Japan's largest advertising firm Dentsu and trading house Mitsubishi Corp areestablishing a $17.8m (Y2bn) investment fund to produce and distribute Japaneseanimation.

The fund will be managed byDentsu subsidiary Geneon Entertainment and Mitsubishi subsidiary d-rights.

Dentsu is contributing 30%,Geneon 20% and d-rights 50% of the fund which will underwrite 15 to 20 projectsa year, with domestic and worldwide rights jointly managed. Mitsubishi subsidiary d-rights will oversee distribution in the lucrative US market.

Geneon is involved in bothfilm production and video distribution of titles such as live-action features Rampo Jigoku, starring Tadanobu Asano,and Nin x Nin: Ninja Hattori-kun - TheMovie, and animated TV series TenchiUniverse.

Mitsubishi has previouslyinvested in animations such as Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle. The company's d-rights subsidiary, which haslicensees in over 80 countries, produced the internationally successful Beyblade franchise.

Mitsubishi Corp has diverseinterests in IT, finance, energy, metals and consumer goods. Dentsu and rival advertisinggiant Hakuhodo jointly invested in Studio Ghibli's Tales From Earthsea slated for release in Japan on July 29.

Dentsu acquired Pioneer LDSin 2003, after which it was renamed Geneon Entertainment.