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Cross-Border Animation Collaborations in Asia Trend Up as Demand for Content Expands — Filmart

Animation co-productions between Japanese media companies and their Asian counterparts were once few and far between, but in the past decade, with the rapid rise of animation industries in China and South Korea, the pace has picked up.

Indeed, FilMart is playing host to an animation panel March 13 that explored the advantages of cross-border collaboration.

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Still, given the huge worldwide demand for animated IP, fueled by Netflix, Crunchyroll and other streamers, it could be faster. Industry observers have cited various barriers to Asian animation co-productions, including political, structural, legal and cultural issues.

In China especially, where the appetite for Japanese and other foreign animation once seemed unlimited, connections with the Japanese anime industry have become strained, if not severed.

One reason is a 2020 law aimed at protecting minors that bans anyone under 16 from owning a streaming account and prohibits audio-visual content with “obscenity, pornography, violence, cults, superstitions, gambling, inducements to suicide, terrorism, separatism or extremism” to anyone under 18.

“Not all anime is sex and violence, but a good half of modern productions are aimed a late-teen demographic sweet spot that is now forbidden in China,” said Jonathan Clements, author of “Anime: A History,” whose recently published second edition contains new chapters on the consumption, production and distribution of animation in China.

As a result of this content clampdown, Chinese media companies that were once eager to invest in Japanese animation are now more cautious. “They are well aware that if they pay out for the wrong sort of anime, their investment is worthless in the Chinese market,” said Clements.

By comparison, Korean media companies are more open to anime productions with Japanese counterparts, using Korean comics, web novels and webtoons to supply much of the content.

Meanwhile, the Japanese production committee system has long been a bottleneck for Chinese and Korean media companies. Typically comprised of Japanese entities with a stake in the project as investors or rights holders, production committees can be slow to make decisions and resistant to foreign participation. “In my experience, [the production committee] is often a terrifyingly tedious chicane of obstacles, particularly with old shows where things that you could once agree with a handshake and a whisky now have to be run past a group of disparate strangers,” said Clements.

But they also offer access to Japanese funding, including government money only available to projects with a Japanese production partner. “The ability to buy into the ‘ownership’ of a new anime while it is being made can save a canny investor hundreds of thousands of dollars at the distribution end,” Clements noted.

In other words, a hurdle worth jumping over.

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