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Far From Horseplay: Bojack Horseman’s Chinese Fanbase

Young Chinese audiences have embraced the turbulent and often emotional story of the American adult animated comedy Bojack Horseman. Recently, Chinese fans are going crazy over the series, and a Bojack ‘screenshot hype’ has conquered Chinese social media.

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Young Chinese audiences have embraced the turbulent and often emotional story of the American adult animated comedy Bojack Horseman. Recently, Chinese fans are going crazy over the series, and a Bojack ‘screenshot hype’ has conquered Chinese social media. Among the online praise and endless screenshots, what is drawing such a devoted Chinese viewership to this hard-hitting comedy-drama?

It has been dubbed as the frontrunner in the rise of the ‘ultimately optimistic sadcom.’ Now, the American animated comedy Bojack Horseman (马男波杰克) has found a new fanbase on one of the world’s largest networking sites, China’s Sina Weibo.

“Bojack Horseman is one of the most subversively sad shows on TV.”

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Bojack Horseman first premiered on Netflix in 2014. The animated comedy-drama follows the often heart-breaking journey of the show’s titular character, an anthropomorphic horse living in a city where both animals and humans coexist.

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Bojack portrays a familiar show business trope of a washed up actor living off the long gone success of 90s sitcom Horsin’ Around, with plotlines often revolving around his friend circle and his struggles with alcohol and self-loathing.

Stephen Kelly of The Guardian recently described the show as “one of the most subversively sad shows on TV.”

“The desire of Chinese fans to understand the meaning behind Bojack goes beyond wanting to improve their level of English.”

Considering China’s high consumption of emotional Korean dramas and weep-worthy ballads, appreciation for the tough emotional realism of Bojack Horseman might make sense.

China’s heavy control over the influx of Western media can make the country a difficult playing field for hard-hitting adult comedies, however Bojack has steadily accrued a firm Chinese following, achieving online ratings as high as 9.6/10.

Online acclaim appears to be the main avenue for Bojack’s success, with Chinese netizens posting anything from episode links to discursive articles. 

Some have even leapfrogged from the show’s success to teach English based on the show’s content. The online group Good Morning English posts English phrases organised by episode, while an online article explains the implications and offence caused by certain terminology (for example, the difference between using ‘handicapped’ and ‘disabled’).

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However, the desire of Chinese fans to truly understand the meaning behind Bojack’s scripts extends beyond wanting to improve their level of English. In fact, sites such as Weibo are home to fervent discussion and reflection over the characters’ heart-to-heart talks and the lasting quotes that have also drawn in Western audiences. From this, Chinese netizens have formulated somewhat cathartic outlets in the form of posts, links to the show’s music, and most importantly, screenshots.

“I really think I’m like Diane from Bojack Horseman.”

Screenshots, complete with subtitles, make up a majority of Bojack-related posts on Weibo, and also appear on other social media platforms such as WeChat. China’s Phoenix News characterised the trend surrounding the cartoon as “living for screenshots,” whereby Chinese viewers are using Bojack images to illustrate their feelings or personal experiences.

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Despite the cultural differences between modern China and the US, it seems that the subject-matter of the show often resonates with the experiences, hopes, and fears of young Chinese people.

Chinese text says: "Hello, I am your horse brother. You might not understand me, but when you do, you will definitely love me."

Chinese text says: “Hello, I am your horse brother. You might not understand me, but when you do, you will definitely love me.”

On one Weibo fan page, a netizen posting under the name of @我是马男Bojack added that her followers would “see their own reflections” if they watched the show.

In addition, after posting a screenshot reading “If you can’t find a way to let off some steam, you’re going to explode,” alluding to Bojack character Diane’s internal rage, one netizen (@竹裁雀念) added: “I really think I’m like Diane from Bojack Horseman.”

“The show’s refreshing honesty with life’s difficulties has struck a chord within China’s usually squeaky-clean entertainment industry.”

While netizens’ lives might not directly emulate Bojack Horseman’s internal battles, it seems that for some, the show’s refreshing honesty with life’s difficulties has struck a chord within China’s usually squeaky-clean entertainment industry.

