Culture Game

History of Nijigen Culture in China

Apart from Japan, the country that loves Nijigen culture most may be China. Nijigen culture has been rooted in China for more than 30 years. At first, ACG Funs in China only watched and discussed works from Japan. In the last decade, China's own animation, comic and game industries have begun to take off. Nijigen has moved from minority culture to mainstream in China. This is a history worth studying.

Apart from Japan, in which country is Japanese ACG culture most popular? The answer is China.

(ACG is short for Anima, Comic,Game. We mix it below with Nijigen, both of which mean the same thing. )

Japanese ACG culture may be still a niche hobby in Europe and the United States, yet it has become a very well-known sub-culture accepted by almost half of young people in China.

Almost every young Chinese has seen the most famous Japanese cartoons, such as the ONE PIECE, Naruto, Gintama and so on.

Earlier, during the Sino-Japanese honeymoon period, China introduced into such as Pokémon, Digital Monster and Bakusou Kyoudai Let’s & goddess!, which accompanied the childhood of almost every Chinese child living in the city.

In recent years, China’s own ACG industry is also developing continuously, and even has a trend of surpassing Japan in some areas. The Nijigen mobile game Arknights, which was officially tested in May last year, is a good example.

Arknights surpasses very famous Japanese mobile games (such as “FGO, Fate Grand/Oder”) in terms of plot, gameplay, picture quality and music, and has also achieved good success at the commercial level. According to Sensors Tower, in January 2020, the revenue of Hypergryph, a Arknights development company, surpassed that of Bilibili, which mainly represents Japanese games in Chinese mainland.[1]

How did Japanese ACG culture enter China? How do the Chinese people constantly enrich the connotation of Japanese ACG culture and finally achieve reverse transcendence? This article will lead readers to learn more about the development history of Japanese ACG in China.

To study the development of ACG culture in China, we need to focus on three issues:

  1. How do young people in China come into contact with Japanese ACG works and their derived culture?
  2. How do young people communicate with each other after they come into contact with Japanese ACG culture?
  3. How does China develop itself and achieve transcendence on the basis of Japanese ACG culture?

This paper divides the age according to the media of Nijigan content (including animation, comics and games) in China.

Pre-Internet era ( 1972-1995 )

Since 1972, with the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, a large number of Japanese TV series and animation works have entered China.

The main animation works came to China in the early years are Ikkyu-San and Hana no Ko Lunlun. After the 1980s, the series that were introduced into China became more diversified. Among them, Seint Seiya, pretty soldier sailor moon and Cat’s Eye were extremely among Chinese teenagers in that period.

In particular, pretty soldier sailor moon and Cat’s Eyes have become the objects of sexual enlightenment for many Chinese boys because of heroine’s beautiful faces and good bodies.[2]

During this period, animation was mainly purchased by Chinese television stations. However, comics mainly rely on piracy, and they were mainly pirated copies of single books that had already been published.

The Picture Book King

Finally, in 1993, China’s first comic magazine, Picture Book King(画书大王), was born. Although this magazine was known as China’s first comic magazine, its main content was still pirated Japanese comics. The Picture Book King was a collection of cartoons serialized by many of Japan’s top comic magazines, and its content was updated at a pace similar to that of Japan, with sales of 800000 copies per issue at its peak.

In response to this situation, Picture Book King announced that it would solicit contributions from domestic authors. But with the growing momentum of the crackdown on piracy, the magazine did not escape the fate of being suspended. [3]

From November 11 to 13, 1994, Xin Wen Lian Bo, the most important news program in China, covered the matter. At the same time, it refuted that Japanese comics filled wtih vulgar, pornographic and violent elements. Furthermore, the program introduced the magazine Science Fiction World(科幻世界) and praised it, saying that this was the magazine that teenagers should read. [4]

Ironically, science fiction and ACG were both sub-cultures in China at that time. In the 1980s, Chinese science fiction was closed to almost all science fiction magazines except the World of Science Fiction, because it was partly related to the reflection of the political system.[5]

In terms of games, due to the low Internet penetration in China at that time, the game consoles that children could access were mainly Nintendo Famicom, but Famicom could not enter China through legal channels, and almost all Famicom that could be purchased in China were contraband goods.

