A recent trend in Anime: Small production teams (think Homestarrunner or Adult Swim)

An interesting piece from FujiSankei Business-i (in translation):

Animation Produced in Small Teams is a Breath of Fresh Air for the Industry: FROGMAN Co., Others Showcase A Powerful Individuality
March 13, 2007

Animation produced in small teams have been hitting the market one after the other recently, which is a new development as works are usually produced in production teams of dozens or even hundreds of people. The new works, which maintain a high level of quality while showcasing the creators’ intense vision in every nook and cranny, a feat that can only be achieved in a small team, are blowing a new wind throughout Japan’s animation industry. (by Ryuichi Taniguchi)

Improved Performance of PCs Plays a Role

Makoto Shinkai, director of “Five Centimeters Per Second” (秒速5センチメートル) gave thanks before the 200 people who had gathered to watch his animated film shown at Cinema Rise in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on March 3: “I am happy to show a film that I made the way I wanted it in a large space.” This was his first film since his long-form “Beyond the Clouds, at the Promised Location” (雲のむこう、約束の場所) was shown at the same theater in November 2006. He seemed to have felt a positive response from the excited crowd of waiting fans that filled the seats.

In the past, animation production was assumed to require a large staff, but Shinkai released his first 25-minute short “Voices of the Stars” (ほしのこえ) created almost entirely by himself on a PC. The imagery, which measures up to animation made by pros, and the story, about susceptible young men and women, made the piece a hit with the younger generation and gained its creator recognition as a member of the new generation of animation directors.

However, Shinkai did not choose the path of producing his work in a major studio with a large staff at his beck and call. He continued using PCs and producing his films with a small staff to complete his “Beyond” and the more recent “Five”.

Shinkai explains, “For a year and half, I had the animation staff come to my home, and created it at a steady pace using my desktop. He didn’t create the whole thing by himself as in “Voice of the Stars,” but he made drastic staff cuts compared to the number of people involved in “Beyond.” As a result, Shinkai was able to realize a film in which his vision crept into every nook and cranny, from depictions of the lyrical countryside, to the village landscapes, to the endless sky and ocean.

Productions that can make full use of the creator’s individuality because of such a small staff are made possible by high-performance PCs that can be used to draw, color, and even edit finely detailed images. It’s easy to see how individual creators like Shinkai can make it into the animation industry if they have talent and backup in terms of funding.

Product Placement Comes to Anime

The films produced by FROGMAN Co, led by a man who goes by the same name, were also born of superior talent, a PC, and the Internet. The company creates animation using Flash, an animation software that can play simple video on a PC, and began offering programs on the Internet starting in 2004. These short films gained an following, and in April 2006 FROGMAN’s “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society” (秘密結社鷹の爪) debuted on TV Asahi.

On March 17, “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society The Movie: The Fuhrer Dies Twice” (総統は二度死ぬ) opens in theaters. FROGMAN spoke at a sneak preview held in Roppongi on March 4: “I’m so happy because cinema is the apex of film.” Just as in the TV version, FROGMAN does almost all the voices himself and drew most of the animation. He was overjoyed to see his brainchild up on the big screen.

The big-screen version of course cost more, but the costs were covered by including product placement within the film. Since it’s a comedy, the film blatantly displays company logos and products to make the crowd laugh. They even included a “budget gauge” on the side of the screen that dips during the more elaborate CGI scenes as a gag for the audience.

Another Internet-based talent is Rareko. She published her work on the Internet and eventually worked into picture books and DVDs after they became popular. As more and more companies seek out dormant talent, it looks as though we’ll keep seeing unique, individual animation.

The Companies Backing up Individual Talent

Individuals’ talents can only blossom fully with the support of a corporation. Shinkai has received support from Comics Wave (headquartered in Shibuya) since he began work on “Voices”. CW is a company that manages publishing rights for content and scouting/development of creators. They contract with manga artists and illustrators and serve as a conduit for bargaining with companies that want to use the creators’ characters.

DLE (HQ: Chiyoda Ward), a company founded in 2001 as a company that provides consulting for the video content industry, serves as FROGMAN’s producer. In addition to producing television programs, the company also aids in Flash animation and helped bring FROGMAN into the limelight.

Fanworks (Shibuya) produces independent animation and supports Rareko, of “The Fragile Tank” (やわらか戦車) fame. When the Internet-based animation took off, they served as a conduit for commercialization demands and helped boost its popularity by forming the “Fragile Tank Coalition Force.”