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Previous popular dramas in China, such as Korean hit My Love From the Star, have tackled the emotional roller coasters of love, family, or illness. But rarely have they addressed issues such as mental health and societal pressures, which are particularly relevant in the midst of China’s rapid economic development and social change.

One set of screenshots featuring character Princess Carolyn, a pink cat and Bojack’s ex-girlfriend, reads: “Carolyn, you’re a single woman in your 40s, can you really afford to be picky?” Affronted, Carolyn responds, “I’m not afraid of being alone.”

Commenting on the interaction, one Weibo user (@我是少先森) described the realism of Bojack’s content as “really depressing.”

“More than just a cartoon, Bojack is used like a diary to express netizens’ innermost thoughts.”

China is no stranger to Carolyn’s frustration at the pressure of being a single woman. Recently, skincare company SK-II released a viral video featuring the stories of ‘leftover women’, those in China who are nearing their 30s and remain single.

In the video, various women were tearful at the stigma associated with their lives, despite their confidence and career success. It seems that the struggles of Bojack’s characters are animated portrayals of many home truths.

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One analysis of the SK-II was that it addressed an issue that had previously been swept under the rug. In turn, Bojack’s fearless and deep discussion of similar topics is embraced by Chinese netizens, with screenshots and quotes laying out in-depth commentary previously unseen on social media sites. More than just a cartoon, Bojack is used like a diary to express netizens’ innermost thoughts.

“Try watching Bojack calmly – experience it, understand it..no need to pick out every single sentence!”

Not everyone agrees that screenshots are the right use of Bojack’s material. One Weibo user (@直儿儿儿儿) posted: “Damn Bojack Horseman screenshots and quotes trying to get followers, even if you have that much self pity, or are that much of a narcissist, or even hate yourself, who needs that much validation?”

Others have expressed frustration at the screenshot trend’s increasing online presence, with another comment reading: “Try watching it [Bojack] calmly, experience it, understand it..no need to pick out every single sentence, please!”

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Protest on the Bojack screenshot hype mainly stems from the feeling that users who post screenshots do so for online attention, rather than criticism for the show itself. Essentially this backlash against the trend could strengthen the argument that Bojack’s content deeply resonates with the Chinese audience – something that shouldn’t be sullied for the sake of reposts and likes.

The popularity of Bojack Horseman in China shows no signs of slowing down. Screenshots are posted almost daily on social networking sites, either to entertain followers or illustrate someone’s innermost feelings.

It appears that an unlikely cultural bridge has formed between an anthropomorphic horse navigating the sea of show business to the homes and keyboards of China’s metropolitan youth. It could be a sign that Bojack will be the crux of a new viewing appetite in China for more hard-hitting and gritty television offerings in the future.

By Cat Hanson
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Cat Hanson is a U.K. graduate of Chinese Studies now teaching and living in China. She swapped Beijing for Anhui, and runs her own blog on China life: Putong Press.

Chinese TV Dramas

Catharsis on Taobao? Chinese ‘All is Well’ TV Drama Fans Are Paying Up to Scold the ‘Su Family Villains’

Some netizens are getting too worked up over this hit TV drama.

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Chinese TV drama ‘All is Well’ is such an online hit, that the collective despise for the fictional villains in the story is getting all too real. The show itself, along with an online service to scold its characters, has become a trending topic on Chinese social media this week.

The Chinese TV series All is Well (都挺好) is such a success that some people would even pay to scold the drama’s main ‘villains.’ One Taobao seller had nearly one thousand customers paying a fee this week for a special service to curse the characters they despise so much.

All is Well is a 46-episode urban TV drama that premiered on March 1st of this year on Zhejiang and Jiangsu Television. The series is based on the novel by A’nai (阿耐), who is also known for writing the super popular Ode to Joy TV drama.

All is Well tells the story of white-collar worker Su Mingyu and the conflicts within her family. The role of this daughter is played by Chinese actress Yao Chen (姚晨), one of the most popular celebrities on Weibo.