Subor Study Machine

At this moment, Guangdong IT businessman Duan Yongping decided to copy Nintendo’s Famicom, and named it Subor Study Machine.

I am afraid it is difficult for many you guys to understand how popular this console was in China at that ear. Although 99% of Chinese never knew “Mario” and did not know that it was actually a Japanese game, yet everyone from parents to children were addicted to it through that console.

When I am 3 or 4 years old, my parents bought a Subor Study Machine. The whole family would get together during the break, with at least three or five people, even nearly ten people, playing games around a TV set. Whoever loses will rotate another person to play.

If readers are interested in this console, you can refer to another Pandyoo article, This man created BBK, OPPO, VIVO, OnePlus and more.

During that period, handheld game consoles were even more rare in China, and families in a small number of developed cities in China do not own computers until 2000, while the real popularization and promotion of computers will not be until 2005, so computer games actually did not exist.

It is worth mentioning that the connotation of Japanese ACG culture is quite rich, in addition to animation, comics, games, there are many derivatives, the most typical is toys.

One of the most representative is Bakusou Kyoudai Let’s & goddess!

The animation was introduced by Hong Kong Television in 1998 and was later added to Chinese mainland. There were a large number of red and blue double star patterns in this animation, which was the logo of Tamiya, a well-known Japanese model company.

In a sense, it was a commercial for Tamiya. Tamiya began selling mini four-wheel drive cars in the 1980s, established a monopoly in the Japanese market, and successfully built a series of events, becoming the rule maker and the only accessories supplier.

But across the sea from the Chinese mainland, there was one company that also saw the market for mini four-wheel drive cars: Alpha Group(奥飞), a toy company in Guangdong, China. The company has created a platform called AULDEY, whose logo style could be said to be engraved in the same mold as Tamiya.

It pirated a large number of Tamiya’s four-wheel-drive models, produced and sold these four-wheel-drive cars, and won high praise. Audi even succeeded in making children across the country think that Tamiya was a fake rather than the authentic.

There is no doubt that AULDEY’s behavior is a kind of piracy, but Tamiya did not take legal action in the end. On the one hand, the legal environment of the mainland was poor, and this kind of intellectual property infringement cases were difficult to be handled correctly. On the other hand, the company that copied Tiangong was not the only brand AULDEY at that time.

AULDEY was the only company of all companies that was willing to sell high-quality mini four-wheel drive cars on Chinese mainland. AULDEY even cooperated with the Chinese education department to launch a mini four-wheel drive race in the name of “science and technology competition” [6]. When the author was in primary school, the prize the school handed out to the best students in the exam was the Audi raider track.

Obviously, during this period of time, Chinese young people lacked method to communicate these hobbies with each other, and their understanding of Japanese ACG culture was very superficial.

For most parents, Japanese animations and cartoons were very interesting, and children loved to watch them. As for games, many people didn’t even know that Super Mario was actually a Japanese game, and the Subor Study Machine had become the best bridge to communicate with neighbors. But it stopped there.

The ear of VCD/DVD & Collage BBS (1995-2005)

If there was one thing that can have an impact on Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan at the same time, it was the launch of Shin Seiki Evangelion in 1995. (hereinafter referred to as EVA)

EVA is so important both commercially and culturally that it is difficult to bypass this work when talking about the development of Chinese ACG culture. There is no doubt that EVA has epoch-making significance in the history of Japanese animation, but it may have a more far-reaching impact on Chinese teenagers.

There’s no one who doesn’t know EVA.

Before EVA, Japanese animation works that entered the eyes of Chinese teenagers were all “for children”. This concept was completely broken by EVA. Never before had an animation combined so many concepts, including religion, psychology, philosophy and thinking about human nature, including the haphazard ending made by EVA due to lack of money had become a favorite topic for its audience.

