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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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China moves in on manga

Tatsuya Onuma

Sep. 13, 2017

Young people in China are developing an appreciation for Japanese manga and anime. They're even turning their own hand to the art under the watchful eye of a Japanese mentor.

Crowds of young people are at this monthly event in Beijing where manga and anime are traded and celebrated. One of the most popular drawcards is the locally produced content that's sold alongside imports from Japan. "Chinese manga used to be childish, but it's getting much better," says a participant.

A publisher in the coastal city of Xiamen is building a stable of future artists. Most of the work that the firm's young talents create is available online for free. The illustrated stories cover all kinds of genres including period pieces, detective mysteries, comedy, and school drama. Readership is growing fast.

The company has adopted a unique way to nurture artists. It has several units in a 30-story condominium where 37 young writers live and work together. There, they polish one another's talents by sharing ideas and techniques. "This creative environment is great. We can talk with each other when we have a problem," says one of the artists.

To help them improve, their publisher has employed a Japanese editor who flies in regularly to share his talent and experience. Kazuji Kurihara worked in Japan for about 40 years. He helped create some big hits, but he recently retired.

He brought some of his favorites to build a Japanese manga reference library. "These are for the artists to study. They can learn how to create quality manga by reading the top works," he says.

Kurihara is in charge of 12 junior employees, but there's one in particular that stands out. Xu Xianzhe has a unique ability to convey characters' personalities.

Xu's work is set in ancient China. He's working on a climactic scene in which a heroine is taking revenge. Xu asks for advice about her last words.

"I think she should say something at the moment of revenge, when she shoots an arrow," says Xu. But Kurihara suggests something different. "The heroine shouldn't say anything here. I think that would emphasize the tragedy," he says.

Xu adopts the advice and in his final version, the heroine lets her actions speak for themselves. "Mr. Kurihara is very encouraging, and I like the direction and suggestions he makes to my work," says Xu.

"The standard of work that's being created here is improving rapidly. I think the manga and anime from China is reaching a global level. I expect it will attract a growing audience and become popular worldwide," says Kurihara.

Xu's work has already been licensed to be developed into anime. He and his colleagues are creating new ideas every day as they strive to reach the top of their field, and bring Chinese manga to the world.