A TOUCH OF MANGA
A Japanese film based on the Parasyte series makes a rare entry, Xu Fan reports.
Many Chinese movie buffs’ first reaction upon hearing that the Japanese movie Parasyte will be screened across the Chinese mainland was: “Really?”
Written and illustrated by Hitoshi Iwaaki, the Parasyte manga series of sci-fi horror was originally published in magazines from 1988 to 1995, and more recently adapted into two live-action films.
The series tells the story of a teenage boy’s fight against wormlike creatures that want to capture the human brain— and the Japanese films contain a number of bloody scenes. But the creator’s imagination and the series’ introspection on such topics as environmental protection have helped the films to win critical acclaim.
The film premiered on the Chinese mainland on Sept 2. It combines the two Parasyte films released in Japan in 2014 and 2015.
Foreign horror films are rarely screened inChina as the top regulator for the sector is usually uncomfortable with content that shows excessive violence.
EDKO Films Ltd, a Hong Kong-based company that is helping with the distribution of Parasyte on the Chinese mainland, says it negotiated both with the Chinese regulator and Japanese producers to make the film suitable for general screening here.
The two Japanese films, totaling 226 minutes, were cut to one feature of 125 minutes for Chinese theaters.
While some Chinese moviegoers complain the Chinese version leaves out many elements from the Japanese films, Parasyte has so far grossed 36 million yuan ($5.37 million) — beating spy thriller Jason Bourne to take the third slot in the Chinese box office over the weekend, following Star Trek Beyond and Ice Age: Collision Course.
“The core storyline remains, as well as classic scenes like those showing human heads changing into flowerlike creatures,” says Zhang Han, general manager of EDKO (Beijing) Films Ltd, about the Chinese version.
Commenting on the cuts, he says the re-editingwasdonefor reasons beyond concerns about depictions of violence.
“Chinese audiences have gotten used to watching fast-paced films because of Hollywood blockbusters,” says Zhang. “A condensed plot is appealing to domestic moviegoers.”
China allows 34 foreign films for general screening on a revenue-sharing basis every year. Another 30 or so foreign films are shown by purchasing their screening licenses, without arrangements to share their mainland box-office revenues. Parasyte was introduced in the latter category.
Many industry sources see the film’s screening here as a breakthrough that reflects China’s increasing openness to diverse cultures.
“The film has more significance in its screening than commercial performance in China,” saysWang Feng, a film critic.
“Japanese movies are usually pushed to the margins by Hollywood films in China,” he says, adding that after this live-action feature, Japanese filmsmay now have the potential to earn more in China’s lucrative market.
But there are opposing voices as well.
A few scenes in Parasyte could scare children, so some industry watchers say the theaters should warn parents in advance.
China has yet to establish a movie-rating system, which is why limitations on the viewing age isn’t specified in films, including horror and thrillers.
In recent years, most Japanese films shown on the Chinese mainland have been animations, such as the Doraemon movies, Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary and Boruto: Naruto theMovie.
Before Parasyte, the only live-action Japanese film to have been introduced inChina in the past five years was Flying Colors in April. It is the coming-of-age story of a teenager.
Animated Japanese films based on manga comics are liked by many Chinese, and Parasyte is rooted in that style, too.
The Parasyte manga series won the Seiun Award — Japan’s highest award in science fiction — for being the best manga comic of 1996.
“China has a big fan base when it comes to the manga series,” says Zhang.
On Baidu Tieba, one of China’s largest online forums, there are 1.6 million reviews from more than 170,000 users discussing the books and screen productions.
Many film studios wanted the rights for the series’ cinematic adaptation until Toho, known for the monster epic Godzilla (1954), purchased the copyright and put Takashi Yamazaki at the helm as director.
“Yamazaki is known to Chinese audiences since his other directorial work, Stand by Me Doraemon, caused a stir in China last year,” says Zhang.
He says the cast and crew of the two Parasyte films had earlier planned to promote the Chinese movie here. But the event was canceled as the lead actor, Shota Sometani, was busy shooting for Chinese director Chen Kaige’s YaoMao Zhuan (Legend of a Cat Demon). Chen’s film is based on the Japanese fantasy novel Samon Kukai.
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Parasyte, adapted from the Japanese manga series of the same title, is one of the few foreign horror films screened on the Chinese mainland. Critics believe the big fan base for the comic books is one of the major reasons for its box-office success.