To close out, here are some YouTube clips of some of the shows mentioned in this article:

Falcon’s Claw Secret Society:

Fragile Tank:

Five Centimeters Per Second:

27 thoughts on “A recent trend in Anime: Small production teams (think Homestarrunner or Adult Swim)”

  1. I have to say I hadn’t heard of it until reading this article, but its Wikipedia notepad seems to reflect your doubts:

    「メディア等が無理に流行らせようとしてる感がひしひしと感じられ、逆に消費者がついて行けてない状態である。どこで、誰に、いつ流行っているのか全くもって不明。」についてはソースが提示されていませんし、Wikipediaの理念に反しますね。該当部分については削除するべきだと思います。—以上の署名の無いコメントは、Mit33(会話・履歴)氏が[2006年10月30日 (月) 03:29 (UTC)]に投稿したものです。

    逆に聞いてみたいのが、やわらか戦車が「売れている」「人気がある」という明確な根拠はあるのかな?—以上の署名の無いコメントは、会話・履歴・whois)氏が[2006年10月30日 (月) 12:08 (UTC)]に投稿したものです。


  2. This seems to touch on some issues that we were talking about in the `big anime debate` in December. I still think that freeters will come along and save things (not that anime and manga have been all that bad lately, there have been some class shows in the last few years). It only takes a few creative people. Great to see Japanese companies taking a risk on the smaller projects again as well (which is what Uchu Senkan Yamato was back in the day)….

    Also, does anyone really care if Densha Otoko was not authentic? Or that reality shows have scriped parts? The story captured the mood of the times and made some mad cash. I think that we should be talking about it as marketing gold rather than a fraud. Kinda like a Blair Witch thing — people just wanted to believe and the $$$ came rolling in.

  3. Did anyone seriously believe that Blair Witch was real? I never even heard that at the time.

    Why don’t you believe that “soft tank” is a semi amateur project? The animation may be sort of decent, but it’s still not nearly as good as say, homestarrunner.com, which itself is as independent as you get.

  4. This Fragile Tank could simply be a case of a subsidiary of a major corporation trying to produce animation with an indies-style authenticity, but there’s something fishy – there are no pictures of this Rareko, and only a bare bones Geocities site that’s supposed to be the original host of the Flash. The claim of the Wiki entry for the creator Rareko that Yawaraka Sensha is ‘supported by housewives and students’ sounds a bit like marketese as well. Anyway, I have no idea about this and can’t really verify since my Internet connection is terrible now.

    Have you ever heard of Homestarrunner getting venture funding like this?

    Other news relevant to this discussion that I don’t have time to translate in detail:

    –JETRO announces reorganization and plans to aggressively support the export of Japanese animation to the unwashed masses

    –Sankei reports that (a) The anime boom has peaked in the US, and (B) METI is funding an animators’ association’s program to train domestic in-between animators (the very jobs that are supposedly being outsourced out of existence).

    A Sankei writer noted that in researching that article, the relevant government ministries (MOFA, METI, and MOF) had *NO* trade statistics on manga/anime exports. This doesn’t appear to be stopping them from heeding Taro Aso’s insistence that there’s a need to support these exports.

  5. People did believe that the Blair Witch project was real. What can I say, people were stupid. I`m partly guilty — I thought that perhaps it was a real local myth that they built a fake story around. There was a lot of talk about it on the net. Some of the data trail may remain (maybe not, it was pretty much pre-blog).

    In any case, when it first came out, some people thought that it was one of the most influential films of all time (Roger Ebert was a big champion of the movie). So much for that…. I like Densha Otoko better, come to think of it.

  6. 全世界の安部叩きに逆上している俺(民主党支持者)が来ましたよ。

    Yesterday I went to Kiddyland of Harajyuku and there was a section dedicated for fragile tank with TVmonitor showing some flash anime of the character.Smelled Dentsu.Nobody was buying it.Instead I bought a doll of Relakuma.http://www.smarter.co.jp/se-g4qDiYNig06DfSCCyoKigq6C6YLd————Z29vZ2xlX0EgMDE4IDAxN19rZXl3b3JkX4OKg4mDYoNOg30ggsqCooKugumC3Q__.htm
    It’s for my son’s Whiteday reply present for his classmate.Sigh.