Yao Chen in All is Well.

As the only daughter, Su Mingyu is the black sheep of the family and grows up feeling lonely and unloved. When her mother suddenly passes away, the Su family falls apart. The father becomes selfish and overbearing, while her brothers are also unsuccessful in keeping the family together.

The three men within the Su family have become much-hated characters on Chinese social media for their selfishness and manipulative traits. Su Mingcheng (Li Junting) is Mingyu’s older brother, Su Mingzhe (Gao Xin) is her younger brother, and Su Daqiang (Ni Dahong) is her father.

While the TV drama is a major hit, many fans seem to take pleasure in scolding the main characters. On Weibo, some netizens are changing their names into some of the Su villains, allowing others to scold them.

But there are also people who have turned the collective contempt for the Su men into a small business. On e-commerce site Taobao, one seller set up a service to “curse the Su family father and sons” (怒骂苏家三父子), charging a 0.5 yuan fee, Caijing reports.

Various Chinese media report that the seller has had at least 300 customers over the past week who could “vent their anger” about the drama’s characters. The seller would open a chat window, displaying the photo and name of one of the three despised characters, and pretending to be them. He also displays a counter that shows how many times the characters have been scolded by customers.

Other news sites report that there are at least 40 online shops selling this ‘scolding service’ to customers, with one seller allegedly serving nearly 1000 customers in one day.

The topic, under the hashtag “Online Shop Sells Service to Scold the Su Father and Sons” (#网店出售怒骂苏家三父子服务#), received nearly 100 million views on Weibo this week.

Many netizens are surprised and amused that their favorite TV drama has turned into a business opportunity for Taobao sellers. “I’m a shop seller,” one commenter says: “I give all the money to charity. I work during the day, but in the evenings I’m here for all of you!”

“Is this the rival of the Kua Kua group?”, one commenter wonders. Kua Kua groups, as we recently explained in this article, are online chat groups where people can be complimented or praised, sometimes for money. The current scolding groups, in a way, serve a similar purpose: offering netizens a way to vent their feelings and feel a bit better.

Although the cursing may provide emotional catharsis for some, others just find it really funny. “How about you give me one yuan, and I scold you?”, one commenter suggests: “It’s crazy that these type of services exist.”

All is Well can be viewed through iQiyi (without English subtitles, regional restrictions apply – VPN).

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By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Comic & Games

China’s Top Mobile Gaming Apps

Gabi Verberg

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In a booming online gaming market, these are some of the apps most appreciated by Chinese online gamers today.

China has the largest mobile gaming market in the world. It’s an exciting market not just for game-lovers, but also for those into marketing and advertising.

One of the key drivers behind this online gaming environment is the fact that China is a mobile-first country. China’s average mobile user owns a relatively cheap but high-performance mobile phone, which enables them to play mobile games. As the quality of China’s smartphones keeps on rising, so are the possibilities and developments within China’s mobile gaming market.

The Chinese gaming industry is flourishing, but also highly controlled. Online games are allowed to be imported, but have to pass the content censorship procedures and must be ‘ideologically compatible’ for the Chinese market. Many games, such as this year’s Resident Evil 2, are not allowed into mainland China.

To gain more insights in this enormous market, we list five of the mobile apps that currently play an important role in the mobile gaming industry. We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of a variety of apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no official “top 5” charts.

This article is part of a series of five articles, listing popular Chinese apps in the categories of short video & live streaming, news, health & sports, and knowledge & education. We’ll list the other categories for you below this article, but let’s move over to review these popular mobile gaming apps now.

 

#1 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 绝地求生

PlayersUnknown’s Battleground (PUGB) is a so-called ‘sandbox style’ survival game, which basically means that gamers are allowed to freely roam and change the game, that does not have a set storyline, and that they are required to do all they can to survive as long as possible by eliminating its competitors.

In this online multiplayer game, that is called a Fortnite rival, players are placed together with up to 100 other players on an island. As the game proceeds, the battlefield gradually shrinks, putting more pressure on its players. The users have to assemble weapons and other necessities, and in doing so, need to kill their competitors and take their possessions. The last person left is the winner.

