February 16, 2007 / by Anime News Services / Archived News / No Comments

TIFF Or TAF? Political Intrigue: Governments Vie For Rights To Host Japan’s International Contents Showcase To World

TIFF Or TAF? Political Intrigue: Governments Vie For Rights To Host Japan’s International Contents Showcase To World

By Jonah Morgan

A topic I’ve kind of skirted around the periphery for the last 12 months in my newswork is a conceptualized “contents carnival” being backed heavily by Japan’s national government. The plan called for establishing nothing less than the premiere tradeshow / showcase venue for Japan’s Contents Industry with a primary goal of attracting the most international business dealings. If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the Japanese Entertainment industry day-to-day you would have encountered this datapoint a good bit on the runup and following to the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, ’06 and then again just recently for the Tokyo International Anime Fair. This was also one of the major items of discussion we encountered in person, hobnobbing with Japan’s contents industry super elite at events surrounding TAF2007 this year.
After first getting officially pitched back in August, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry convened several closed-door meetings to do some talkshopping and bang their heads together in order work out a budget and bring the project to reality. That’s now all said and done, the first ever “JAPAN International Contents Festival” or “Con-Fes” is now scheduled to occur September 19th – October 28th in Tokyo. Interestingly, the event’s Executive Committee made their announcement on March 22nd at TAF (the first business day of the Tokyo Anime Fair). Confirmed prime partners include The Recording Industry Association of Japan, The Japanese Foundation For International Image Promotion, Japan Broadcasting Corporation and The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan. Japanese entertainment contents including movies, music, manga, characters, anime, games, and the TV programming will be included under Con-Fes’s umbrella of internationally promoted media.

So checking your business planner for this fall you may ask yourself: “Oh great, another Japanese entertainment expo! Don’t several separately, well established trade events already exist for each of these contents areas?” They do, but by some stroke of magic, the new Con-Fes will consolidate a whopping 10 or more of these internationally recognized individual events into their 1 month festival. The opening ceremony will be held at the Tokyo International Forum on September 19, 2007. Guest of honor invitation’s to many top international creators have supposedly already gone out. The event schedule is as follows: Tokyo Game Show 2007 (September 20th – September 23rd – Makuhari Messe), DiGRA 2007/CEDEC (dates undecided – venue undecided, “Animation Event” (newly established – end of October, 2007 – venue undecided), TAM – Tokyo Asian Music Marquette Conference (The middle of October – Tokyo), The 20th Tokyo International Festival (October 20th – October 28th – Roppongi Hills and Shibuya Bunkamura), TIFFCOM (October 22nd – October 24th – Roppongi Hills), NHK Japanese Prize (October 23rd – October 29th – Shibuya NHK Broadcasting Center), ATP Prize Television Grand Prix (The end of October – Roppongi Hills), Akihabara Enta-Matsuri 2007 (October 20th – October 22nd – Akihabara UDX), ASIAGRAPH (October 11th – October 14th – Akihabara), TCM Tokyo Contents Marquette (October 25th – October 26th – Roppongi Hills).

At least you won’t have to get a visa extension but this year you’ll probably need to start saving your hotel money if you want to get in on all 4 weeks of the action. In coming years, organizers want to condense this into a 2 week back to back, rapid fire affair. While this new effort is being spearheaded by Japan’s national government, The Tokyo Anime Fair (which incidently occurs on the other end of the calender year), helmed by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government will not be consolidated. Understanding the independent nature and co-relationship of these 2 political power structures is crucial before carrying the discussion any further. Next to the national govt. led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, presided over by Governor Shintaro Ishihara is easily the 2nd most powerful political force in Japan. They work together like any other government on Earth, but have their own competing self-serving needs and interests. As anime grew into the formidable cultural / economic / soft-power asset of Japan that is today, groups like the AJA (Association For Japanese Animations) and visionary movers and shakers like Nobuyuki Takahashi pitched the TAF idea to The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (who being a smaller, more tightly knit organization, could formulate strategies and act on them quickly) around the turn of the millenium. A lone voice in the wilderness at the time, they really pulled off a streak of genius early on in the game by starting their event in 2001. The international success they enjoyed was not at all lost upon observers such as their big brother national government who naturally wanted a piece of the action.
Overtures made to try and get a foothold into TAF were met with limited response however, and apparently Tokyo Metro’s stature is great enough so that it can comfortably resist any overt hostile takeover or encroachment action. So Tokyo has been able to hold on to its baby and has opted to keep it for its own. The response from the national government was to ramp up anime offerings in events it has a large control stake in like the Tokyo International Film Festival, culminating in Con Fest 2007 which will see the establishment of an entirely new widescale anime industry showcase entirely independent of TAF’s effort. Indeed, at TIFF 2006 the Japanese animation showing was impressive, the imagery saturation alone was over the top. It easily ranked as Japan’s #2 anime calender event in 2006 and in many ways, interestingly offered advantages, features and access to business people and promoters that you simply can’t get at TAF in the way that its currently setup. Just one example: You could catch a world premiere screening of a cutting edge new anime like Tekkon Kinkreet in a proper movie theater (Toho Roppongi Hills), the public could interact with Director Michael Arias who spoke and took questions at a stage greeting beforehand, you could arrange a private interview with him later, and then afterwards you could walk a couple hundred meters to the TIFFCOM trade show booth of the rights holders and the animators and negotiate to distribute it in your country. The atmosphere at TIFFCOM was strictly professional and alot more “no-nonsense business” as well.

The final shape that the 28 day Con Fes will take is currently unknown but I think on the anime side it will look alot like a cross between TAF, TIFF and TIFFCOM. A major question remains: how will it be received? Obviously, the national government has the advantage of being in a position to corral more money and resources into its event and it already has a viable model with things it’s done like TIFF. On the flipside, how will TAF be affected by the new offering? It enjoys 7 years experience, clearly established as Japan’s current top anime industry showcase. Only time will tell. But TAF organizers relayed to ANS that they are moving to expand their contents offerings umbrella as well and the results could take the fair to entirely new level. One the most requested suggestions they’ve got from attendees is to add the print inspiration side of the anime equation. Currently, they are taking a hard look at adding books and print publishing content and if you read between the lines that could mean manga, light novels, novels, etc.. The move would totally revolutionize TAF (quite honestly, you could completely fill the adjacent East Halls 4-5-6 (the same space as TAF uses currently) with manga material) and make it Japan’s annual one stop shop for anime and manga business.