The Leader (web series)

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The Leader
The Leader anime.jpg
Promotional image released by the streaming site Bilibili
(Lǐng fēng zhě)
GenreHistorical fiction
Original net animation
Released January 28, 2019 – present
Written byZhong Jun
Published byZhejiang
Original runJanuary 2019 – present
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and Manga portal

The Leader (Chinese: 领风者) is a Chinese animated web series produced by the streaming service Bilibili. The seven-episode series revolves around the life of German thinker Karl Marx.


The Leader centers on the life of German thinker Karl Marx, focusing on his political and economic theories, his romance with Jenny von Westphalen, and his friendship with Friedrich Engels.[2] The story was described as the following:[3]

Marx was a great man standing upright between heaven and earth, whose ideological system established through his entire life awakened all sleeping proletariat across the world and deeply influenced the historical development of the world, [as well as] an ordinary man of flesh and blood. His love for Jenny, which met with much obstruction, and friendship with Engels, which they almost missed, finally became legendary

— Press release

Production and broadcast[edit]

The animation was ordered by government's Marxism office,[b] an initiative of the Communist Party of China started in 2004.[1][2][4] A production team to work on The Leader was formed in 2016.[7] It was produced by animation studio Dongmantang and/or Wawayu[a] in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the government-owned People's Daily newspaper, the think tank Weiming Culture Media,[1][2] the Inner Mongolia Film Group, the Propaganda Department of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Party Committee, and the Communist Youth League Central Propaganda Department.[6][8] Its production is in conformity with the Chinese president Xi Jinping's demand for people to be familiar with Marx's life story and not to forget China's socialist past while pursuing the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation".[2][9] The work is also part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth held by the Chinese government.[1][2][4]

On December 18, 2018, Bilibili announced through the social media site Sina Weibo that it would "soon" stream the series.[2] It was later set to start streaming on January 28, 2019.[5]

A comic book version (manhua) with the same title was created as a spin-off to the series by the same production team.[7][5] Authored by Zhong Jun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, it is published by Zhejiang Juvenile and Children's Publishing House since January 2019.[7] Currently, there are six chapters available at Bilibili's site.[10]

Episode list[edit]

No. English title
Original title
Original airdate
1"Different Youth"
Transcription: "Bù yīyàng de qīngchūn" (Chinese: 不一样的青春)
January 28, 2019 (2019-01-28)
The episode starts depicting Karl Marx's funeral, then flashbacks to Trier High School, where Marx is giving his graduation speech. As Jenny von Westphalen hears his words, she remembers their together. After the discourse, Jenny invites Marx to a ball, where they dance together and Marx reveals he intends to go to the University of Bonn. Later, Jenny's brother, Ferdinand, who dislikes Marx's peasant background, expells Marx from the party when she is absent. They secretly meet each other and Marx promises he will marry her. Marx is disillusioned when Jenny arrives later at his departure and he cannot see her. At Bonn, Marx becomes fascinated by Immanuel Kant's philosophy, but gets involved in bar fights and spends a lot of money. This makes his father, Heinrich, force Marx to transfer to the more serious and academic University of Berlin to study law. There, Marx befriends Bruno Bauer and abandons Kantian philosophy in favor of G.W.F. Hegel's one.
2"Defending the Rights of the People"
Transcription: "Hànwèi zìyóu" (Chinese: 捍卫自由)
January 28, 2019 (2019-01-28)
Marx joins the Young Hegelians group and prepares his doctoral thesis, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature. Because of the thesis' atheist positions, Bauer recommends Marx not to submit it to the conservative professors at Berlin and he instead gets his PhD from the University of Jena. After this, Marx starts to work for the newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, becoming a constant critic of the Prussian government, which both increases the publication's popularity with poor people and attracts the government censors. As the censorship increases after Marx's critique of a forestry law that forbade peasants to use wood to warm themselves, Marx resigns his job. Upon concluding that the state protects the ruling class, Marx abandons the Young Hegelians because of their focus on criticizing religion instead of doing real political action. Furious with Bauer, Marx even ignores Friedrich Engels's tentative to talk to him. Instead, he joins Arnold Ruge, who is also politically persecuted, and departs to France with him to establish a new newspaper. With his new salary, Marx buys a proposal ring to Jenny, who accepts to marry Marx and has a harsh argument with her brother.
3"A New World View"
Transcription: "Quánxīn de shìjièguān" (Chinese: 全新的世界观)
February 4, 2019 (2019-02-04)
After their marriage, Marx and Jenny move to Paris, and Marx writes some articles for the newspaper Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. He is impressed by an article on political economy by Engels, who in turn is impressed by Marx's article on the critique of Hegel and his ideas on the proletariat as a revolutionary force. After a disagreement with Ruge over his lack of revolutionary ideas, Marx reencounters and befriends Engels. The latter shows his manuscript for "The Condition of the Working Class in England" and introduces Marx to socialism. They then start to write together criticism directed to other perceived non-revolutionary thinkers that confuse the proletariat; to overcome idealism, they publish The Holy Family as a critique to Bauer. After Marx is exiled to Brussels, Belgium, they write The German Ideology to criticize both the Young Hegelians and Ludwig Feuerbach's materialism. Although it is not accepted by any publisher, Marx and Engels are happy because they have created a materialist conception of history.
4"Scientific Socialism Shines Brightly"
Transcription: "Kēxué shèhuì zhǔyì shǎnyào dēngchǎng" (Chinese: 科学社会主义闪耀登场)
February 11, 2019 (2019-02-11)
As working conditions decrease, there is the emergence of a variety of socialist strains of thought. Marx and Engels advocate for a "scientific socialism" and oppose both League of the Just's leader Wilhelm Weitling's Christian communism and Hermann Kriege's ideas of love as a unifying factor of classes within the Communist Correspondence Committee. After writing a letter criticizing these currents, Marx and Engels are invited to join the League. In Paris, Engels knows about Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's book The Philosophy of Poverty and his ideas of mutualism and opposition to revolutionary violence. Marx writes his response to Proudhon, The Poverty of Philosophy, while Engels goes to the League's meeting in London. When Engels returns, he announces they changed their name to Communist League and that Marx and Engels are assigned to write their political program. They write The Communist Manifesto as the Revolutions of 1848 arise and Marx is exiled from Belgium because of suspicion of fomenting the revolution in Brussels. After a brief passage through Paris, Marx establishes the newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, Germany. The newspaper's articles bother the government, and after being acquitted from some court trials, Marx is exiled and returns to Paris.
5"Great Work: Das Kapital"
Transcription: ""Zīběn lùn" yuè shì ér chū" (Chinese: 《资本论》越世而出)
February 18, 2019 (2019-02-18)


