Monday, July 31


March 6, 2003

Inspired by a team of two-dimensional heroes, at least one sector of the Japanese economy is booming. The legendary Astro Boy, Pokemon, Mazinger Z, Gundam, Sailor Moon, and Martian Successor Nadesico are just some of the names that have become familiar around the globe as Japanese cartoons, or anime, have cemented their place as the world's favorite form of animated entertainment. Now the national and some local governments are working with the anime industry to ensure that tomorrow's top animators receive the training and support they need to maintain this success.

Growing Mainstream Recognition
About 60% of all cartoons watched by people around the world today originate in Japan. Collectively dubbed "Japanimation," Japanese cartoons incorporate the broadest range of themes, from action heroes and space operas to martial arts, monster battles, school life, and fantasy worlds - with a cast of colorful characters to match.

The full-fledged export of anime titles began in the 1970s. Astro Boy gained popularity in Asia and the United States, while Mazinger Z was a hit in Europe. Non-Japanese have always been a part of the hard core of anime fans. However, it was Pikachu and his fellow monsters that really pushed Japanese animation into the mainstream of global entertainment. Pocket Monsters (Pokemon) was anime's first major commercial success outside Japan. Pokemon: The First Movie, which was released at the end of 1999, was a number-one box office smash in the United States, and the Pokemon TV series was eventually broadcast in more than 60 countries. In monetary terms, some ¥1.2 billion (US$10 million at 120 yen to the dollar) worth of card games were shipped to every corner of the world, and the franchise generated merchandising sales of ¥1 trillion ($8.3 billion) in Japan and another ¥2 trillion ($16.7 billion) abroad.

Anime has been a major component of entertainment in Japan since World War II. Members of the "first anime generation," born in the late 1950s and 1960s, absorbed television anime as children and, now in their thirties and forties, are passing on their enthusiasm to their own children. Roughly 60 anime programs are broadcast on Japanese TV every week, not all of them aimed at children; many of them are made for adult audiences. The value of the domestic market for anime products, including films, videos, and character merchandise, has been estimated at ¥3 trillion ($25.0 billion), with foreign sales boosting the figure closer to ¥10 trillion ($83.3 billion) by some estimates.

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