Even though tensions between Japan and China are running high over the Senkaku territorial dispute, the popularity of Japanese manga among Chinese youths is continuing to span the divide between the two nations.
And now, Xiada, a 31-year-old Chinese manga artist, may be opening a new chapter in this manga-based cultural exchange, which has been marked by a lopsided flow of content from Japan.
In recent years, two of her works have been serialized by major manga publisher Shueisha Inc.
In 2008, Shueisha presented Xiada, who was a minor manga artist in China at the time, with an offer to serialize a story of hers in the Ultra Jump monthly magazine. Ultra Jump is a sister publication of Weekly Shonen Jump, which is widely known in China for the blockbuster “Dragon Ball” series
Yukio Motegi, who was then editor-in-chief of Ultra Jump, recognized Xiada’s potential appeal to Japanese manga fans after reading her works on a tip from an editor friend.
“I haven’t picked her because she is Chinese,” Motegi said, denying that the curiosity factor was behind his decision.
Xiada, however, said her first reaction to Shueisha’s offer was not one of rejoicing. She was afraid of failing to live up to expectations if she joined the roster of top manga artists contributing to Ultra Jump, including Hirohiko Araki, the author of “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.”
“Rather than joy, I felt a pang of fear that I might bring disgrace to the Chinese manga world,” she said.
In the end, Xiada seized the chance and debuted in Japan with “No One Knows — Confucius Didn’t Say.” Centering on a country girl with mystical powers, it is based on a local folklore motif narrated to the girl by her grandmother.
The story has an atmosphere reminiscent of manga by Hayao Miyazaki. Xiada has said she is a huge fan of Miyazaki.
Xiada’s most recent work, “Choka Ko,” a historical tale featuring a heroine entangled in a political power struggle in seventh-century China, is also being serialized in Ultra Jump.
Xiada was born in a remote village in Hunan Province and was raised by her grandparents, while her parents, migrant workers, lived elsewhere.
The first manga she read was “Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac,” a story of mystical warriors protecting the Greek goddess Athena.
“Until then, I had read only ordinary books, so I was impressed by the approach of using cartoons to tell a story,” she said.
She was soon hooked on the world of manga and captivated by Japanese series including “Dragon Ball,” “Slam Dunk” and “Ranma ½.”
Xiada points out that while Chinese and Japanese cultures may have much in common, they are also different in subtle ways. “Perhaps these fine differences are the attraction of my works in Japan,” she said.