    Not that I like Densha Otoko but I would very much like to hear commentary by Patrick Macias and Machiyama Tomohiro on American DVD.
    From Machiyama’s blog.

  7. Would the universe implode if you bought merchandise of a Dentsu-manufactured fad on a holiday also manufactured by marketing companies? Oh wait, that happens all the time.

    The only good part of the one episode I saw of Densha Otoko was the fact that Nasubi played one of the 住人 and I got to see his huge head again.

    And yes I’d like to hear that commentary track as well.

  8. Just wanted to tell you how good fatherhood I’ve been practicing lately.
    Totally off topic


    I’ve been renting series of anime DVDs from TSUTAYA for a month to show my kid the golden age of Japanese anime.One of the masterpiece is ガンバの冒険(’75).
    Story of the seven mice’s desperate journey to save mice population on an island from blood thirsty weasels.Watched it with my son for first time in 30 years and found out anime pretty much intentionary resembles Russian and Chinese films sets in WW2.Mice are reprsenting partisans and weasels ,the imperial army or Nazis here.that however explains why when I saw Andzej Wajda’s “The Canal” I have seen dejavu.Also found names of lots of Nikkatsu roman porno film artisans writing scripts for the anime,all leftwing radicals.You might want to consider a glance when you have a chance for it certainly overlap some of your intererst.

  9. Thanks for the tip Ace. I have not seen that one. It is awesome that more and more of the old shows are coming out in DVD. I hope that this recycling proves to be a creativity shot in the arm for the industry at present (although I wasn`t that happy with the recent Ringu ni kakerou! remake….)

    I`ll have a chance to go to Japan in a few weeks and I may look out for some old anime (or Roman porno, which reminds me, speaking of crazy leftwing stuff, I have another Joshu Sasori movie to track down). Before that, however, I have to finish reading all of Shirato Sanpei`s manga…. and there is no end of Koike Kazuo stuff to get…. Greek / Roman history manga like Cesuts and Hisutorie…. Matsumoto`s take on Wagner…. Damn, it has been a long time since I got a good haul of manga….

  10. This is my did-you-read lists.

    Shirato Sanpei:
    Yomota Inuhiko’s四方田犬彦「白土三平論」

    Yasuhiko Yoshikazu’s安彦良和 sandal epics?
    「アレクサンドロス」「わが名はネロ」and the classic「アリオン」?

    Koike Kazuo:
    Spanish civil war manga「哀国戦争」bizzare.

    Matsumoto’s take on Wagner..
    The inheritor of the Space opera meets Germanophilia:
    Tanaka Yoshiki’s田中芳樹「銀河英雄伝説」happens to be the most favorite novella of ex-princess Norinomiya……

    Sakaguchi Hisahi坂口尚「石の花」Manga about Yugoslav partisans in WW2.also about
    Fascism,Nationalism,Communism,Racism and Humanism.My favorite manga of all time.Read this in 85 when I just got back from the states.I got freaked out.

    Any バロン吉元?Early works of Kawaguchi Kaiji?
    Rising star「皇国の守護者」伊藤悠?(controversial,I must say)

  11. I`m a fan of Yomota`s work (anyone who wants to read up on Japanese film in Japanese should check it out) and I`ve read his stuff on Shirato Sanpei.

    I`ve enjoyed all of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu`s stuff (what do you think about `Rainbow Trotsky`, set in Mongolia, right?). Apart from the ones that you mentioned there is also his Jesus biography (the original sandal story) which is really, really good. I quite enjoyed the Arion anime as well.

    Have not read the one by Koike Kazuo, have to pick that up with Shin Kozure Ookami when I get to Japan….

    I have all of Ginga Eiyu Densetsu (novels, manga does not look so hot) but have only been able to find the time to read the first few volumes. I have seen most of the anime, however (used the damn thing for Japanese listening practice back in the day). Enjoyed it quite a bit (I like Soryuden as well, more for the cheese value).

    Ishi no Hana has been near the top of my to read list for a while. Since you like it so much, I`ll pick it up ASAP.

    I think that the only early work of Kawaguchi that I have read is his boxing manga…. (Kiba?) I have yet to check out Medusa, hope to get around to that before long. Still have about 7 or 8 volumes of Jipangu to read.

