending TIFFCOM. "Since Korean content is currently a no-go for our market, Japanese films have gotten hotter for China," she said. "There are restrictions on Japanese content, but there is some space for it, and recently it has been growing somewhat."

The recent smash success of Thai thriller Bad Genius has also sparked interest among Chinese buyers. Produced by Bangkok-based studio GDH 559, the film has earned $35 million in China since its release on Oct. 13 — an all-time record for a Southeast Asian title overseas. "Many Chinese buyers are excited about the potential of Thai titles now," Qu added.  

Other Chinese buyers were busy holding talks about acquiring remake rights to Japanese films and TV dramas, as well as in-demand animation fare for China's content-hungry video platforms. 

Cai Ailian, of Chinese animation company AHA Entertainment, said he was at TIFFCOM looking for distribution partners and for Japanese content to invest in. "We have a lot meetings lined up and we're participating in a seminar. This is a big market with a lot of different kinds of participants and a lot of potential."

This year's discussion topic focus for TIFFCOM is intellectual property. "Today, content moves freely across borders and as the Asian market, starting with China, continues to expand, Japanese content is attracting more interest than before," said Shiina. "Being the representative marketplace for film and TV in Asia, TIFFCOM’s role, too, is constantly growing in importance."

Regional market participants echo that. "This is still the best market for acquiring Japanese films in every genre, which are very popular in our market," said Jill Chuo, acquisitions executive for Taiwanese film distributor Eagle International.

Japanese exhibitors are joined by a slew of foreign exhibitors, whose number is up 33 percent from last year. Latin America has a pavilion at the JCS for the first time this year, showcasing film organizations from Brazil and Chile. Other countries and territories making their JCS debut this year are Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lebanon and Lithuania.

"Kosovo is participating at the TIFFCOM for the first time, after Berlinale, Cannes and the American Film Market," said Enis Xhemaili, deputy chief of mission, Kosovo Embassy Tokyo – Kosovo Cinematography Centre. "This is a great opportunity to present the film industry, establish the network with this part of the world and promote Kosovo as the film shooting destination."

The top three foreign countries represented are South Korea, followed by Taiwan and Cambodia. China, as in so many areas, is one of the biggest growth drivers. The number of exhibitors from China increased by 2.6 times this year, according to organizers. 

The JCS is organized by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Foundation for Promotion of Music Industry and Culture (PROMIC), UNIJAPAN, a non-profit organization established in 1957 to promote Japanese cinema abroad, and The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA).