Renowned Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning fantasy animation film "The Boy and the Heron" has been leading the Chinese box office since debuting last Wednesday, so far raking in some 550 million yuan ($76 million), the official Xinhua News Agency said.

It became Miyazaki's highest-grossing release ever in China, surpassing his Oscar-winning "Spirited Away," which raked in 488 million yuan in 2019, according to Chinese movie data platform Maoyan. The film's Chinese theatrical receipts have outstripped its box office in Japan, the news agency said.

"The Boy and the Heron," exploring how a young boy grapples with his mother's death through a fantastical journey, hit theaters in Japan in July last year.

People visit a cinema in Beijing to watch Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's animation film "The Boy and the Heron" on April 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

It later won numerous awards, including top prizes for an animated feature at the Golden Globes in January, the British Academy competition in February, and the U.S. Academy Award in March.

The movie resonated thematically with China's three-day Qingming tomb-sweeping holiday through last Saturday, Xinhua quoted Chen Xuguang, director of Peking University's Institute of Film, Television and Theatre, as saying.

The 83-year-old director's enormous popularity in China also drove the film's standout performance, Chen added.

Many positive reviews were posted online, with one saying the film "taught me the richness of life."

Toshio Suzuki, a producer and co-founder of Studio Ghibli Inc., Miyazaki's production company, has said in a video posted on Weibo, China's equivalent of the social media platform X, that the latest film is "a message of gratitude for those who loved Ghibli."

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