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A unique trait of anime that people can sometimes get caught up in is the fact that it’s distinctly a Japanese medium. A vast amount of the anime created is firmly rooted in Japanese culture. Some aspects of it can be very visible, such as the story being set in Tokyo or Japanese characters being used on signs. Other aspects of it are more subtle: there may be references to events in Japanese myths or historical events, or the humor used may be funnier to Japanese due to it involving the Japanese language. Regardless, anime is very much a reflection of Japanese culture, making other Asian countries’ take on it, such as China’s, very intriguing.
China’s history in regards to the rise of animation in its culture is very much different than that of Japan’s. China’s development in the aftermath of World War II was one that did not encourage a rise in the arts, whereas in Japan animation would eventually flourish into what we have today. As a result, China had a “late start” when it began to turn to animation as a form of entertainment, leading to heavily borrowing from the Japanese anime style while combining it with their own values, stories, and developing culture. As a result, here are the Top 10 Chinese Source Anime.
Just a note for this diving into this article.In this list, we are referring to anime that have a Chinese source such as a Chinese light novel, a Chinese Manhua, or an online series. This does not infer that the anime listed here are all Chinese aka made in China. As with, for example, Reikenzan and Hitori no Shita on this list, Reikenzan was made in Japan by Studio Deen and Hitori no Shita was made in Japan by Namu Animation. So, please do not call them “Chinese Anime” as these two in particular are not. If it is made entirely in China, then you can refer to it as that, but for the two aforementioned shows, they are simply anime.
10. Nuwa Chengchang Riji
- Episodes: 30
- Aired: Apr 2016 - ongoing
Feng Xiao Xiao is an orphan girl who is just your typical Chinese girl with an upbeat personality and a desire to make those around her happy. That all changes on her 20th birthday when her guardian, Li Chang, reveals to her that she is actually the reincarnation of Nuwa, a legendary Chinese deity who “created man from Earth” and “mended the heavens”. After Li Chang awakens the spirit of Nuwa within her, Xiao Xiao eventually learns to accept her fate: to assemble other deities as part of a team to look for lost souls and restore them back to Heaven.
The unique thing about this Chinese anime is the merging of both ancient Chinese history with the present day. The background animation is very much in tune with modern China, such as the doorknobs on the doors or the special “checkbook” Li Chang possesses, yet the subject matter is based on actual deities from Ancient China. The humor is also a blend, as the 4th wall is broken multiple times in conjunction with typical jokes about indecent behavior seen in most Japanese anime. If you’re interested in seeing a humorous Chinese anime that has a modern tone to it, Nuwa Chengchang Riji would be a great one to start with, especially since it’s currently airing.
9. Cupid's Chocolates
- Episodes: 15
- Aired: Dec 2015 - Mar 2016
Jiang Haoyi is a 19 year old high school student who enjoys living a life of peace and solitude and dreams of keeping it that way for as long as possible. That all changes one day when Xia Zi Tong, a girl he’s never met, announces to him in front of his entire class that she is carrying his baby, resulting in many jealous peers threatening to beat him up. As Jiang Haoyi tries to figure out what’s going on, more girls step forward claiming that he is their one true lover, escalating to the point where Jiang Haoyi jumps off the roof of the school in order to escape his pursuers. This only leads to a mysterious girl stopping time and explaining to Jiang Haoyi that because he had eaten a special cake left on the roof the previous day, anyone else who had that cake would now consider him his lover…
The Chinese take on the typical harem anime, Cupid’s Chocolates stands out from most in that it certainly keeps a fast pace in order to resolve the story in 15 episodes and develop Jiang Haoyi’s relationships with the 5 other female protagonists. The animation is pretty solid, and there are modern details tying in to Chinese schools today, such as the school’s layout as well as the cell phones and social media used. If harem anime is your focus, Cupid’s Chocolates is certainly worth your time.
