Chinese animation leads a unique route

Legend of the white cat Photo: Screenshot of iQiyi

Masako Furuichi, a Japanese teacher at Peking University’s School of Foreign Languages, was shocked when she saw the title of her student’s thesis: Japanese anime began to decline. She felt that Chinese anime has shaken the status of Japanese animation in China.

“The development of Chinese animation in recent years has been very rapid,” Furuichi told the Global Times.

She cited Chinese animation as an example The Legend of Luo Xiaohei, released in Japan on September 20, 2019, which quickly captured the hearts of Japanese audiences. The film won more than 560 million yen (about $ 5 million) at the box office, setting a record for Chinese animated films abroad. Many Japanese fans expressed their appreciation for the film on social media and tried to purchase cultural goods from China. Some have even started to learn Chinese.

Not only Japan, but Hollywood also turned its attention to Chinese comics for inspiration. It has been confirmed that Chinese comics Zombie brother will be released on the big screen in the action comedy film New York will eat you alive.

“As China grows at lightning speed, animation, as a small branch of Chinese culture, will surely improve in the social context,” Shang You, director of the anime hit, told The Global Times Chinese 2020, White Cat Legend.

Three historic stages

According to Furuichi, Japanese anime has gone through three historical stages in China since the 1980s. Japanese comics represented by Astro boy were largely favored by young Chinese.

Around the year 2000, an impressive number of Japanese comics, including Detective Conan, Slam dunk and Sailor moon pushed the second stage of Japanese anime to China.

In 2010, with the popularization of the Internet, many Japanese animations gained wide visibility on Chinese social networks, especially on Bilibili, a Chinese video-sharing website focused on animation, comics, and games. (ACG).

In 2004, Chinese TV stations opened children’s channels to show local TV programs. At the same time, the broadcast of foreign animation was restricted, which brought some challenges of Japanese anime.

Furuichi pointed out that the popularity of Japanese animation in China has emerged as a complement to cultural content during the development of the Chinese economy. However, as more choices flooded the Chinese entertainment market, including dramas from Europe and South Korea, as well as K-pop, Japanese ACG culture gradually fell out of favor among the youth. Chinese. Meanwhile, the rise of Chinese animation sparked greater interest among local anime fans who began to show their full support.

A unique route

Much like the three-dimensional animation in Japan which learned from Disney and Hollywood in the United States and then developed special characteristics suitable for the country, Chinese anime was also first inspired by Japanese anime. However, China is currently leading a unique road that is different from the ACG culture in Japan and Western countries.

“Chinese culture is deep, and we the creators, as native Chinese, could better understand the ancient civilization with 5,000 years of history than the Japanese creators,” Shang said.

He pointed out that the boom in Chinese ACG can be seen on the popularity of local ACG products among the younger generation.

According to industry data, in 2017, sales of Chinese animation-related cultural products accounted for 14.02% of total sales of animation products. In the first half of 2019, it had risen to 38.45%, i.e. a doubling in two years.

However, both pundits denied that Japanese animation had lost its glorious edge.

“It doesn’t make sense to conclude that Japanese animation is in decline due to the boom in Chinese animation. I think the industry in Japan is also experiencing a new shift in a rapidly developing society and I don’t don’t think Chinese and Japanese animation can be compared because the two have different cultural origins, ”Shang said.

“In the future, Chinese animation will have to take up the challenge of surpassing itself, like the film Ne Zha, which still created such a good result with its new content, ”said Shang.

Ne Zha, a 2019 Chinese 3D computer animation, earned 5 billion yuan, becoming China’s third-biggest box office hit, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

Furuichi mentioned that the staff in the Japanese animation industry are poorly paid and that he basically follows this career for his passion which is difficult to maintain for long. This is also one of the reasons that are holding back the development of Japanese animation. In contrast, the situation in China is much better.

“I think China is studying and absorbing the benefits of Japanese animation and there is a passion for creating works beyond Japanese animation. However, it will take some time for China to become a mature country of animation, ”Furuichi said.

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