In late September, an incident involving a Chinese fishing vessel caused a strain in Sino-Japanese relations. Even as tensions still run high, one thing brings them together. That thing is Gundam.
Recently, animator Yoshiyuki Tomino gave a speech at the elite Peking University, which was attended by over 500 Chinese students.
It was just over a month and a half ago that mobs in the mainland were vandalizing Japanese retailers like Mizuno and trashing sushi restaurants. Japanese celebrities and salarymen alike canceled trips to China.
Yet, there was the 69-year-old Tomino giving a speech in his native tongue to an auditorium of adoring fans. "Animation films often carry the message of a united world and they go beyond borders regardless of language," Wang Jing, a 23-year-old undergraduate student, told the Kyodo News.
Written and directed by Tomino, Mobile Suit Gundam debuted on Japanese television in 1979. The series was initially not popular, but after Bandai secured the licensing agreement and began producing mechas, that changed. There have been successful anime spin-off series and video game titles that spread beyond Japan's boarders.
"The first time I watched Gundam a year ago, I was awestruck by the setting and the world view," said 21-year-old Meng Linglin. "I think it is trying to depict a perfect ideal of people-to-people connection and I was very moved."
According to Kyodo's report, Tomino's translator flubbed some of the character's names and was promptly heckled by the crowed, which seemed to have "surprising" grasp of the Japanese language.
Even when Tomino confessed that he was not impressed with the quality of Chinese animation he'd seen on television, the crowd began applauding in agreement.
He told them not to clap, adding, "You shouldn't be happy over this!"
"What you need is to nurture and create an animation enterprise here that is not only popular but also breaks new ground," he continued. "I hope there are those among you who would do this."
It's not always politics that change the world or diplomats in suits behind closed doors, but pop music, video games and, yes, anime about huge mecha wielding beam sabers.
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