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To a certain extent, EVA created the concept of “Moe attribute”. The profound speculation in the work and a variety of sexually suggestive elements were combined together, which made audiences have a primitive impulse and think hard about it. In the face of such works, almost all audiences needed a place to discuss the work, but this place also needed a certain degree of privacy. Because the sexually suggestive elements contained in EVA could arouse a sense of shame among East Asian teenagers, it was clear that they did not want to know with their parents that they were watching such an animation.

It is worth noting that the animation, which received a US-TV-MA rating in the United States, was broadcast on the CCTV Children’s Channel in 2005. The daily program of this channel is Sesame Street and SpongeBob.

Just one year after the birth of EVA (1996), forums within Chinese universities set up special sections to use and discuss these ACG works. [7]

The users of these forums were the most educated people in China, and they were all students from China’s top universities, where people with the same hobbies could finally find a place to express their love for personas. Some of the more profound discussions focused on EVA.

For the Chinese, before 1996, ACG works were more aimed at children, and for parents, they were of a recreational nature. Only after that can it be called a “cultural phenomenon”.

After that, the personal home page service gradually developed. In addition to the university internal forums, there werealso many and similar blog “personal home page”. These pages were often static pages made of Microsoft Frontpage, into a spread of ACG culture.

At that time, China’s pirated animation VCD.

Another thing worth mentioning happened in 1996, that was, the popularity of VCD and DVD in China [8]. To be exact, the two did not occur at the same time, but they were no more than two years apart.

Meanwhile, domestic TV stations introduced quite a lot of Japanese animation, such as the well-known SlamDunk, Pokémon and Digital Monster were all introduced in this period.

Through the purchase of pirated DVD animation, the subject matter was not restricted, audiences even could buy 18+ works which were completely impossible to be introduced, which had a greater impact on the spread of Japanese animation.

But obviously, not every teenager would have pocket money to buy DVD CDs, or not every teenager was willing to spend money on Japanese animation – they might be more interested in snacks. Through the differences in these paths, heavy lovers and ordinary audiences were gradually distinguished, thus diversification appears.

In the past, when Chinese people came into contact with Japanese animation works, they were more actively introduced at the national level, with a single form yet the majority would be affected by it. Watching Japanese animation works through the Internet or CD-ROMs was more spontaneous behavior of enthusiasts, and these behaviors themselves had a certain degree of privacy.

Thus it can be seen that the promotion of ACG works in Chinese mainland is in fact inextricably linked with China’s economic development, especially the economic development related to cultural products. If Chinese enterprises failed to launch cheap and high-quality VCD, if the Chinese government did not make persistent efforts to build Internet lines, it would be very difficult to promote ACG culture.

Then everything took a sharp turn for the worse. In 2000, Guangming Daily, an important state media in China, published an article called “Electronic heroin” for computer games aimed at children for unknown reasons. [9] This article caused a great sensation and indirectly led to the introduction of two important policies.

In 2001, the Chinese government issued the opinions on carrying out Special Management of Electronic Game Business venues, banning the continuation of game halls as a business venue, as well as the import of game consoles (including home consoles and handheld consoles).

In June of the following year, dozens of minors were killed in a man-made crime in an Internet cafe in Beijing. [10] This led to the release of another policy in November of that year, namely the regulations on the Administration of Internet Services Business premises, which mainly prohibited minors from entering Internet cafes.

Rough regulation led to any business activities related to games would be regarded as the dereliction of duty of the government, consequently, it was difficult for the industry to get normal development, and even forced to go underground. Another phenomenon was the Internet cafes and game halls had become the synonymous with rogue gathering places. Today, the development of China’s game industry is still subject to many policy restrictions, which is undoubtedly a serious policy mistake. For a discussion of this, you can refer to another article by Pandayoo.

See Also: The policy of video games for minors in China

Although Japanese game works are only a branch of electronic games, they were also deeply influenced by them.

Back to the comic book industry, after the Picture Book King was prohibited, the development of China’s comic book industry fell into a period of downturn. Some emerged midway, but eventually disappeared.

But it is worth mentioning that before entering the millennium, “ComicFun” and “Comic Party” came out one after another. The original domestic comic magazines represented by these two magazines have been active until around 2010, which could be said to have contributed to the enlightenment of China’s comic industry. This history will be described in detail in the next section.

