Animated film ‘Flavors of Youth’ demonstrates stronger coproduction ties between China and Japan

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/7 17:48:39


Promotional material for Flavors of Youth Photo: Courtesy of Joy Pictures

Featuring three stories set in Chinese cities drawn by a crew primarily made up of Japanese animators, the new Sino-Japanese animated coproduction Flavors of Youth has set out to bring smiles to the faces of anime lovers around the globe.

Screening on Netflix and in Chinese and Japanese theaters since Saturday, the anime feature film is divided into three chapters, two of which were directed by Chinese directors and the other a Japanese director. The film is a coproduction between Chinese animators and Japan's CoMix Wave Films, the studio behind renowned Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai's 2016 hit Your Name and his earlier 2007 work 5 Centimeters per Second.

Grabbing only 1.8 million yuan ($260,000) as of Monday in Chinese mainland partly due to its low screen share of 0.7 percent, the film has received relatively positive reviews overseas. The film currently has an IMDb rating of 6.7/10, a bit higher than the 5.6/10 on Chinese media review platform Douban.

"Right now domestic box -office performance is not our major concern," one of the film's co-directors, Li Haoling, told the Global Times on Sunday at a Beijing screening event for the film.

As the first Sino-Japanese coproduced animated film to be made in more than a decade, Li noted that the film is an important experiment in seeing how the two sides can cooperate.

"We had to take that first step," Li noted.

Audiences at home and abroad might be able to see more coproductions such as this hitting the big screens in the near future, not just in animation, but also comics, games and live action films as well. This is mainly due to the efforts of the Japan-China Cultural Industry Exchange Association (JCCIEA), which was established in March in Tokyo by renowned cultural platforms and companies from both countries including Japan's NHK and China's Maoyan.

Flavors of Youth is the association's first official project.

Focus on film

"Aside from movies and TV productions, we will also focus on production, import and export as well as marketing of a series of cultural products from the two countries including music, games and even tourism," Zhang Jin, CEO of China's Joy Pictures and the Chinese director of JCCIEA, told the Global Times.

But the association's prime focus will still be films, Zhang emphasized.

For instance, the association is planning to open a cinema in Tokyo that will exclusively screen Chinese-language movies.

"Film is still a very important medium to help us learn about Chinese history and the country's development not only in cities but also rural areas," Adachi Masashi, the association's Japanese deputy director, told the Global Times.

"In recent years, more and more Japanese people, especially those living in more suburban areas, have started to take an interest in China's people and its society mainly because of the booming number of Chinese tourists flooding into Japan every year," Masashi noted, saying this has established a good foundation for the entry of Chinese movies into the Japanese market.

Moreover, the recent box-office success of Hirokazu Koreeda's Shoplifters and the impressive performance of 2017 Sino-Japanese coproduction Legend of the Demon Cat in both markets also seems to suggest at the huge market potential Sino-Japanese coproductions possess.

"The success of Legend of the Demon Cat even helped to propel the signing of a film coproduction agreement between the two governments during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Japan in May," Masashi said.

Aiming to help expand film cooperation between the two countries, the agreement "provides a more transparent policy framework and gives filmmakers in both countries who are seeking cooperation more confidence," Fukuda Takamoto, cultural counselor from the Japanese Embassy in China, told the Global Times at the Sunday event.

Huge potential

While this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, it is also the 40th anniversary of the start of official Sino-Japanese film cooperation.

"China held the first Japanese film week when the treaty was signed in 1978, three Japanese movies, including Ken Takakura's Manhunt, were shown in China and received a warm welcome," Takamoto said.

The two countries' film cooperation after 1978 mainly stayed at the import-export level. However, the past few years have witnessed the release of more Chinese remakes of Japanese works as well as Sino-Japanese coproduced films and ACG (animation, comic and game) works. The Legend of the Demon Cat and Sino-Japanese animated TV series Cheating Craft are good examples.

"Even though the two countries have coproduced a few film and TV shows before, but most of them were produced to commemorate anniversaries involving the two countries. The Legend of the Demon Cat and Flavors of Youth are the first set of commercialized Sino-Japanese coproductions, which gives them more historical significance," Takamoto told the Global Times.

Talking about the future cooperation between Chinese and Japanese filmmakers, Li, Zhang and Takamoto agreed that things will become more diverse and co-creation will become a major trend.

"We have a lot to explore, not just coproductions, but also adaptations; and just like how South Korean pop culture has became popular in Japan recently, we also wish to see Chinese youth culture become more accepted by the Japanese market in the future," Zhang said.

Newspaper headline: Tighter bonds


blog comments powered by Disqus