Tokyo / Fukuoka

Shibuya CrossingIn Tokyo to primarily focus on the potential for collaboration between the UK and Japan in the Animation sector.

At first look there appear to be a series of complementary positions which create a coherent opportunity: strong skilled animation production, especially 2D in Japan, CGI and stop frame in UK; full industry ecosystems driven by volume production and distribution; and UK Government creative tax reliefs matched by METI support for internationalisation in Japan.

Through an event at the British Embassy in Tokyo and subsequent individual meetings however specific issues which would need concerted effort to overcome emerged:

Demographic – In Japan “anime” is aimed at predominantly a teen-and-over audience, dealing with more adult themes. In the UK, and other international markets, animation programming tends to aim at 10-and-under as its primary market. A fundamental mismatch with little crossover content – Pokemon as the exception.

Style – Anime and Manga have a very distinctive production style and visual language. An industry model of full commissions from broadcasters has reinforced Japanese market tastes to create a very homogenous look and feel. In UK the requirement to please multiple investors and co-production partners by definition forces more compromise and a necessity for broader international appeal.

Despite the above clearly a new confidence in the UK Animation industry driven by the improved commercial position found resonance in Japanese counterparts looking increasingly abroad – and an understanding of the movement needed from both sides.

Plus talented producers such as the Happy Project Animation Studio in Fukuoka should find an audience anywhere – recommended.

An aside but during a visit to an exhibition at 2121 Design Sight I saw an artwork called “Professional Sharing” by Yosuke Ishugome which very neatly skewered some of the language around the Sharing Economy. An article recently recommended replacing the word “subletting” for “sharing” and this mix of video and installation posited an all too plausible design fiction which exemplified that tension.

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