The era of BT download (2006-2012)

This section will introduce readers to the most glorious period of Chinese ACG culture, which came to an abrupt end in 2012 and was completely interrupted by the influx of more capital in 2014.

After entering the millennium, the Chinese government officially established China Telecom Group and China Mobile Group. The mission of these two super-large state-owned enterprises was to enable every Chinese to have access to high-quality Internet. In order to promote healthy competition and further accelerate the level of broadband coverage, the government also reorganized another state-owned enterprise, China United Communications, in 2009.

This initiative has been a success, and China’s broadband coverage and bandwidth levels have grown rapidly since then. Today, the most remote mountain areas in China can also enjoy world-class network services.

With good network construction, the spread, the localization and the re-spread of ACG culture in China have become extremely prosperous. The introduction and dissemination of works depends on the network, the translation of works depends on the network, the discussion of the content of works depends on the network, and finally, the secondary creation of works also depends on the network.

It can be said that the prosperity of China’s ACG culture is closely related to the rapid development of the Internet. In 2002, a Chinese company called Mobile Pioneer opened up the source code of the DVBBS program, which allowed you to build a Reddit-like site on the Internet by simply buying a domain name + server.

The prosperity of infrastructure software greatly promoted the spread of ACG culture, and various forums sprung up like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. The number of these sites was too large to list.

Animation Garden (DMHY) is still the main Tracker for pirated animation (with Chinese subtitles).

In the aspect of animation translation, subtitle production and dissemination, SOSG, anime garden subtitle group, demon island subtitle group, exotic subtitle group, gods subtitle group, Chengkong college subtitle group, Huameng subtitle group and polar shadow subtitle group were born. Among them, Polar Shadow and Animation Garden(DMHY) as well as their own BT Tracker, also have sites similar to the Greedy Continent that focused on providing BT Tracker.

The subtitle groups listed above were only those relatively large ones of subtitle groups, as well as numerous small subtitle groups that contribute their unique strength.

There were even more sinicization groups that focus on cartoon translation. As the cost of sinicization of comics was much lower than that of subtitle production, there are many individual groups that do not seek fame or fortune, and one person volunteered to complete the translation, word embedding and other work.

Because of the large number of readers of the mainstream comics, especially those from the Jump, the translation work was often undertaken by the large-scale teams.

Enthusiastic Sinicization Group was one of the outstanding ones, in its heyday almost relied on their own efforts to translate almost all the mainstream juvenile comics. What was more commendable is that the Enthusiastic Sinicization would attach nearly 7 to 10 pages of public service advertisements at the end of each translation, including Project Hope, a famous public welfare project in China. a program to provide tuition, stationery and food for children in poor areas to go to school.

Most translators did not gain any economic benefits in the above actions. Talking about it, there was only “fame”. Although there were sometimes behaviors such as preemptive translation by two groups in order to seize the right of translation of popular works, the problem could often be solved through negotiation afterwards. Translation groups were clearly aware that their purpose is to get more works to be translated into Chinese, rather than for their own interests.

Despite there were occasional subtitle groups inserting advertisements into the translated work, once there was such a behavior, other teams would take over the translated work, and the audience immediately switched to the work of other teams.

Talk OP, An One Piece fan community

Popular works like One Piece have even given birth to several forums for discussion on topics, that was to say, all the topics discussed in these forums were around a single work. Such as Talk OP, OPCNS and Panda Forum (named after the Egg Panda Man in “One Piece”). All three sites were themed sites focused on “One Piece”. The daily online number of these sites was close to 4,000 to 6,000 during peak hours, and at the peak, the number of simultaneous online users could reach 30000, which translated to about 50,000 daily active users.

If there is a market, there will naturally be employees.

There are many people who love ACG, expect to take this as their career direction, but very few of them really successed.

The domestic animation “I am crazy for singing“(我为歌狂) is a typical representative, and its art style and plot highly imitate Japanese animation. However, whether it is “I am crazy for singing” itself, or other Chinese animation works in the same period, their quality is hard to be regarded as good enough. As animation being a labor-intensive, capital-intensive and technology-intensive industry, it is not a suprise that in the environment of low level of marketization, it was difficult for China to produce excellent animation works at that time.