    You have probably read most of my old favorites – Otoko Oidon, Nakazawa Keiji`s Okinawa (ballsy polemic), Dororo, Shumari, Manga-michi (Mangadou?), Violence Jack (I suddenly feel the need to apologize), Survival….

    I must say, I was pretty gobsmacked when I first saw 皇国の守護者. Taking the Russo-Japanese War, making it into an attack on a fantasy Japan…. seems right up Kobayashi Yoshinori`s rhetorical alley. I`m going to reserve judgment (I may even decide to write about this and other recent Russo-Japanese War refigurings like Nichiro Senso Monogatari and the slew of Shinsho that have come out in the past 3 or 4 years) until I see more of the series, however.

  12. ‘Rainbow Trotsky’:
    It is interesting for Mongolians are under represented in the current Japanese collective memory on Manchurian experience.The protagonist Mongolian Japanese
    ウムボルト(Hunbord?not a Khalha name,and as the episode of his father and mother had met during the Siberian intervention suggests he is an half Buryat,Mongolian subethnic group originates in Zabaikal).
    Yasuhiko did his research from the Japanese historians and presumably from the Japanese translation of Owen Rattimore books,but nonetheless there are few errors that can be easily spotted from eyes of those who know Inner Mongolian history.For example some description that pigs are kept in Mongolian village which is very rare practice among inner mongolians.(indeed a trivia but crucial error).
    there is no mentioning of Dewang,a pan mongolist leader in Inner Mongolia,who had collaborated with Japanese.
    Most of Dewang’s relatives had settled to Japan in the 80’s and 90’s and now are Japanese or gained eijyuuken status,Same with the grandchildren of Buryat general
    Uljin who appeared in the manga as figure related with Humbord.So the ending scene of Humbolt’s son coming to Japan to meet Yasuhiko could happened in real life though.

    Ginga-eiyuu-densetu’ anime was interesting for I’ve watched some in late hour shows while I was on the nightshift.It got lots of orchestral soundtrack which had interesting effect in the dpace battle sequence.Never read either manga nor anime though.What made me interested with the saga is the author Tanaka is actually an ethnic Chinese(third generation ,I think)and the chinese tranlation is now a big hit in China.You can easily detect influence from the Chinese classic like Romance of the three kingdom or Outlaw of the marsh and 20th century chinese history in Gineiden.

    Nichiro Senso Monogatari didn’t even get to the very war,more to say but duty calls.

  13. I only know the bare minimum about Mongolia. I read Rainbow Trotsky (great name, isn’t it?) as a historical fantasy (like “Blue Dragon”, only more serious).

    I loved the use of classical music in Ginga Eiyu Densetsu. I think that some video games, etc. should follow this example. Come to think of it, it is pretty tragic that Japanese audiences have gotten space battles with Wagner while “Western” creators have more or less moved away from that kind of thing since 2001 (or maybe Kubrik just convinced people to avoid it with A Clockwork Orange). There are some exceptions but I like my space opera with…. well…. opera.

    Tanaka has made good use of Chinese myth in some of his works but, for me, it is 18th and 19th century Europe that really jumps out when I watch Ginga Eiyu Densetsu (or read it, for that matter). Lots of the battles have echoes of Napoleon and Frederick the Great. There is also the very 20th century fascist stuff….

  14. (何故か卒論風で書いてみますた)













  15. Good stuff. I’m lazy so I’ll respond in English.

    The “de-Nazi-ficatoin” (ouch) of the German army into a Japanese plaything is a very interesting process. On one hand, there is a very important trend in Japanese pop culture that focuses on Anne Frank and the educational value of the Holocaust (not as an example of anti-semitism in most cases, but as an example of the horrors of war and organized violence). On the other hand there have been a variety of works since the 1960s (Mochizuki’s “Nisei butai” manga — Japanese American heroes fighting in Europe — and especially Matsumoto Reiji’s “Senjo” manga) that present German soldiers (and even the SS) outside of the Holocaust context. This has left its mark on the “Germanic” characters in a variety of sci-fi anime (Full Metal Alchemist, various GUNDAMs, etc.).

    Gunji Otaku (Military Otaku) are an interesting group…. However, we can’t look past the fact that this group has produced (and consumed) a variety of stunning anti-war / anti-violence images at various times (think about the jieitai massacre scene in the Evangelion film, Honneamisu no Tsubasa, the “Red Shoulder” massacre legacy in VOTOMS, various exploding cities as an atomic bomb echo, etc., etc.). This is the real puzzle in the gunji otaku legacy — it seems like they “like” war and yet many gunji otaku products fit into the mainstream of postwar Japanese anti-war culture.

