Looking to add to your anime cel collection? You might want to act fast.

Japan routinely takes a few days off to celebrate New Year’s, and this past Monday was a national holiday, Coming of Age Day. But after plenty of rest, it’s now time for people across the country to get back into the swing of things at work, which for a group of politicians means putting the finishing touches on their proposal for a federally funded facility to preserve anime/manga materials and keep them from being purchased by foreign collectors and leaving the country.

The Japanese Diet’s multi-party Manga, Anime, and Game Caucus plans to present a bill seeking funds and authorization to establish a facility to be called the Media Arts National Center, which will store and catalog anime and manga genga, a term that literally translates as “original pictures” and which generally refers to animation cels and original manga artwork. “It is necessary that we preserve [anime and manga materials] as treasures of Japan,” declared caucus head Keiji Furuya, and the plan’s initiators have specified that stopping the flow of such materials to overseas owners is a desired outcome.

The Media Arts National Center is a successor to a similar plan to create a National Comprehensive Media Arts Center, for which some 11.7 billion yen (US$104.5 million) was pledged before the project was scrapped in 2009 following Democratic Party of Japan politician Yukio Hatoyama’s replacement of Liberal Democratic Party member Taro Aso as prime minister. Current prime minister Shinzo Abe is the first LDP member to hold the office since Aso. Opponents of the 2009 plan dismissed it as an attempt to make “a federally funded manga cafe,” and pointed to pre-existing institutions, such as the Kyoto International Manga Museum, which are already involved in the preservation of anime and manga materials.

However, the caucus pushing for the establishment of a Media Arts National Center says that by association with the federal government, the newly proposed facility would be considered an offshoot of the National Diet Library, Japan’s counterpart to the U.S. Library of Congress. This would allow the Media Arts National Center to sidestep legal restrictions on the digital recording and storage of copyrighted anime and manga materials, which the caucus cites as hindrances to their proper preservation by currently existing organizations.

In addition to storage and preservation, the caucus says that the Media Arts National Center would allow visitors to peruse its collection free of charge and hold exhibitions of significant pieces. The center would also supply visitors with information on new anime and manga franchises, as well as details about upcoming domestic anime and manga-related events.

Proponents also say that the Media Arts National Center would serve as a mecca for overseas tourists with an interest in anime and manga, serving as a must-see on their Japanese travel itineraries. That, however, alludes to a potential point of controversy. Anime and manga are not just art, but a form of consumer art. At their most fundamental level, they exist because someone is willing to pay money for them, and with overseas sales becoming an increasingly significant revenue stream for the industry, it seems somewhat heavy-handed for the government to be mulling a plan that aims to address foreign purchases of materials, while remaining mum on the subject of domestic buyers, who are just as capable of hoarding private collections as their overseas equivalents.

The Media Arts National Center bill is expected to be introduced in the ordinary session of the Diet scheduled for January 22, and should the plan win ultimate approval, speculation is that the facility would be located in or near the Akihabara neighborhood, Tokyo’s otaku mecca.

Source: Jiji via Anime News Network
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