PUBG, which is currently the most popular mobile phone game app in China, was created by the South Korean Bluehole. In 2017, Chinese gaming giant Tencent launched the mobile app version of the game. The Chinese version is not entirely the same: it has been adapted to make sure it aligns with ‘socialist values.’

At the moment, there are two versions of PUGB games: Exciting Battlefield (刺激战场) and Full Ahead (全军出击). The games Exciting Battlefield and Full Ahead subsequently ranked most and third most popular game app in the Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with Exciting Battlefield reaching 14,9 million daily active users at the end of 2018. Currently, Exciting Battlefield still ranks the most popular game app in both the Tencent and Zhushou360 app stores.

 

#2 Honor of Kings or Kings of Glory 王者荣耀

Honor of Kings is a game developed and published by Tencent which was first launched in 2015. The game is a multiplayer online battle arena game, where players have to team up for a five-to-five battle.

Every user can personally assemble their hero and equip it with certain features such as appearance, powers, etc. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s base.

In 2018, Honor of Kings was the second most popular game app in the Chinese Apple store with 53,8 million daily active users in the last quarter. This year, the game especially rose in popularity during the Chinese Lunar New Year: in the week from 4-10 February, Honor of Kings reached 92 million daily active users.

But the game’s popularity isn’t limited to China. In 2017, Tencent launched an international adaption of the game called Arena of Valor. The game was adopted as one of the games at the eSport Demonstration Event at the 2018 Asian Games, where the Chinese team won the gold medal.

 

#3 Speed QQ / QQ飞车

Speed QQ is a 3D game that combines both casual and competitive racing. The game has three kingdoms: wind, fire, and fantasy.

In each kingdom, there are different kinds of races, and players can move up levels if they beat other players. In the end, the strongest player of all will be crowned ‘king.’ To prove their skills, the best players of each kingdom can also race against each other in races played on racetracks on the border of the several kingdoms.

The game can be played by either a single player or multiplayer, with a maximum of six players.

Speed QQ, just as Honor of Kings and PUBG, is a game by Tencent  – it is the world’s largest game distributor by revenue. Speed QQ was first launched in January 2008 as a PC version, and it was not until 2017 that the mobile app version was released.

In 2018, it became the fourth most popular game app in Chinese Apple stores, with nearly 25 million downloads in that same year.

 

#4 Identity V 5人格  

Identity V is a so-called asymmetric warfare game, meaning that the game is a wargame between individuals or a group of players and their hostile opponent.

The horror game, designed in gothic art style, is a one-versus-four multiplayer game. Later in the game, players can decide whether they want to play either the hunter or one of the four survivors.

However, the game is mainly a survivor-based game. The player first enters the game as a detective who receives a mysterious letter inviting the player to investigate an abandoned estate and search for a missing girl. As the player is searching for clues about the missing girl, a hunter will try to catch the player and strap it to a rocket ready for blast off. This is where the three other survivors come in; those are the ones who can free their fellow-survivor from the racket. But if they are too late, the player will be fired off and lose.

Identity V is the newest game app in our selection as it was launched in April of last year by NetEase. Despite its short period on the market, the game gained significant success. The app was the fifth most popular game app in Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with over 26 million downloads.

 

#5 Mini World 迷你世界

Mini World is a 3D sandbox style game, allowing its users to roam around in the virtual world of the game.

Mini World, also called a block art game, allows its players to build their world by moving around blocks and placing other elements. They can do this alone, but they can also invite friends and create a dream world together. The game closely resembles the Swedish game Minecraft (我的世界), which is also available in China.

Mini World was first launched in December 2015 by a Shenzhen based company. A couple of years later, the game was available in both Android and Apple stores. In 2018, Mini World became the fourth most popular game app in China with 3.7 million daily active users in the third quarter.

At the beginning of this year, Mini World released a new version of its game, which brings it back in the top ten most popular apps in both the Zhushou360 Appstore and Baidu Appstore.

Also see:

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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