June 2010 issue of Comic Fun

Compared with animation, the production cost of comics was much lower, so the development was relatively better. Chinese people have never been short of creativity. As long as there is no rough management at the government level, excellent works will be produced, and “Comic Fun“(漫友) is one of the outstanding ones.

As a rare comic magazine imitating Jump in China at that time, Comic Fun published many young / juvenile comics, such as “Super Alloy Group”(超合金社团) and “unparalleled Black and White“(黑白无双), and also attracted female writers such as Han Lu and Zhu Le Tao. At the same time, another domestic magazine, Dragon Comic Youth Sunday, was obviously not as influential as Comic Fun. At its peak, Comic Fun and its sister publications have a total circulation of more than 1.5 million copies a month. [11]

In addition to magazines which focused on original comics, there were also magazines such as Animation Front(动漫前线) and Nijigen mania(二次元狂热), which mainly introduced Japanese ACG and occasionally serialized some Japanese comics, but these were not copyrighted. In addition, for regulatory reasons, these magazines were published in the name of “image products”, so each issue came with a large number of DVD, magazines that were nominally DVD giveaways. The magazine did so because the Chinese government’s regulation of magazine publication was much stricter than that of “audio-visual products”.

These magazines generally sold for 5-20 yuan, which was about the income of 2-3 lunches for junior high school students at that time. It was not difficult for students to squeeze out some money to buy magazines every month, and domestic cartoons was greatly developed.

In terms of games, although the consoles and handsets of Nintendo and Sony were difficult to enter the Chinese market because of the above-mentioned Special Management of Electronic Game Business venues, this did not hinder the smuggling trade.

Take Sony’s handheld game console PSP as an example, its final global sales are close to 76 million, and it has been estimated that no less than 10 million PSP have been smuggled into China. This means that 10 million of Chinese teenagers can enjoy the happiness brought by the product [12]. Fortunately, Chinese government officials at that time were more willing to be lenient to video games than their predecessors, turning a blind eye to such a huge smuggling deal, even though the ban was not officially lifted.

The massive spread of games has brought about the establishment of relevant websites, such as the TGFC Game Forum established in 2006, the A9VG Forum established in 2005 and the subsequent establishment of Video Game Buses, all of which were typical representatives.

In addition to the orthodox Japanese games represented by console and handheld console games, a large number of Galgame also entered China through the Internet. The way in which these Galgame came to China was similar to that of animation, with the free work of the sinicization group, who translated games into Chinese and delivered them to the audience.

Chengkong School, Used to be the largest Galgame fun forum in China, cracked and translated a large number of Galagame.

Galgame is originally a relatively minority cultural circle even in Japan, but after it was introduced into China, professional communities such as Chengkong and Feiyue were born. They illustrated the large number of ACG cultural audiences in China.

During this period, offline comic shows also gradually developed in the developed cities along the coast of China. But Comic-Con, which was really similar to Japan’s ComicMarket, only gradually appeared after 2008. Chengdu ComiDay Doujin works Exchange, Beijing ComicDive original Doujin Exchange, Shanghai Mudu Doujin Festival and other existing large-scale comic book exhibitions were the first activities held in 2008.

The emergence of Comic-Con indicates that the development of Chinese ACG culture has reached a certain height. There are enough audiences to support offline exhibitions, and enough core enthusiasts to produce Doujin works and sell them. In addition, the participation of enough Cosplay enthusiasts is also an important reference index.

Doujin culture is the core feature of Japanese-style ACG, and the creative team of the classic EVA mentioned above was born out of a Doujin community.

The comic exhibition after 2008 has actually laid a good foundation for the formal industrialization of China’s ACG in the future. Young creators sold their works directly and communicate with the audience face-to-face. This method of “setting up stalls” exercised the most primitive business skills of these teams.

Due to the spread of the Internet, Japanese animations were broadly seen by the audience for the first time in China. Light novels, comics, hand-run, Blu-ray, native CD and other offline and surrounding ACG cultural carriers were also widely sold. During that time, as long as there was something in Japan, enthusiasts in China would spontaneously try to copy it.