8. Spirit Blade Mountain (Reikenzan)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2016 - Mar 2016
12 years ago, a comet was falling towards the planet, bringing an unknown disaster. However, at the same time, a newborn boy by the name of Oriku was born, and was touched by this mysterious entity connected to said comet. In the present day, nobody seems to remember this event. However, the Reiken clan are looking for the most powerful people throughout Kyuushu to become sages, and they are in for a treat when Oriku decides to take their entrance examination. Not even he knows the special powers that he possesses…
Sprit Blade Mountain is a classic coming of age story about a young boy who desires to learn martial arts and unique techniques from a beautiful older woman who develops a very close bond with said boy. However, some unique takes on the story include Oriku already being somewhat powerful in his own right at the very beginning in addition to the other characters possessing certain personalities not often seen in anime of this genre. Not to mention the tie-ins to Chinese culture as a whole. If you have a liking for Chinese culture as well as martial arts, then Spirit Blade Mountain may be your best bet.
7. Hitori no Shita - The Outcast
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2016 - ongoing
Zhang Chulan is a normal college student until police inform him that someone has apparently dug up his grandfather’s grave. While walking through the graveyard, Chulan is assaulted by zombies, saved by a mysterious girl wielding a knife, receives some crucial advice from her, and watches her disappear. However, Chulan runs into the same girl once again at his university, leading him down a strange path that will result in encountering “Outsiders”, or people with extraordinary powers, as well as forcing him to truly learn his abilities…
The unique aspect of this particular Chinese anime is how family oriented the main cast is, as there are a fair amount of characters related to either Chulan or Houhou. Apart from that, this is a pretty standard anime about random people with powers; nothing too deep or anything involving deep drama. If you’re looking for a standard adventure type of Chinese anime without anything too complex, then Hitorinoshita - The Outcast delivers.
6. Storm Rider Clash of the Evils
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 2009
Sword-Worshipping Manor houses the best sword-smiths in the world; unfortunately, the residents are viciously massacred due to suspicions of planning a rebellion against the government. Ngou Kuet, the master of the estate and the only survivor, vows to finish forging the "Kuet" Sword, a task passed down in his family for generations. However, this task has yet to be completed, and Ngou Kuet realizes that only by obtaining the blood of the Fire Kirin can he unleash the power of the sword…
Storm Rider serves among the best anime films that China has to offer. With an extensive display of choreography in the fight scenes as well as compelling characters that drive the story forward, Storm Rider serves as a solid film in general. It helps that the main characters, referred to often as Wind and Cloud, relate to normal people in their downtime as opposed to being one dimensional in regards to their fighting. If you want to see the Chinese depiction of an anime action film, Storm Rider serves as the staple.
5. Requiem Street
- Episodes: 15 (so far)
- Aired: Apr 2016 - ongoing
Xia Ling was a normal art student in her final year at university until a chance encounter results in her crossing dimensions. There she learns about Requiem Street, a dimension where humans and spirits co-exist due to humans not being pure enough to pass on to the spirit world. However, evil spirits are attracted to Requiem Street with the desire of destroying it, and Xia Ling, along with her new companions, soon finds herself in the middle of preventing this catastrophe…
Requiem Street does a solid job in terms of breaking the mold from the standard anime story with its beginning. You have a female protagonist whose primary purpose is not to fall in love with the male protagonist, suspense in terms of not knowing who’s going to die next, and an overall creative sense of originality in regards to both the art style used as well as the setting. The show is still ongoing and has only begun rather recently, so if you’re looking for a Chinese anime that’s somewhat different from the typical Japanese anime, then Requiem Street would be the anime to check out.
