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TMCNet:  China Focus: Chinese pray for safety of Japanese cartoonists

[March 15, 2011]

China Focus: Chinese pray for safety of Japanese cartoonists

BEIJING, Mar 15, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Famed Japanese cartoonist Aoyama Gosho has imagined many forms of death in his series Detective Conan, but after Friday's massive earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan, leaving more than 2,400 people dead and tens of thousands more missing, the mystery over whether he is safe has raised concern amongst his Chinese fans.

"I hope he is OK," said 29-year-old Liu Jia from Beijing.

"Please, be safe and sound. He hasn't told us the ending of Conan yet." Lists of Japanese celebrities with safety concerns were circulated on the Internet Monday. According to the lists, Yuko Shimizu, designer of Hello Kitty, was among the suspected dead, while Aoyama Gosho was deemed missing.

Although these lists have not been confirmed by Japanese authorities, the news was published on the Chinese Internet portals, like Sohu.com, as well as in a mobile newspaper received by many mobile users.

"This is not official news and I'd rather believe it's not true," said 31-year-old Xu Duo in Beijing. She is a fan of Hello Kitty and even her computer keyboard, mouse and MSN signature bear the image of this little cat.

"Hello Kitty and Conan were like my friends who had accompanied me for more than a decade," said Xu.

"I was totally shocked after hearing the news," said a netizen nicknamed Weixiaoshao, who founded a Conan fan group in 2006 on Douban.com, a Chinese website for film and book reviews. The group now has over 20,500 members.

"I checked on the official website of Gosho but there was still no information from him," he said.

In the Detective Conan series, the hero, a middle school student with a girlfriend, drank a magical potion and reverted back to childhood.

"We want to see him grow up again and reunite with his girlfriend," he said.

Liu Jia admitted that the Japanese cartoon was a way for her to learn about Japanese culture. "From the cartoons, I learnt that Japanese were hard-bitten. The cartoon was a bridge for me to get close to Japan in some way." Last September and October, Xiaokang magazine, published by the same press as Qiushi, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China, conducted a survey among people aged 15 to 35 across China.

According to the survey, 67.75 percent admitted that at the mention of "Japan" or "Japanese," they first thought of the historical relations between China and Japan. In another question, only 9.1 percent of the respondents expressed fondness toward Japan.

Experts see cultural exchange as a way to improve the relationship between the neighboring countries.

"After China and Japan established diplomatic ties, the cultural exchange had given a boost to the two nations' relationship," said Liu Jiangyong, a professor in the studies of Sino-Japanese relationship with the Institute of International Studies of the Tsinghua University.

At that time, Professor Liu noted, many Japanese teleplays were welcomed by Chinese audiences and those born in the 1980s and 1990s grew up reading Japanese novels and watching Japanese cartoon series.

Cui Rong, who was born in 1986, loved one Japanese cartoon so much that he chose to work in the Qicaiyangguang Cartoon Art Center with the Anhui Publication Group.

"The Japanese cartoon carried inspiration which went beyond borders," he said. "The cartoonists were like acquaintances to whom you would pay constant attention without considering the two countries' diplomatic relations and national sentiments." Columnist Li Kaisheng said that, to some extent, the quake could help improve relations between China and Japan. "The spirit of helping and caring for each other in hard times would undoubtedly draw feelings of closeness between Chinese and Japanese," he said.

An online poll on ifeng.com showed that about 80 percent of the 70,000 netizens to respond said that China should give timely help to Japan after the quake.

"I feel really sad for the Japanese people," said netizen Weixiaoshao. "I hope they could be adamant and optimistic, as depicted in Japanese cartoons." As for Aoyama Gosho, he said, "Conan has a chant: 'there is only one truth.' Before we know the Gosho's situation, any guess would be meaningless. Let's just pray for him."

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