World’s longest-running Animation Festival, Hiroshima International Animation Festival closes its doors

Hiroshima International Animation Festival (HIAF), one of the world’s longest-running animation festivals, has ceased to exist in its current form. It is due to be replaced by an event that encompasses music, live-action cinema, and manga, as well as animation.

HIAF’s longtime director Sayoko Kinoshita will not be involved with the new initiative. Kinoshita, who is 75, founded the festival in 1985 with her late husband Renzo Kinoshita, and had run it ever since.

The City of Hiroshima, the festival’s main sponsor, informed Kinoshita of the policy change last fall. “It came like a bolt from the blue,” she told the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun of the announcement. “It’s such a shame.”

Speaking to the newspaper, a representative for the city explained the change: “The festival is highly regarded in the animation world, but it isn’t the most approachable of events for ordinary citizens. There was no large-scale music-oriented event in the city, and so by combining music and media arts, we aim to create something that citizens can more easily participate in.”

According to a planning document drawn up by the city authorities, the new event will consist of two strands, “music” and “media arts,” which will centre on classical music and animation respectively. Other mediums will also be celebrated, including manga and live-action cinema. The event’s aims include “revitalizing the economy,” “promoting industry [and] tourism,” and creating activities in which ordinary citizens and young people can participate.

The animation strand will aim to “extend [HIAF’s] accomplishments” by preserving its short film competition and adding a feature competition. Details will be firmed up next year. The non-profit organization Hiroshima Animation City and organizers of the Hiroshima International Film Festival are due to advise on the plans.

The first edition of the new event is due to be held around August 2022, which is when HIAF’s next edition would have taken place.

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Ashwathi Anoopkumar