Bilibili’s screenshot in 2009 looks a lot like Japanese video site Niconico, and most of the videos are from Japan.

In 2009, an event destined to play an important role in the history of the development of Chinese ACG culture took place, the birth of Bilibili.

Bilibili now controls almost all distribution channels of China’s ACG-related industries, including animation, comics, mobile games and offline exhibitions. Of course Bilibili`s control is not as monopolistic as Google or Disney, but it can still be described as powerful.

The promotion of an ACG work without Bilibili does not mean failure in China, but it is difficult to get around it if you want to be successful. However, the website wasn’t such a large enterprise in 2009 – it was just a very lovely website at that time.

In the early days, Bilibili was an On-screen comment video, specializing in the field of ACG, imitating the Japanese Niconico.

Bilibili is not the first Chinese website to imitate Niconico, AcFun is. But because in 2007, AcFun webmaster Xilin sold the site for personal reasons, the site went down. It never achieved its own glory and did not provide more help to the industry, so I am not going to talk about it.

Those who are familiar with ACG culture should know that animation is the media form with the lowest appreciation threshold and the strongest communication ability of all related works. Many writers of comics and light novels are proud that their works can be animated.

Unlike Niconico, which was restricted by copyright, early Bilibili included pirated high-definition versions of almost all animations, which users could watch online without downloading them.

This made it a traffic portal for Chinese ACG culture on the Internet. People who like animation needless to say, the audience of comics, light novels and beautiful girls games also went to Bilibili to watch the animation adapted by their favorite works.

The Doujin culture mentioned above is also one of the important reasons for the accelerated growth of Bilibili, and many secondary creation videos have further improved the popularity of Bilibili.

However, at this time, Bilibili was a purely personal website and could not afford a lot of bandwidth resources, so its videos were uploaded by users to the video server of Sina, a well-known Chinese Internet company, and then presented on Bilibili through an embedded player.

Therefore, some hard-working users were also known as “porters”.

Their work was fully obligatory, and Bilibili did not provide them with any income or return. In addition, the works they moved were usually animations or movies, hence on the one hand, they would bear the legal risk of uploading pirated resources, on the other hand, it was very difficult for them to gain a reputation for transporting these works themselves.

For consumers, 2010 was the golden age of Chinese ACG culture. There were masterpieces such as “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “TIGER × Dragonne!”, followed by unique works such as “Monogatari series”, “Steins;Gate” and “Hyouka: Classic Literature Club series”.

On Bilibili at that time, watching these animations was completely free, and it was almost at the same time as Japanese television. Every time a new episode of animation was played in Japan, you could watch the version with Chinese subtitles on Bilibili 2 / 3 hours later. And it could be played repeatedly at any time, and users would not be distressed by missing the live broadcast.

Bilibili’s success peaked around 2011. In 2010, Bilibili officials contacted authors who often uploaded their own Doujin videos on the website to release the work “2020 New Year Gala”(2010 春节x圣战-拜年祭) during the traditional Chinese New year.

The duration of the video was 60 minutes, and a number of authors had contributed their works. The following year, Bilibili officials further upgraded the event, and a large number of authors participated in the production of ACG Doujin works related to the Spring Festival.

What impressed me most was the Doujin Spring Festival video: “Toho Project : the Fireworks celebration. Although the production was relatively rough, but its intention was very profound, the lines were full of sincere emotion, the understanding of oriental Project characters in the works was very good, combined with the Chinese New year, it was a rare masterpiece.

Looking back, this period of history was simply incredible. During this period of time, Chinese ACG culture lovers were the happiest. If we must find an adjective to describe this period of history, the only appropriate word wis the Garden of Eden.

During that time, such a huge market, almost without the intervention of capital, was basically the free growth of enthusiasts, and the state’s attitude towards the spread and management of ACG culture on the Internet was extremely lenient. Even many pornographic and obscene works prohibited by legal orders appeared openly on the front page of the website.

