Tuesday, 15 October 2013 13:55

Cultural Ambassador Danny Choo

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Danny Choo is the founder of media production company Mirai Inc., which focuses on sharing Japanese lifestyle with the world though the Internet, TV, mobile, print, products and conferences. He is also the director and presenter of the TV show “Culture Japan,” and a presenter on the morning show “Check Time” and Star Worlds’ “Japan Mode.” Danny speaks on Japanese pop culture and consumer generated media at conferences and universities worldwide. He has been featured on CNN, BBC, NHK and G4TV. He was appointed by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as creative director for the Mazer project in 2012 and now consults for METI’s Cool Japan Project. Danny is the creator of “Culture Japan’s” mascot character Mirai Suenaga. Danny greeted the press while serving as master of ceremonies at the Anime Expo 2013 convention in Los Angeles.

“We share and make Japanese culture more accessible to the world.”

Q: Why do you think the popularity of anime has expanded so much?
CHOO:I think that one of the major influences is the Internet. When I first started off liking Japanese culture, we had to watch anime on VHS tapes. I got them from a Japanese bookshop in the UK which was recording Japanese TV shows and renting out these shows. But I was very reliant on this single location where I would have to take the train and go there to get these videos. But now with the Internet it is very easy to find something online these days. So I think that has definitely contributed to the proliferation of Japanese anime.

Q: Other than your line of dolls, is there anything else you’re going to do with your character Mirai Chan?
CHOO:Mirai Chan has become a mascot character for VOX, the Japanese convenience store Lawson, Kinokuniya International Bookstore and the low-cost carrier Air Asia. I’m working with someone now to write 13 episodes of an anime for Mirai Millennium. He has worked on things like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Ghost in the Shell.” The scenario is complete right now. The next step is to decide if we want to release manga or go for the anime route. I personally want to release manga first. Instead of going through the normal publishers, I want to do it myself. After I learn how to do it, I want to share the knowledge with everyone else so they can do it themselves as well. Mirai Chan is actually a 3D printed interactive Android-controlled robot and we want to make her interactive with social media. My first goal is to have her sitting on the edge of a desk while she swings her legs back-and-forth, looks around the room and when you get a Facebook notification, she will tell you about it in a cute voice. Extra motions and voices would be available for purchase later on through the Google Play Store.

Q: Do you think now that we have services like Crunchy Roll and Daisuki, that Japanese animation companies will open a bit more?
CHOO: They have access to view counts on Crunchy Roll and Daisuki but I think the counts need to be a bit more. For example, if you go to an illegal torrent site, you can find download counts of 300,000 downloads for one torrent. But views on Crunchy Roll or Daisuki are not as comparable so I think we could do a better job of encouraging people to watch officially on sites like Crunchy Roll or Daisuki and then the Japanese anime industry would follow suit by taking
note of this.


Q: Do you think if Japan is able to directly sell to us that will cut down some of the illegal downloads?
CHOO: Going by our sales, we can definitely say that there are folks in regions out there who really do prefer legit merchandise. I’ve conveyed that to my committee members and they are aware that people aren’t just after pirated goods because it’s always been that Japan thinks that foreigners only buy pirated material. Another committee member, who is the boss at Hori Production (HoriPro), said the same thing. His artists do well in China. They still buy official CDs
because of the sound. So yes, I think by having them come over directly, things will get better. It’s also better for the end consumer.


Q: Do you think anime companies are feeling pressure from the fans?
CHOO: Yes, but the anime industry really has no idea if something is going to be a hit or not, so many anime titles make a loss. The reason they continue is because if they make 10 titles, one of them usually becomes a hit and that covers the costs of everything else. They really don’t know if something has hit
until the sales of the first Blu-ray.


Q: As you know, Tokyo is bidding for the 2020 Olympics. Do you think Tokyo would be a good host for the Olympics?
CHOO: I personally think Tokyo would be a good place. I feel Japanese culture really brings people from around the world together. Anime Expo is a really good example whereby people from all over the world get together. That’s what the Olympics are supposed to be about.


Q: What’s your ultimate goal or dream?
CHOO: One of my goals is to have Mirai Chan be a global brand like Hello Kitty. I don’t know if she’ll ever be as big as Hello Kitty, but I’ll do it in stages through collaborations one by one. Another goal is to have these robots as a household appliance like iRobot that cleans your floors, and then once they are a household appliance everywhere, I can turn on the Skynet switch! (laughs). I will continue to share Japanese culture and extend my reach of our brand
around the world. tj

The complete article is available in Issue #272. Click here to order from Amazon

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