Four Japanese cartoon films released in 2023 first half
‘First Slam Dunk’ sets anime presales record in mainland
Published: Apr 17, 2023 10:47 PM
Photo: Screenshot from online

Photo: Screenshot from online

 The first half of 2023 has been heaven for many anime fans in China as two Japanese animated films Suzume and Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street hit Chinese theaters in March and April, while another two, The First Slam Dunk and Castle in the Sky, are set to make big waves soon due to their high popularity and strong nostalgia among Chinese moviegoers.

More than 21 million tickets have been sold for Suzume, directed by the well-known Japanese animation director Makoto Shinkai, since its release in the mainland on March 24, breaking the record of his another animation work Your Name in 2016, which sold 20.68 million tickets. As of Monday, Suzume has grossed 753 million yuan ($109.60 million), surpassing the 575 million yuan earned by Your Name, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

As a classic IP, Detective Conan often sweeps the trending list on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo as fans of its protagonists - Ran Mouri, Shinichi Kudo/Conan and Ai Haibara - have launched a heated discussion over a recent controversial scene in which Ai Haibara kisses Conan in the latest spin-off feature film Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine. Meanwhile, Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street, the sixth Case Closed feature film, has earned great word-of-mouth and 49 million yuan since its release in China on April 4.

A pre-screening of The First Slam Dunk launched in a stadium in Peking University on Saturday thrilled many Chinese moviegoers who cried "our youth is back!"

"I was so so excited when I heard that the voice actors we listened to 20 years ago for the TV version would also appear. They came from the island of Taiwan to promote  the movie, and when they did a live dub of a movie clip, all of us screamed as if we had returned to our childhood," Chen Yunzhi, a 26-year-old fan who participated in the event, told the Global Times on Monday.

She recalled that most of the people who were able to attend the event were older fans of the Slam Dunk manga and that they filled up the seats in the gymnasium. She estimated that maybe 3,000 people attended the event and that they were all very eager to see the film. 

In Shanghai, another pre-screening launched by China's popular streaming platform Bilibili was held in a cinema on Sunday afternoon, attracting thousands of fans cosplaying as the protagonists of the film, according to a press release from Bilibili on Monday.

Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that among the four animated films, The First Slam Dunk is the first movie version to be released in the Chinese mainland. Currently, the number of users on Maoyan and Taopiaopiao who have added the film to their "want to watch" list has exceeded 2 million, surpassing the numbers for Suzume from a few days ago. He said that he believes the film is going to a hit with an anticipated box office of 1.2-1.5 billion yuan in the mainland. 

On June 1, Children's Day, Miyazaki Hayao's Laputa: Castle in the Sky will also debut in Chinese mainland theaters, according to Maoyan.

According to Shi, in the past 10 years, about 10-15 Japanese movies have been released in the mainland annually, most of which were animated movies, especially after Doraemon: Stand By Me won 529 million yuan at the mainland box office in 2015. Classic IPs such as Doraemon and Detective Conan, as well as the works of famed directors such as Miyazaki Hayao and Makoto Shinkai, have a huge following in China. 

He pointed out that Japanese animation has its own unique school in the global film market both in terms of technology and culture. It has its own characteristics and advantages, especially in genres such as romance, action and fantasy, which shows the mature development of the industry and is something China can learn from.

Chen echoed that Japanese anime is very popular in China, while Chinese animation is also very developed, which can be seen in the release of Deep Sea during the 2023 Spring Festival.

"The Japanese-dubbed version of Chinese film The Legend of Luo Xiaohei was released in Japanese theaters in 2020, and was widely praised by Japanese audiences, showing the great improvement of China's animation industry, and we moviegoers are pleased to see more cultural exchanges like this so that we could learn from each other better," she said.