In fact, this prime time was caused by many factors. The lax regulation at the national level, the strong export of Japanese ACG industry, the continuous progress of Chinese authors, and no capital intervention in the market, all these factors constituted the prosperity of Chinese ACG culture in this period.

However, China’s ACG culture could not stay in the Garden of Eden forever, because both capital and supervision found this pure land. A new technology called Mobile Internet has taken root in China, and Mobile Internet would completely change the development of China’s ACG culture.

Mobile Internet and the era of Big companies (2012-now)

In 2011, Xiaomi released Xiaomi 1, which is a unimaginable significance to China’s mobile Internet.

The price of Xiaomi 1 was only 1999 yuan, but its configuration was top-notch, basically similar to that of HTC and Samsung’s flagship phones at that time. For students, it was difficult to consume a smartphone worth 4000 yuan, but a 1999-yuan Xiaomi phone could be started much more easily.

The impact of the mobile Internet on China’s ACG culture came from its complete deconstruction of the pirate elements in China’s ACG culture in the first 20 years.

As mentioned earlier, everything in China’s ACG circle used to be free. People watched pirated animations and played pirated games. The Sinicization team made free Chinese versions of pirated products. Doujin authors made free videos based on animation and games.

Despite being immoral and illegal, piracy and free payment are the reasons for the existence of that golden age.

The mobile Internet gives commercial companies absolute control over the flow of information, which reduces piracy and destroys the former glory.

Specifically, most ACG independent websites used to be simple sites built with open source programs. But now with the advent of the mobile Internet, people are more accustomed to using App.

From a technical point of view, developing an App is much more difficult than a website, which makes the transformation of these sites extremely difficult.

In addition, the App, owned by large companies, such as Tieba, Weibo and other App further squeeze the space of these sites. Even if these ACG websites develop the corresponding App, no one uses it.

When all the users moved to the big company App, these corporations began to crack down on piracy and secondary content creation. This is legal and reasonable, but it makes China’s ACG circle lose part of the content and atmosphere driven by the enthusiasm of enthusiasts.

Take Bilibili as an example, the event that reflects the outbreak of the problem is the “Fate/zero event”.

Bilibili began to introduce genuine animation in 2012, and its first choice was the famous Japanese animation “Fate/Zero”. Due to the legitimate license, other video sites would no longer be able to broadcast pirated copies of it. But it wasn’t long before Bilibili was removed from the shelves because of government regulation. [13]

Subsequently, “Fate/Zero” resumed broadcasting on Bilibili. But this incidented not only marks the beginning of the legalization of ACG in China, but also brought problems at the same time.

In theory, corporatization and commercialization should allow a company to bring better rather than worse user experience to its users. But in fact, in many cases, it is the opposite.

First of all, as mentioned earlier, although there are few political elements involved in ACG, soft pornography and violence are often deleted from legitimate works. This is because China’s relevant laws prohibit the presentation of such content, especially the animation audience is mostly minors.

Second, full-time ACG industry employees do not necessarily have the enthusiasm of enthusiasts, which leads to underperformance in some jobs. For example, the quality of authentic animations and cartoons in Chinese is often not as good as that of piracy, because the former is translated by a translation company, and they have no interest in knowing the broader background and cultural elements of the story

Most importantly, the commercial value of Japanese ACG works in the Chinese market is not high, which can only bring traffic to the website and is difficult to turn into profit. This causes the video website to expand a large number of other businesses after attracting traffic through animation works.

We have previously described Bilibili as a traffic portal for ACG enthusiasts in China, but with such a huge amount of traffic, it is trying to transform itself into a Youtube-like site. Professional User Generated Content related to Vlog, makeup, technology, and commerce has accounted for 89% of the total number of broadcasts on the site, and the content related to ACG has become the minority.

Bilibili has made many mistakes in the process of transforming from a community dominated by ACG content to Youtube. Its former loyal users have organized a Chinese wiki page to record these history [14], which is also a microcosm of the transformation of China’s ACG industry.

A long “crime list” was claimed by early fans of Bilibili.

So what are the benefits of capitalization? The obvious answer is that China’s own ACG industry no longer needs to raise money by crying for poverty. This makes a large number of amateur comics and animation works born by virtue of interest to become real commercial works.