4. The Legend of Condor Hero
- Episodes: 78
- Aired: Apr 2001 - Oct 2002
Youka is a 13-year-old boy who begins to follow in his uncle’s steps of martial arts by studying the art of Zenshinkyou. However, after running away, Youka stumbles on a Forbidden Tomb where he finds a woman named Shouryuujo. Youka is eventually accepted by Shouryuujo to study the art of Koboha under her, thus beginning the adventure…
A story full of both martial arts and love, The Legend of Condor Hero is an anime adaptation of the typical Chinese love story seen in Chinese culture. In addition, the anime’s real name is Return of the Condor Heroes (in order to dispel any confusion). It does have its flaws; the anime definitely suffers somewhat from repeated scenes over and over, and the design as well as the soundtrack leave something to be desired. That being said: if you are primarily interested in good storytelling as well as seeing a Chinese anime be more or less faithful to the classic Chinese love story it’s adapted from, then this anime can fulfill those desires.
3. Fox Spirit Matchmaker
- Episodes: 27
- Aired: Jun 2015 - Apr 2016
Yuechu Bai is a poor kid who will try to save money as much as he can given the opportunity. When he learns of his family’s plans for him, Yuechu decides the best course of action to foil their plans is to find a bride. As if right on cue, Susu Tushan falls right through the roof, and it just so happens that she is a fox youkai, or matchmaker, tasked with aiding couples that pledged their love in front of a special tree to fall in love again in their next lives…
The brilliant thing this anime achieves is slowly developing the feelings the multiple couples in the story have for each other, resulting in the viewer genuinely understanding and believing their love for each other. Throw in the unique aspect of fox spirit matchmakers carefully developing a couple’s love so that they will do it again in their next lives, and you have yourselves a well-developed romantic anime. If that’s the kind of anime that you’re into, then Fox Spirit Matchmaker will deliver and then some.
2. Monkey King: Hero Is Back
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jul 2015
The Monkey King: a powerful figure said to be unmatched in combat. Legends say that when he broke some of the rules set by the all-powerful Gods, he was imprisoned in a cage under a mountain by the only powers able to control him. Darkness spreads across China in the absence of the Monkey King until a chance discovery by a young boy unlocks Sun Wukong from his cell…
Without a doubt, the Legend of the Monkey King is (arguably) China’s biggest ancient story, as the tale itself was adapted by Akira Toriyama into Dragonball, one of Japan’s most famous manga as well as anime. Therefore the movie about the Monkey King himself is somewhat similar to Goku from Dragonball, as we are introduced to a character who possesses incredible powers yet has the temperament of a child with few things that can keep him in check. However, throughout the movie we eventually see Sun Wukong grow into the hero that China needs, and in the end defeat the evil once and for all. If you’re interested in watching China’s biggest legend adapted to an animated style, this is the move you should begin with.
1. Qin's Moon: Hundred Steps Flying Sword
- Episodes: 139
- Aired: Feb 2007 - ongoing
Set during ancient China’s Qin Dynasty, an assassin’s attempt to save his homeland by killing the Emperor fails. As a result, the Emperor sends his troops to kill the assassin’s eight year old son; however, a swordsman is able to rescue the boy just in time. After their escape from the Emperor’s forces, they embark on a quest to change the empire’s future while meeting both friends and foes along the way.
Without a doubt China’s most successful anime to date. Currently in its 5th season and still going strong, China has tapped into their ancient history for stories worthy of adapting, and they’ve done an excellent job in their adaptation as well as their development of their characters. Qin’s Moon also holds strong to its idea of chivalry and executes that idea very well. If you’re looking for a long running Chinese anime series with both humor, action, and well developed characters, then Qin’s Moon will be the top choice every time.
China isn’t the only country that has adopted from the Japanese anime style in their entertainment. Many others, including the United States, have created cartoons that bear some resemblance to Japanese anime in terms of the drawing style used. Some have even adapted some of the themes constantly portrayed in anime. However, China has definitely done a solid job in being able to reflect their own themes and values through this animation style. What do you guys think? Is there any Chinese anime you believe should have been on this list? Should there have been no movies on this list? Post your opinions in the comments!