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Alleged copycat cartoon triggers criticism of Chinese animation industry

China's Internet users have accused a soon-to-be-released domestic cartoon series of copying a Japanese one.

The series, called "High-speed Rail Man," tells a story about a young man who fights the forces of evil to protect train passengers.

Both the plot and the frames in the series were found similar to those of the anime "Hikarian" produced in 1998 by Tomy, a Japanese children's merchandise and entertainment company, after Internet users compared the frames disclosed in the 6-minute trailer and those in Hikarian.

In response to the accusations, Feifan Creative, the series' producer based in China's northeastern Shenyang City, released a statement on Monday, saying production was not yet finished, and would be further modified.

An administrative officer surnamed Sui of the company said it was common that animations looked alike.

"Our high-speed train has a streamline design while the Japanese express is flat headed. Also, there are big differences in animation designs," he said.

"It's such a pity that China is only producing copycats, while Japan and the United States have made animation a pillar industry," posted a cartoon fan Zhu Yipping.

Another Internet user called "Chenzhuoshunjian" expressed his anger. "Poor technology and poor plots are forgivable, but plagiarism to such an extent is irritating. I'm so angry."

China is a large animation producer. It made 220,500 minutes of animation in 2010, ranking first in the world, according to the Annual Report on the Development of China's Animation Industry published earlier this month.

However, experts are concerned about the originality of China's animation industry.

Wang Lei, assistant dean of the Animation School of Communications University, said the industry lacks qualified writers and directors.

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