First of all, from the perspective of comics, before the entry of big companies and big capital, Chinese professional cartoonists are often employees of magazines, while amateur cartoonists have no any income.

With a reasonable business model, not only amateurs can devote themselves to creation, but also more professionals. At present, China’s ACG industry attracts a large number of professionals to enter every year.

Before that, the career path of students in China’s major art academies after graduation was often to become designers, and few people were willing to draw comics or animations, but now the situation changed.

A typical example is “One Hundred Thousand Bad Jokes“, which was originally an amateur comic composed entirely of various Chinese online meme. However, with the signing of the cartoonist with the online comic App, the work was serialized for a long time and adapted into an animated film twice, through which the author managed to earn a lot of money.

Soul land animation, adapted from a novel of the same name.

This brings two problems. On the one hand, more excellent works have appeared. In the new generation of comics in China, works such as “Blades of The Guardians“, “Soul Land“, “The Outcast“, “White Cat Legend and “Fox Spirit Matchmaker” have achieved great success in art and commerce, and have even been adapted into animation works.

But on the other hand, a large number of low-quality “Slide Comic” based on mobile phone vertical screen reading habits have also been created, filled with all kinds of comic platforms, which significantly reduces the aesthetic level of readers.

In the field of animation, before the participation of Chinese major film companies and Internet companies, the main way of raising funds for Chinese animation was “begging”.

Big Fish & Begonia opened Pandora’s Box, the first Chinese animated film to make money for investors. From then on, Chinese animation bid farewell to fan sketches and began to enter the era of industrialization.

The most typical case in this field is Big Fish & Begonia, an animated film that was launched in 2004 and was officially released in 2016. For most of that time, its creative team was busy finding different angel investors and repeatedly raising money from the public. The early investors in the animated film did not expect to recoup the investment cost, they just thought the film was worth completing. This is clearly not sustainable.

After industrialization, although there is still not enough money, animators no longer focus on finding funds, which makes them better able to create works. The continuous release and great success of original animated films such as Monkey King: the hero is back, The Legend of Hei, and Ne Zha was unthinkable in the past.

Bilibili is also promoting the development of TV animations, imitating the way Japanese animation is broadcast, starting to play some new Chinese animation every quarter. These Chinese animations are completely different from previous cartoons shot by Chinese television for children, with more youth-oriented plots and character designs, mostly from adaptations of Chinese comics or games.

In terms of mobile games, excellent works such as “Onmyoji“, “Identity V“, “Girls’ Frontline“, “Azur LaneandArknights” developed by Chinese games have even entered Japan, the birthplace of ACG culture, and a large number of Chinese-made Galgame have also been launched on Steam.

The most interesting of these is the game Onmyoji, which is a mobile game with ancient Japanese Onmyoji Akira Abe as the main storyline. It is made by NetEase, a Chinese mobile game company. Search the English Google for Onmyoji, an ancient Japanese profession, and you will find that the first result is the international version of the game.

This is like most of the games on the theme of the three Kingdoms and the Water margin are from Japan, it is difficult to tell whether Chinese culture or Japanese culture has been spread in this process.

But the only certain thing is that Chinese game companies could not even succeed in Chinese-themed games a few decades ago, but now they already have the strength to produce cultural-themed products in other countries.

With the release of these successful commercial works, China’s own ACG works began to be recognized by the market. Young Chinese who did not watch animations, comics or games before began to try and learn about the Nijigen culture. In addition to becoming consumers, some of these young people also join the industry because of their hobbies, making the ecology more prosperous.

Generally speaking, the entry of large companies and big capital into the market has completely changed China’s ACG cultural circle. The ACG culture in China has been transformed from a super-large enthusiast community into a big industry full of commercial interests. 

This makes some former enthusiasts feel painful, because free (pirated) content no longer exists, but the entire cultural circle has also gained the ability to leave Japan for long-term development.

It is worth noting that although China’s ACG industry has just started, there are signs of oligopoly. This means that it still has a long way to go.

reference:
The cover picture shows the mascot of Chinese Nijigen video website Bilibili, 22&33 girls.
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