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Central Park Media Bolsters Anime With TV Presence

14 Mar, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

Anime house Central Park Media (CPM has recently ratcheted up its television tie-ins to continue to build awareness and sales of the genre.

"We have been successful lately in getting some of our titles on television, and as more anime gets on television it feeds back positively to the video sales," said John O'Donnell, managing director.

O'Donnell, who joined CPM at its inception in 1990 after 12 years at Sony (leaving as president, Sony Video Software Co.), said that there is "an extremely clear connection" between anime home video success in the U.S. and its television presence — and vice versa, as anime is becoming a hotter product and television programmers are looking for content.

"What the TV programmers are picking up on now is what has been popular on video," said O'Donnell. "It's sort of a reverse window."

CPM's "Slayers" titles have started running weekends on The International Channel, he noted. The Cartoon Network's "Toonami Reactor" has been running such fare as "Harlock Saga," "The Record of Lodoss War" and "Patlabor." The Encore Channel has been running CPM's catalog movies including "Darkside Blues, Birdy the Mighty" and "Ayane's High Kick."

The U.S. market for anime will reach about $200 million in 2001, O'Donnell estimated, noting the anime market extends well beyond the traditional children's category and captures much of the young adult demographic.

In Japan, he said, anime has a broad and gender-balanced adult audience because it's adapted from popular "manga" (comic books), and Japanese manga offer more adult themes and storylines than U.S. comics. Romance and drama are the key animation genres in Japan, while American tastes skew to faster-paced science fiction, fantasy and action-adventure.

CPM is hoping the growing U.S. television presence of anime will lead to more shelf space for anime on mass merchant shelves, following the pattern of the children's shows "Sailor Moon," "Pokemon" and "Dragonball Z." CPM expects to support that mass market presence with its launch of an action figure line. Other CPM titles will have graphic novels and comic books developed in tandem with the video releases, as well as higher-end collectible figurines that appeal to more serious fans. Chains such as Virgin Megastores and Tower Records & Video already merchandise anime books and comics.

"The Virgin Megastore in Manhattan, for instance, did a great job with anime during the last Big Apple Anime Fest," said O'Donnell, of the largest anime film festival in the U.S., held in Manhattan each fall. "They had lots of product, guest-of-honor autograph signings and cross-merchandising of video, comics, soundtracks and merchandise. It was a classic case study of how to do it right."

CPM's plans include introduction of a "Geobreeders" ("think a comedic cross of ‘X-Files' and ‘Perry Mason,'" said O'Donnell) video/comic book package in May; a collectors' version DVD of MD Geist in September, preceded in August by a graphic novel featuring the same character and a collectible statuette; a collector DVD of the popular Project A-ko series in August with action figures; and the continuation of the three-part DVD series of the hit Japanese TV program, Now and Then, Here and There.

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