    Some of these views of war are, of course, situational. Shiba Ryotaro has called Japan’s 1930s militarists a bunch of thugs and morons (as did Mishima Yukio, come to think of it) in several of his writings but seemingly had nothin’ but love for the Russo-Japanese War era leadership. Up to this point, the focus of anime and manga on WWII has been that it sucked (Hadashi no Gen, Hotaru no Haka, the 731 stuff in Soryuden, with some exceptions like Ketsudan). But, just as Shiba was able to write about war as “good” in some contexts and “bad” in others, some anime/manga (and pulp fiction) creator types are choosing to go back to the Russo-Japanese War simply because it gives them a chance to forge a war narrative where Japan (or a fictional / fantasy country like Japan) is not into “shinryaku”, “gyakusatsu”, and all of that nasty stuff. Some earlier pop depictions of the Russo-Japanese War (203 Kochi from the early 1980s) were pretty much WWII movies with different costumes (awful soul-destroying carnage, everyone dies or is scarred, good people are warped and carry out brutal killings). Now, some creators are trying different things. It will be interesting to see where this new wave of Russo-Japanese War representation goes. Will it turn into Kobayashi’s “Sensoron”? Or will authors tap the longstanding pattern of postwar anti-war expression? I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out….

  16. Interesting discussion guys. I’ve never even heard of most of these works, but now I’m definitely interested in looking them up when I get the chance.

  17. ドイツ軍戦関連雑誌も多数発行されている。車のキング・パンツァーなどが定番だった。×


    wonder how this phrase get into the sentence.

  18. Anne Frank:
    Anne Frank is one of the two “Annes” keeping cult status in Japanese juvenile life
    sharing with Anne of the Greengables by L.T.Montgomery.Both Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and Prince Edward Island of Canada is packed with Japnese middle aged women who is paying pilgrimage of their teen dream holy land.
    As far as I understand Japanese tranlation of” the diary of Anne Frank” was sold most among all of the tranlation and late Otto Frank was very pleased with the fact.
    There is even an anime based on the book.But people read it rather as coming-of-age-girl-face-ultimate-challenge-and -hit-by-the-tragedy-in-the-end story.

    War Manga:
    There is a manga about manga criticism published in 1989 called ”サルにも描けるマンガ教室、通称サルまんManga for beginners:even a monkey can draw this”There is a chapter for war manga,and it says you can have all the jingoism and blood and guts spill all over in the story but in the end the protagonist has to make a speech about war and peace.nice.

    Takahashi Ryousuke IS going to start making new series this year.
    Have you ever seen early 80’s “Fang of the sun Dougram”?
    Takahashi and his staff were highly influenced by “The Battle of Alger”for this anime.

    Russo-Japanese war:
    2005 was centennial anniversary of Russo Japanese war and there were many memorials and symposium in Russia(few in Japan for it could attract criticism as “Militaristic”) I talked with a Russian Japanologist who is one of the advisor for Japan policy during Gorbachev era and he told me the current research in Russia suggests war could have been evitable.

    There is same conclusion in Japan for Ito Hirobumi was against the war(he was also against Anglo-Japanese alliance) and the avid supporter of Russo-Japanese entente.
    It is an irony of history that Ito became the resident general of Korea,since he was reluctant for that will harm the relation with Russians and foreign rule upon Koreans could awaken anti-Japanese nationalism there.As this become a prophecy,Ito was eventually shot by a Korean nationalist in Harbin on his way to repair relation with the Russians.

  19. I agree that Anne Frank in Japan is far more of a coming of age and tragedy of war story than a story about anti-semitism and hatred (which is how it is packaged — in classes and introdutions, etc. in North America.

    I`ve been to Green Gables myself….

    That def. of war manga is funny, but I think that some of the best stuff like Chiba Tetsuya`s Shidenkai no Taka, Mizuki`s war manga, and Matsumoto`s Senjo is wonderfuly jingoism free.

    I`ve only seen an episode or two of Dougram. Do you think that I should track down the whole thing?

    As for the Russo-Japanese War, it is sad, but in Russia I think that it becomes an excuse for Japan-hate and in Japan it can be used in dodgy ways (like ignoring the horror of the land war and focusing on the Tsushima battle).

