The immediacy of global markets – Film festivals play a major role in transforming Japanese anime
The global position of Japanese anime is in the midst of change. This transformation can be summed up as the unification of domestic and overseas promotion for animation films. Film festivals have played a major role in driving this unification, in particular for feature-length animation.
As an example, many different Japan-produced animation films were screened at the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Hara Keiichi’s “Lonely Castle in the Mirror” and Taguchi Tomohisa’s “The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes” were Official Selections for the Competition. This marked the fourth consecutive nomination for Hara, who previously won the Audience Award and Jury Award, and “The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes” won the Paul Grimault Award this year. In addition, Yoshihara Masayuki’s “Komada – A Whisky Family” was nominated for the Contrechamp Competition.
A wide variety of films were also featured in event screenings: “BLUE GIANT” (dir. Tachikawa Yuzuru), “Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine” (dir. Tachikawa Yuzuru), “Garden of Remembrance” (dir. Yamada Naoko), “Kaina of the Great Snow Sea: Star Sage” (dir. Ando Hiroaki), “The Concierge” (dir. Itazu Yoshimi) and “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK” (dir. Inoue Takehiko), as well as Rintaro’s “Galaxy Express 999” in the Annecy Classics program.
Hara and Rintaro aside, the directors in this lineup aren’t well known overseas, which shows the film festival’s interest in new talent and films, as well as Japan-side focus on promoting current feature-film animations through film festivals.
In ‘How did Japanese anime directors go global?’ (Seikaisha), Sudo Tadashi describes being asked ‘Why are there so many talented animation directors in Japan?’ by the Sitges Film Festival director. And, the director pointed out that the Japanese anime industry holds its own amidst the global popularity of feature-length animation and keeps producing new talent. Sudo attributes this to the number of films being produced in Japan. He points out that although the sheer quantity of films creates problems in the production pipeline, it also broadens the industry’s scope and sets the stage for the emergence of diverse content and individualistic directors.
This insight is also linked to the immediacy of overseas markets with the establishment of the streaming industry. In a survey, 44% of Generation Z respondents in the US replied that they watch popular Japanese anime, according part 1 of a series on the growing power of Japanese anime. This phenomenon has happened in part because North American audiences get access to Japanese animation with almost no time lag thanks to the spread of streaming services.
In summary, feature-length animation production has taken off worldwide during the past decade, and in the meantime, global markets have gained new immediacy for the Japanese anime industry. It could be that this overall transformation has led to increased interest in overseas film festivals. The lineup of feature-film Japanese animation films at Annecy 2023 can be seen as evidence of this change.
This means promoting each film as a unified entity, rather than handling domestic and overseas markets separately. There are certainly films that will find broader appeal through being presented this way. This unity in promotion from Japan to the world is an important factor for opening up future potential for Japanese feature-film animation.