International Anime Fair brings enthusiasts to Tokyo

by Mario Castro

The golden age of manga was the 1960s and ’70s, and anime shot to mainstream acceptance in the ’80s and ’90s. Now, this decade has spawned a craze for Japanese animation that has spread around the world. Back home, too, the Tokyo International Anime Fair has bloomed, with more than 120,000 visitors and 250 companies packing in to Tokyo Big Sight in Koto-ku for the four-day event last year.

This year’s fair, from March 18 to 21, comes as the anime world pays its respects to the 20th anniversary of the death of Osamu Tezuka — the so-called “father of anime” and “God of Manga” whose expansive works helped inflate the booms in both genres; while Studio Ghibli will pick up the Tokyo Anime Award for the year’s best animation for “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.”

With the anime industry soaring abroad, companies from around the world are coming to Tokyo to display their wares — including 14 from China, which is participating for the first time, and others from the United States, Canada and Europe.

Although the first two days of the fair are strictly business, the show opens to the public on March 20 and 21, when crowds doing “cosplay” (dressing up as their favorite animated characters) will throng the halls between previews of new anime movies and series such as the popular “Fullmetal Alchemist” and the children’s show “Marie and Gali” — the first series by Toei Animation bought by national broadcaster NHK in 30 years. Meanwhile, other festival attractions will include stage events such as presentations by directors and main- voice actresses, special exhibitions, awards — and competitions for best anime works.

Tokyo International Anime Fair is at Tokyo Big Sight from March 18 to 21 (open to the public on March 20 and 21). Admission for adults is ¥800 in advance and ¥1,000 at the door, with concessions. Tokyo Big Sight is near Kokusai Tenjijyo Station on the Rinkai Line and Kokusai Tenjijyo Seimon Station on the Yurikamome Line. www.tokyoanime.jp