Fri, Jul 08, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Even in China, anime transcends politics

In a kinder, gentler form of imperialism, Japan is pushing manga on China --200and China is begging for more

AFP , Tokyo

The production house of late Japanese manga legend Osamu Tezuka is to make its first film specifically for China, employing local talent, in a bid to grow Japan's star cultural export in its huge and sometimes hostile neighbor.

The two-hour animated film, Rest on Your Shoulder, will be the debut work of Beijing Xiele Art Co, a Chinese subsidiary set up by Tezuka Productions.

While Japan has seen a growing international market for its animated films, the producers say the upcoming film will target Chinese tastes by basing the plot in part on Chinese fairy tales.

A Chinese-language fantasy of a man who continues to love a woman even after she turns into a butterfly, the film will be made by Hong Kong director Jacob Cheung using both Chinese and Japanese creative staff.

``The political relationship between Japan and China is not necessarily good. That's why cultural exchanges should be promoted on the private level,'' said Hiroyuki Yumoto, chief producer at Tezuka Productions.

``Tezuka used to say that manga is a universal language. People can communicate through manga pictures regardless of nationality or language. Manga is one of the best tools for communication,'' Yumoto said.

Osamu Tezuka was a pioneer of Japanese manga cartoons and is best known for his Astro Boy series, which debuted in 1951 featuring a robot boy who flies through the future.

Tezuka grew interested in China through his respect for the work of a Chinese animator, Wan Raimin, who made a celebrated film based on the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West.

Beijing Xiele Art was established in 1990, a year after Tezuka's death as per his will, with the aim of training Chinese people in animation.

``This is a big stride forward,'' Yumoto said of the upcoming film, the release date of which has not been decided.

``Tezuka's will calling for cultural exchanges has evolved into a business operation. But this is just the beginning to see whether it can be a success.''

Yumoto said the film could reinforce the idea that animation is not ``only for children.''

``The time has ripened for Chinese talents and for the Chinese market,'' he said.

Statistics also indicate that animated films, as with so many consumer products, could have a vibrant future in the growing Chinese market.

The Japan External Trade Organization says China's market for sales in animated films and programs total 19.5 million yuan (US$2.36 million) annually, with no domestically made shows holding any dominance in the market.

Japan's share is around 3.9 million yuan (US$470,000), with US animation also popular in China, the trade body said.

China in April witnessed major street protests and said that relations with Japan were at a 30-year low after Tokyo approved a history textbook written by avowed nationalists.

With Japan's relations with its neighbors haunted by its militarist past, a panel of experts in December advised Koizumi to turn anime into foreign policy.

``These cultural assets are now considered a part of Japan's strength, as is evident from the expression now being bandied about: `Japan's Gross National Cool,''' said the report by the Japan Forum on International Relations.

The Chinese government itself has recognized the draw of anime. Last year its culture ministry started a university program to boost China's animation industry -- in part through ties with Japan.

This story has been viewed 10810 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top