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Groundbreaking Ramayana anime remastered for new audience 30 yrs on

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A 4K digitally remastered version of an anime based on the Hindu epic Ramayana was screened last month in Tokyo almost 30 years after its first release, with the makers reminiscing about the barriers they overcame in the groundbreaking project.

"We remastered the anime for Indian fans who have been wanting to see a better quality version, making it available for the next 2,000 years," said Kenji Yoshii, an official at Tokyo company that owns the rights to the production.

Yoshii, along with Atsushi Matsuo, a director at TEM Co., said "Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama" was made by a Japanese-Indian team at a time when international productions were uncommon in the Japanese animation industry.

"There were no mobile phones, fax or emails, and we were discussing images that we received via courier," said Yoshii, adding that even telephone calls had to be kept brief due to the quality of the phone lines between the two countries in the 1980s.

Matsuo, who is also the executive producer, said it was "really a miracle" that the animation was completed under the circumstances.

One of the two main Hindu epics, Ramayana is about the god Rama, who successfully battles Ravana, a king, who has abducted Rama's wife, Sita. Initially written by Indian poet Valmiki in the 5th century B.C., the epic has different versions across South Asia.

The original anime was directed by Japan's Koichi Sasaki and Yugo Sako together with Ram Mohan, known as India's father of animation, and released in 1993. It cost 800 million yen ($6.7 million), considerably more than the average for an animation film of that time.

Sako developed a passionate interest in the epic when he was working on a documentary about waterways in Asia, including the Ganges in India, and voraciously read all the Japanese translations of the Ramayana available at that time.

"He (Sako) was tremendously impressed with the story and also with the number of characters -- humans, animals, even vegetables and plants -- and said this was the ideal story for a film," said the late Mohan's wife, Sheila Rao, from India during a virtual interview.


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