Spurred onby the success of rival Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Japan's Toei Animation hasbegun to shift its emphasis away from kid-targeted TV fare to produce moreanimation features aimed at a wide audience.
Japan'soldest animation production and distribution house has produced two animatedfilms for a wide release on over 250 screens, two animated films for smallerrelease on around 50 screens nationwide and two live-action features based onTV animations and comics.
Distributedby Toei, Saint Seiya - about the adventures of two teenage fighters who are trained tobe super heroes - was released on 51 screens and took $950,000 at the local boxoffice in February.
In March, Onepiece - about young pirate whotravels in search for a treasure - was released on 265 screens and earned $19m.
Autumn seesthe release of Devilman, about a demonic-looking superhero who fights against evil. Live actionfeature Air,about high school students, is scheduled to be released in winter.
"Devilman was ideal for our project. Sincethe film is based on the hit animation series, we used CG effects to createlive-action images which closely look like 2-D animation images," saidKeisuke Shirasaki, a spokesperson for Toei Animation.
"Theanimation industry has been changing," explains Shirasaki. "Withthe increase in the number of multiplexes, we have more chance to distributeanimated films much more widely. Also, with an expanding DVD sales market, wehave more chance to recoup some of the animated films which don't do wellat the box office."