Japanese films could bond with China in 2017

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Japanese films have the potential to give new impetus to Tokyo and Beijing’s efforts to heat up political relations in 2017, as evidenced by the recent hit animation “Your Name”. in China.

Yoji Yamada, a prominent Japanese director whose remake of the latest comedy is due to premiere in China next spring, is one of many who imagine that might be the case.

“After the resounding success of animation, I sincerely hope that many more Japanese films will be available in China and that more and more Chinese films will be shown in Japan,” said Yamada. “With such developments, I think we Japanese will be able to become more friendly with the Chinese.

“After all, this is our neighboring country. It is very important for our country to come to an understanding with China.

“To this end, I wish my kind of work could be useful, even if only slightly,” said the 85-year-old veteran director after attending the final day of filming for the Chinese version of “What a Family wonderful! ” in Beijing in mid-December.

The comedy-drama, which centers on an ordinary middle-class family rocked by a sudden divorce from the wife of an elderly couple, brought out laughs at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June.

In the belief that it would also be popular in China, a Shanghai-based studio quickly signed a remake deal with Shochiku Co., which released the original version in Japan in March.

The drama, whose Japanese title literally means “it’s hard to be with the family”, should be released on 5,000 Chinese screens at the end of April. This is just one of the few cases that reflects an active collaboration between Asia’s two largest film industries, despite lingering tensions over territorial and wartime issues.

Japan and China will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations in 2017 and the 40th anniversary of their friendship and peace treaty the following year.

Japanese government officials have notably expressed the hope of capitalizing on the two anniversaries to achieve a real breakthrough in diplomatic relations with China.

Nonetheless, the Chinese government is highly unlikely to soften its stance towards Japan anytime soon, in part because it will once again enter a politically sensitive period ahead of the Communist Party Congress to be held once every five years. in the second semester. from 2017.

However, there may be one exception: the cultural scene.

It was a symbolic sign in 2016 that China, which still tightly controls the influx of foreign entertainment programming, approved the release of a total of 11 Japanese films, including “Your Name” by Makoto Shinkai.

The Love Story has become the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time in China since it opened in early December, surpassing box office sales of the previous record set in 2015 by “Stand By Me Doraemon,” a film by 3D animation featuring a robot cat character from a famous Japanese manga series.

The film Doraemon, which grossed around 530 million yuan ($ 76 million) in China, was the first Japanese film in nearly three years to hit theaters in the world’s second-largest cinema market.

Koichiro Takahashi, who heads the Japan Foundation’s operations in China, believes that public sentiment towards Japan is much better than it was about four years ago.

“The situation is that the Chinese can enjoy (Japanese culture) more openly,” he said from the organization’s Beijing office.

Takahashi says the foundation, a government-affiliated cultural promotion organization, has started to step up efforts to win the hearts and minds of young people and intellectuals with little or no connection to Japan.

Citing a steady increase in the number of Chinese tourists to Japan, believed to have passed the 6 million mark for the first time in 2016, he says it has become imperative to target these people.

For Fan Suning, an 18-year-old college student in Nanjing city, east China, Japanese pop culture, like anime and manga, has been around for as long as she can remember.

Fan says she finds herself addicted these days to participating in cosplay events, or those that involve dressing up as characters from comics, TV shows, and video games.

“The pictures were beautiful and I liked it so much,” she says of the Shinkai blockbuster. “I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ve always wanted to go. After seeing this film in the cinema, my desire to go there became even stronger.

In terms of business, Japanese studios are also unable to ignore China, which may overtake the United States as the world’s largest cinema market in the not-so-distant future.

As the Japanese audience shrinks and ages, Tadashi Osumi, executive general manager of Shochiku, believes the Chinese market offers a golden opportunity, although there are many challenges including censorship and piracy.

Most of the foreign films that have entered the rapidly growing market are mainstream Hollywood hits, and when it comes to Japanese films, almost all of them are animated films.

“I would love to show adult films in China,” says Osumi, who believes Chinese audiences are maturing and thirsty for a larger genre of films.

“I’ve heard that the Chinese love comedy and now they really want to laugh,” he says.

Yamada, who has gained lasting fame for his series “It’s hard to be a man” or “Tora-san”, says he learned again how dynamic the Chinese film industry is during his last brief visit.

Maybe “it’s hard to be a neighbor”, too.

But Yamada believes that the Japanese and the Chinese can have a lot more in common than they realize, sharing values ​​and facing similar issues, whether as married couples, parents or children.

In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, concert halls and other public spaces.

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