Animationauteur Katsuhiro Otomo, whose films, including Akira and Steamboy, have been widelyscreened internationally, has started production of a live-action feature.

Basedon the Kodansha comic Mushishi (Mushi Master)by Yuki Urushibara, the eponymous SF fantasy is set around the turn of the 20thcentury in Japan.

The"master" of the title has the ability to detect mysterious life formscalled Mushi unknown to science and invisible to the normal human eye and usesit to help people troubled by the Mushi's strange powers.

Thefilm will star Joe Odagiri (Bright Future, Shinobi) and Makiko Esumi (Maborosi, Pistol Opera) and is set for release next winter.

ATV animation of the comic is already being broadcast on the Fuji TV network. Mushishiwill be Otomo's second live-action film, following the1991 World Apartment Horror.

Japan Digital Contest Trust, a new contents fundmanagement company, will launch a fund call Cinema Trust Mushishi to raise $2.2m (Y260m) of the film's $8.5m (Y1bn)budget.

The fund will also supply $3.2m (Y370m) for distribution expenses.

JDC Trust will begin recruiting investors next spring,with one share costing from $427to $854 (Y50,000 to Y100,000).