An upcoming Chinese anime, KUIBA, is being touted as the “Chinese Naruto,” and will be the first Chinese anime ever to be distributed in Japan.
Several trailers show off an anime with modern production values and a distinctly familiar artistic style:
The anime is due to begin distribution in late 2011. International distribution deals in Japan, Europe and America have already been closed.
Publishers Vasoon are apparently intending it chiefly for overseas audiences as an export anime, something of a first for a Chinese studio, and apparently a necessity as low station fees and rampant piracy in China proper rule out the domestic market as a viable target for any animation of quality.
Additionally, the anime is intended as a modern Japanese style “ACG” franchise incorporating anime, manga and game titles, an ambitious objective for an as yet unproven title.
Reportedly the makers have analysed the elements of such shonen giants as Naruto and One Piece in order to establish which led to them becoming international hits, and then replicate them in KUIBA – top of their list is the quality of art and character designs:
“If we draw them nicely, people will surely think they are Japanese in style. So, instead of trying to avoid looking Japanese, we decided to tackle the issue of beauty directly [by adopting a Japanese style].”
Character designs are predictably enough based on the inescapable Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West,” hence the stave wielding monkey martial artist. The story is said to be unconnected however.
The other major element of shonen success is of course the inclusion of the usual hackneyed shonen themes of courage, teamwork, triumph over adversity and so on – these are promised in abundance.
Observers can be forgiven for noting that this seems a very Chinese approach, not that they can necessarily be blamed for wanting to design a hit rather than happen upon it by chance.
The creators claim originality all the same however:
“The feelings are those of Chinese, so they differ from those of Japanese or Americans. With these different values the work we create naturally differ a great deal as well, so from this persepctive it’s 100% Chinese originality.”
The noted propensity of China’s fledgling animation industry for plagiarism may be a cause for concern – distributing plagiarised works in nations where the rule of law is well established would likely only result in costly legal action and the withdrawal of the franchise from all but the most backwards markets, suggesting it will need to be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, the imposition of unfamiliar ethics may be just what the Chinese industry needs to establish itself as an independent creative force rather than a mere parasite.
Just whether Japan and the west are ready for Chinese furries riding horsebirds is another matter however…