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Favorite Anime Characters Gather at an International Fair
On three chilly days in February the Tokyo International Anime Fair 21 was held to showcase the best of Japanese animation to the world. But there were so many people inside Tokyo Big Sight - where the fair was held - that its two giant halls became sweltering hot.
The fair - the first international event of its kind in Japan - was held on a grand scale from February 15 to 17. It featured a trade show, panel displays, symposiums, competition for the best anime, and a special stage show for children.
But the companies were there to do business. Many of them, including those from other Asia countries, Europe, and the United States hoped to negotiate broadcasting rights with Japanese animation productions to bring new anime heroes and heroines for children back home. Today about 60% of all cartoons enjoyed by children around the world are made in Japan.
Animated films are also highly acclaimed overseas. On February 17 Hayao Miyazaki received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for Spirited Away. Miyazaki is the legendary director of such anime films as My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. This was the first time that an animated film received the top prize in the three biggest international film contests.
Spirited Away is about the adventures of a 10-year old girl in a strange world of fantastic spirits. It became a record-breaking hit in Japan, surpassing The Titanic in both the number of movie goers and revenue. The film has already made its debut in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan and is scheduled to open in France on April 10. Plans are underway for releases in other European countries, as well as South Korea and the United States.
The halls were so packed that people began taking off their jackets and sweaters, and it became hard to walk straight. The biggest crowds were seen at a battle demonstration between remote-controlled Zaku robots that appear on the Gundam series and at an exhibition of the history of Japanese animation - from the early days of Astro Boy and Tiger Mask to Dragon Ball and Martian Successor Nadesico. On display were panels of the top 100 anime series, cartoon scripts, miniature figures, and other novelty items.
Children got a chance to cheer their favorite heroes on in special shows featuring Doraemon, Tottoko Hamutaro, Ojamajo Doremi, Pocket Monsters, and Digimontamers. Nine-year old Sayaka Aoki, whose current favorite is Kotobuki Ran, said, "I love anime and watch it on TV every day."
The faces of people streaming out of the hall as the event drew to a close were all flushed, and many of the kids were sweating, but everyone seemed to have had a great time.
Photos: (Top) A scene from the first Gundam anime series on TV (© Sotsu Agency, Sunrise); (Middle) Business representatives negotiate broadcast rights; (Bottom) An exhibit showing that Japanese anime is now popular around the world.