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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's television regulator has ordered a crackdown on dramas about the country's battles with Japan during and before World War Two and demanded they be more serious, state media said on Friday, following viewer complaints about ludicrous storylines.
Ties have been shadowed for years by what Beijing says has been Tokyo's refusal to admit to wartime atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in the country between 1937 and 1945, something taught to every Chinese school child and a staple of television dramas.
But Chinese viewers have taken to social media to complain about the ridiculous plots in the anti-Japan dramas, including one show in which heroic Chinese split Japanese soldiers in half with their hands, something shown in graphic detail.
Another features a Chinese archer who can shoot multiple arrows in just one shot, killing several Japanese soldiers at the same time.
"The anti-Japan war is a great act of heroism performed by the Chinese people against the invaders, and is a valuable resource for film and television creativity," television watchdog official Wang Weiping told the official People's Daily.
"Recently some of this creativity has shown a lack of seriousness, creating lots of nonsense, not respecting history and being overly entertaining which has had a bad effect on society which must be corrected," Wang added.
The regulator has demanded that television stations re-evaluate their war dramas and "rectify" those which are "too entertaining", or pull them entirely from their schedules if such edits are impossible, the report said.
The government will continue to encourage and support those of a more serious nature, it added.
China periodically tries reining in its state-operated television channels, still seen as an important propaganda tool, which increasingly have to rely on attracting advertisers and therefore viewers as government subsidies are reduced.
Previous missives have targeted everything from banning remakes of foreign shows to demanding serials cut back on excessive family conflict.
In 2002, Beijing pulled the plug on the Taiwan-made soap opera "Meteor Garden", fearing that the decadent lifestyle portrayed by boy band "F4" would corrupt young Chinese minds. China described the series as "electronic heroin".
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Huang Yan, Editing by Elaine Lies and Michael Perry