March 21, 2009 / 10:50 AM / 10 years ago

At Tokyo's "anime" fair, fans defy recession

Booth assistants in costume from a Japanese animation "Gurren Lagann" pose at a photo opportunity at Tokyo International Anime Fair 2009 in Tokyo March March 20, 2009. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Recession-hit Japanese consumers may be going without their normal indulgence of designer clothing or gadgets, but the downturn has not dulled the nation’s craze for Japanese “anime.”

Thousands of anime fans flocked earlier this week to the annual Tokyo International Anime Fair, one of the largest animation industry event, jostling each other for a rare photo opportunity with their favorite anime character.

“My two children each spends about 10,000 yen ($100) per month just on comic books so 20,000 (yen) in total,” said Mie Yura, 45-year-old mother of two, adding that her family has no plans on cutting down on their kids’ monthly “anime” allowance.

Some die-hard anime fans like 27-year-old Makoto Nakarai said his priority is anime and everything else is extra.

“I try to cut down on my daily spending so that I can save up enough money to spend it on anime,” he said.

Japan broadcasts over 70 cartoons and animation series in a week and the industry is estimated to be worth 150 billion yen.

Over 100,000 people were expected to visit the anime fair that brings together over 250 firms exhibiting across 750 booths.

Hitoshi Suzuki, chief producer of the fair, said that one of the main reasons why anime is so popular in Japan is because it allows people to briefly escape the extreme social control and rigid norms of everyday life.

“Sales for the Japanese anime industry remain strong,” he said. The number of firms taking part in the exhibition had increased this year, although some foreign exhibitors dropped out at the last minute, he said.

Writing by Chika Osaka; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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