  20. “I`ve only seen an episode or two of Dougram. Do you think that I should track down the whole thing?”

    Nah,that thing is too long.(took almost 2 years to finish and nobody was following it anyway).I recommend you to watch IDEON if you still have not seen it.

    Funnything is the wave of cool Japan does hit Russia in the past decade and things Japanese do get lots of popularity .Currently (or maybe it’s already finished by now)There is a TV drama in Russia about Hokkaido cop teams up with Russian female investigator and fight Yakuza and Russian maffia.The Hokkaido cop is played by a Kazakh actor.whao.
    There is an interesting Russian mini-series called “Penal Battallion,SHTRAFBAT”
    and as I trust the info on the package was the most watched russian TV drama
    of 2004 and it is really good.It’s about Soviet red army’s penal battalion fighting Germans and Germans are actually visualized less barbaristic than KGB or Soviet bureaucrat.


  21. I`ve seen Ideon. Don`t worry about that.

    That Russian drama sounds cool. I`m not sure about the depth of anti-Japanese sentiment in Russia but I have read a few academic articles about simliar themes. It seems as though Russia has a hardcore racist youth movement that is targeting `Asians` so it may be more general xenophobia than real `han-nichi` stuff. This also ties in with the second drama that you mentioned — Russian youths have been adopting NAZI icons as a part of racist rightwing movements. Silly.

    As for `hannichi` did you see that Canada topped a recent international poll of `country that does the most good` with Japan at number 2? We rule.

  22. Well I understand there isracist Neonazi movement and other patriotc youth movement organized by Putin camp, but the target as I understand are mostly to Central Asians,Caucasians and Chinese travelling traders.Not to Japanese,Although I doubt they could understand the differnce.
    Russians do not hate Germans or at least have little resentment over WW2.And STRAFBAT was basically made of liberal Russian perspective that Stalinist had wasted tremendous human lives to fight Nazi for they had used the opportunity to wipe out “enemy of the people” of which the STRAFBAT was organized upon.It is no Nazi praising by all means but rather an attempt to counter Stalin cult erupting in Russian society from time to time, that it was nobody but “Man of Steel”had samved the mother Russia.STRFBAT says the victory was gained by the sacrifice of
    unsunged heroe of Russian everyman and Stalin and the party had snatched the glory from the hand of those who deserved to be praise.Or that is the impression I’ve got from the series.

    Russian TV had also made an exellent Godfather-like mafia saga called”BRIGADA,The Brigade”and about the ex-Afghan veteran came back to his home and face Gorbachev era turbulence and become a street mob.and later become boss of criminal underworld in Yeltsin era.Good stuff,And I am amazed with critical eyes that Russian creators cast upon their modern history and ability of show biz world allowing such hard stuff for prime time show.(think about DENTSU here!).

    I’ve seen that BBC poll and yep we rule,but what we want is credit from China and Korea and few else,Something for our generation to work on,I think.

  23. Yeah, in the end, all of these assertions that `Asia` has a beef with Japan really just means `China and Korea`. India, for example, LOVES Japan according to various polls as do Taiwan, etc. I think that change in China and Korea and the exodus of some morons (ie. Ishihara, Aso) from the Japanese stage will resut in a nicer East Asia. Don`t know about NK….

    That Russia stuff all sounds very interesting…. however, remember Jingi naki tatakai? Probably the biggest pop phenom of the early 1970s in Japan. Japanese hardcore pop culture had its day. Now Russia`s is getting its. I also think that Russia has a FEW more problems with organized crime at present than Japan does…. given the daily killings. Oh, was that the government? Scary. In any case, Japan has had some hard stuff in prime time in recent memory (Evangelion) and generally does a better job of allowing free criticism of the government….

    There is also a chance that there is a different media dynamic in Russia. I hear that bootlegging is huge in Russia which has cut down on the domestic film industry`s growth, etc. Japan has a number of what I would call `media spheres`. Just think about the dif between weekly mags (crap), monthly mags (almost like a low level academic journal really, which puts them a world above Time). Japanese TV has fluff in prime time and a lot of interesting stuff on Sky, Wowow, latenight, etc. I`m not sure that the same dynamic exists in Russia. In any case, what you described would put it way ahead of Lost, 24, etc. as well (but the USA has HBO, some of the best TV in the world).

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