Blue Sky's Trip to Japan
(continued from page 2)

Day Three
On day three we visited NTV. NTV is short for Nippon Television and is one of the largest television stations in Japan. One of the interesting aspects of the entertainment industry in Japan is that TV is a much larger industry than film. Broadcast TV in Japan is responsible for weekly shows and other kinds of content just like in other countries, but it's also a large source of movies as well. Here we are in the lounge of the NTV studios. The decor looked like it was straight out of a Bond film. I love those chairs.

The person we were visiting at NTV here is their head of Computer Graphics, Yoshinori Sugano, who is leading the new wave of CG animated content at NTV. One of the reasons we were so excited to meet him was that he was the head of CG on Princess Mononoke. We received the grand tour of their main facility in Tokyo and it was quite impressive. We showed Bunny to their CG department and it was well received. We were then taken to lunch where we discussed quite a number of very interesting aspects of our respective work.

One of the most interesting things we discovered was that the popularity of anime (this is the term the Japanese employ for their animation) is declining in Japan. It seems that people are becoming tired with formulaic plots and character design. This is of course a problem that affects Western animation as well. One of Sugano's main challenges right now is to develop content that will make animation more popular. He was hopeful that CG might be part of the answer.

Sugano had questions for us too. He and his CG department have always wondered why American animation is always full of singing and dancing. This echoed our questions to him as to why Japanese animation is always so cinematic and serious. We were able to determine that American animation has its roots in vaudeville and is at its essence a theatrical genre. He then explained that the history of Japanese anime has its beginnings in manga, the pictorial story telling art that has been popular for centuries in Japan.

After bidding our new found friends at NTV goodbye, Ayumu had arranged for us to meet with Tadashi Yabe an acid jazz DJ from the group United Future Organization (UFO). Ayumu thought it would be nice if we met some people who had nothing to do with graphics. It was only coincidental that UFO was also one of his favourite groups. But since we still had some time to kill, we decided to see more of Tokyo. This was our chance to sample some peak hour traffic, so we opted for public transportation. One thing you have to realise is that everything in Japan is clean, elegant and efficient. Every train we took was immaculate. There was no sign of graffiti and it ran on time to the second.

The rest of our journey to our dinner appointment was on foot. We walked from a rather trendy part of the city called Ebisu toward Aoyama another nice area. The architecture is very new and unique. Most of the buildings in Tokyo are new due to the heavy bombing in WWII. Walking through the city gives you an idea of how incredibly huge the place is. It's also a very vertical city since the population density is also quite large. Tokyo itself holds 18 million people. This picture shows Ayumu with Yabe at dinner.

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