Chinese State TV Uses Anime to Fire Broadside at Japan

cctv - H 2012

The deployment of a sequence from popular animation franchise "Detective Conan" by China Central Television stirs online buzz.

HONG KONG – With Sino-Japanese relations in a tailspin in recent years, China Central Television has been constantly running news items censuring what it dubbed as Japan’s lurch towards right-wing conservatism. But the state broadcaster’s latest effort yesterday has surprised many with the way the critique was done – with the help of a sequence off a Japanese manga film.

In an analytical piece examining Japan’s post-election political landscape, CCTV-13 criticized the country’s parliament as filled with scions of long-established political clans – a thinly-veiled rebuke against the poll winners, the Liberal Democrats, and its China-bashing premier-in-waiting Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather, father and father-in-law have all served as either government ministers or lawmakers.

Beginning the five-minute piece – which is available here (in Chinese only) – was a sequence off the 2002 manga movie Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street, in which one of the film’s child detectives, surveying a ballroom filled with the young children of Japan’s political elite, spoke of how the gathering “was what led to a corrupted future.” “It’s because of this politics of inheritance which led to human beings repeating its mistakes in history,” continued the character Anita Hailey.

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The piece then followed the snippet with more conventional infographics – which outlined how 75 of the 480 members sitting at the outgoing Diet were offspring of past political heavyweights – and interviews with independent candidates and members of the public.

Chinese netizens have praised this new approach from breaking with the usual stern and solemn practice employed by the state broadcaster. Writing under the moniker of “Broken Bridge”, a blogger said this “eye-opener” is probably a sign of China Central Television’s attention in using popular culture in its work.

The Detective Conan films are adaptations of a Japanese comic revolving around the travails of a group of young crime-solvers, and are very popular in China. The Phantom of Baker Street, which is released on DVD in the U.S., is about a conspiracy hatched to maim Japan’s political establishment by trapping the children of its leaders in an ark, with them facing certain death unless the protagonists could resolve a complex electronic game.

The network’s use of anime to back its political rhetoric followed swiftly after the screening of an uncensored version of V for Vendetta on its movie channel on Friday evening – a move which led to speculation about ideological shifts in both the station’s output and also the ruling administration headed by the newly-installed Chinese Communist Party general secretary, Xi Jinping.