Announcement and previews[edit]

The announcement sparked international media interest with major newspapers and media outlets from Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, and Spain covering it.[c] The announcement "has taken the web by storm", according to Mercedes Millingan of the Animation Magazine.[3] One day after the release of the promotional video, it had been watched 211,000 times on Bilibili and over 41,000 times on Twitter, and 37,000 users were following the series page[1] to receive a notification when new episodes are available.[4] Some Internet users, however, were skeptical about it, stating that the depiction of the main characters was "too good looking to be true".[2] Commentaries were also made regarding Marx's handwriting, deemed much neater compared to reality.[2] Some students criticized it as "ridiculous" because "[t]he political element is too obvious", while others deemed it a "really interesting experiment".[5]

The production of a Marx's series by the Chinese was mostly considered to be propaganda, with Mandy Zuo of South China Morning Post highlighting how "his image has been a common feature on official propaganda throughout the year".[2] Didi Tang, writing for The Times, considered it was in line with previous productions by the government, such as television show Marx Got it Right. He described it as an "effort by the ruling party to spark an interest in Marx among young people" in a context where Chinese millennials are not fully satisfied with working conditions.[9] On the other hand, Millingan felt was simply in consonance with the popularity of the concepts of socialism and communism among younger generations and that "it was only a matter of time before this trend made inroads in animation".[3]


  1. ^ a b There are divergences regarding the studio; South China Morning Post informed it was produced by Dongmantang and the Global Times wrote the studio as Wawayu.[1]
  2. ^ Officially "中央馬克思主義理論研究和建設工程辦公室", it is translated in different ways by sources; some prefer "Project to Study and Develop the Marxist Theory",[1][4] while others refer to it as "Office for the Research and Construction of Marxist Theory",[3] "Central Office for the Research and Construction of Marxist Theory",[5] or "Central Marxist Theoretical Research and Construction Engineering Office".[6]
  3. ^ For example, Chilean CNN and Tele 13;[11][12] Mexican El Universal and Televisa;[13][14] Paraguayan Última Hora;[15] Peruvian La República and RPP;[16][17] Philipphine The Manila Times;[18] and Spanish El Confidencial.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Loveridge, Lynzee (December 19, 2018). "China's Bilibili Streaming Service Announces Original Karl Marx Web Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zuo, Mandy (December 19, 2018). "China produces Karl Marx cartoon series to mark 200th anniversary of his birth". South China Morning Post. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Millingan, Mercedes (December 19, 2018). "China's Bilibili Announces First-Ever Karl Marx Anime". Animation Magazine. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Han, Zhang (December 19, 2018). "Nation to release first animation on Karl Marx". Global Times. Archived from the original on December 19, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Baptista, Eduardo (January 25, 2019). "Romantic Karl Marx anime targets new generation of Chinese communists". CNN. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  6. ^ a b D, KM (December 20, 2018). "China To Produce Karl Marx Anime Series". Business Times. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Caiyu, Liu; Han, Zhang (January 17, 2019). "Comic books to be used to popularize Karl Marx in China". Global Times. Retrieved February 6, 2019.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Yufeng, Wu. "【誕辰200周年】bilibili網站將推馬克思動畫 網民:為啥這麽帥". (in Chinese). Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Tang, Didi (December 21, 2018). "Beijing woos millennials with cartoon Marx". The Times. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "领风者" (in Chinese). Bilibili Manga. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  11. ^ CNN Chile staff (24 December 2018). ""Despertó al proletariado dormido": Revelan primer adelanto de "El Líder", el anime chino sobre Karl Marx" (in Spanish). CNN Chile. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  12. ^ Tele 13 staff (23 December 2018). "Revelan el primer adelanto del anime sobre Karl Marx Mexican" (in Spanish). Tele 13. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  13. ^ EFE (20 December 2018). "China lanzará serie de anime sobre la vida de Karl Marx". El Universal (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  14. ^ Televisa staff (24 December 2018). "Gobierno de China prepara anime sobre Karl Marx" (in Spanish). Televisa. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  15. ^ EFE (19 December 2018). "China lanzará una serie de 'anime' sobre la vida de Karl Marx". Última Hora (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  16. ^ La República staff (20 December 2018). "Karl Marx: revelan adelanto del anime que narrará su vida". La República (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  17. ^ EFE (19 December 2018). "China lanzará una serie de anime sobre la vida de Karl Marx" (in Spanish). Radio Programas del Perú. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  18. ^ Global Times (20 December 2018). "China's first animation commemorates Karl Marx". The Manila Times. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  19. ^ El Confidencial staff (19 December 2018). "China lanzará una serie de 'anime' para contar la vida de Karl Marx". El Confidencial (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2019.

External links[edit]