China’s dreamy Karl Marx anime is a hit


The date: the 1830s. The place: the German town of Trier. A young, handsome Karl Marx walks into a ball held by the noble von Westphalen family. Everyone in the room looks askance at this middle-class pretender – everyone except the beautiful Jenny von Westphalen.

Mesmerized by Jenny, a princess-like figure with auburn hair, pink eyes and a light blue gown, Marx invites her to dance as Jenny’s brother watches angrily from the sidelines.

“He wants me to marry a nobleman, but I only have you in my heart,” Jenny tells Marx as they talk in the garden after the ball, hands intertwined.

“When are you getting married?” says Marx. “Tell me when you decide, so I can marry you.”

This a scene from China’s latest hit anime – a biopic of the German philosopher, documenting everything from his education to his love life to his writing of the foundational texts of communism.

A scene from the first episode of 'The Leader' shows Karl Marx falling in love with his future wife Jenny von Westphalen.
A scene from the first episode of ‘The Leader’ shows Karl Marx falling in love with his future wife Jenny von Westphalen. Photo: Bilibili

Titled “The Leader,” the seven-episode show is the latest production by the Communist Party propaganda apparatus, which is taking up new kinds of media to strengthen its ideological appeal to China’s younger generations. The first episode has been watched more than 2.8 million times in less than a day.

Although every Chinese studies Marxism at school, officials have admitted that rigid political lectures are no longer interesting for those who have grown up with a booming entertainment market.


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