Japanese Animated Films “Suzume” and “The First Slam Dunk” Prove Hit in China

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People line up at a concession stand near a “Suzume” poster at a movie theater in Beijing on April 1.

BEIJING — Japanese animated films are enjoying great success in China despite the cooling of Tokyo-Beijing relations over tensions relating to Taiwan and the U.S.-China confrontation.

A Chinese newspaper’s online edition reported Thursday that Japanese anime director Makoto Shinkai’s movie “Suzume” had logged box-office revenue of over 800 million yuan, or about ¥15.7 billion, becoming the highest-grossing Japanese anime film in China.

The previous record was held by Shinkai’s “Your Name.,” which pulled in about 576 million yuan, or around ¥11.2 billion.

Meanwhile, “The First Slam Dunk,” a movie based on a popular Japanese basketball manga, grossed over 600 million yuan, or about ¥11.8 billion, in the first two weeks of its April 20 release.

The success of both works is down to the quality of the films themselves, as well as strong support from people born after the 1980s who have been familiar with Japanese animation works since childhood. On the opening day of “The First Slam Dunk,” a man in his 30s from Beijing watched the film wearing clothes modeled after a basketball uniform worn by a character in the film.

“I like the original manga and have also seen the anime,” the man enthused. “It’s a special anime work for people of our age. I’m very happy to see the new film.”

November 2022 data from a public opinion survey jointly conducted in Japan and China by The Genron NPO and a Chinese group showed that 62.6% of the 1,528 Chinese people surveyed said they had a bad impression of Japan.

However, a Chinese person familiar with the Japanese anime industry said, “Many Chinese people prioritize their hobbies and favorite [film] works over politics,” and predicted that Japanese anime works would remain solidly popular in the future.