'Kessen,' 'Cricket,' 'Osaka' will all earn coin

Icot, an Osaka, Japan-based content-management company, has announced the launch of two movie funds, one for features, the other for animation, with the backing of brokerage Mizuho Securities.

The feature fund will raise ¥600 million ($5 million) for three films: Masahiro Kobayashi’s “Ee janai ka Nippon — kesennuma” (It’s All Right Japan — Kessen Swamp), Shinji Aoyama’s “Korogi” (Cricket) and Sadaaki Haginiwa’s “Osaka sennyu sosakan” (Osaka Undercover Agent).

The first two films feature Kyoka Suzuki, star of “Yamato: The Last Battle” and “Blood and Bones.” Latter is Japan’s candidate for inclusion in the foreign-language Oscar category. Mizuho will manage the fund, which is targeted at institutional investors.

The animation fund will assemble $3.4 million to make a 24-episode animated series, “Rabugetsu,” for network broadcast in 2006. Mitsuhiro Togo will direct the series, while Radix and Ariko System will produce. The story is based on a popular cell-phone game, developed by Marie Koizumi, about a girl who pursues her dream of becoming a voice actor. An online brokerage will sell fund shares directly to individual investors.

Funds bankrolled by private-sector investors are an increasingly common source of coin for Japan’s production outfits. Gaga Communications will have access to a $250 million fund raised by the Usen conglom and Daiwa Securities (Daily Variety, Dec. 20).

Icot will manage all rights to the projects backed by its funds, from theatrical to broadband and cell-phone broadcast. It also intends to launch other production funds annually.

Established in September 2004 by a consortium of 10 companies, led by Kansai Electric Power and the Dentsu ad agency, Icot provides a wide range of content management and support services, particularly for distribution through broadband, mobile phones and other new media.

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