News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Manga in Angouleme and Paris

So Angouleme Comics Festival / France / possibly most of Europe continues to focus on manga. It did not happen overnight and there was backlash. The same backlash happened in the Philippines in the 1990s but over time, manga style was accepted in most countries like in the case of Malaysia. 

I wrote about the Philippines' response to manga here.

And how Malaysian comic artists have also embraced manga style back in the 2000s. 

And of course, genres like BL / yaoi led the manga wave in Asia.

These days, Thai BL tv series are very popular in Southeast Asia. And at one time, China BL tv series too. (until they were 'banned')

Here's an interview with Bounthavy Suvilay who has insightful things to say about manga style.

But back to Angouleme Comics Festival 2024. There was this huge Moto Hagio retrospective of original art (you know the Japanese do not lend out their original art easily) which really helps one to reevaluate the importance of Moto Hagio in comics history. Reading her shojo manga now might be a bit underwhelming. But that's because so many of her innovations in manga have become common vocabulary in the medium. But looking at her original pages, you are reminded she is the pioneer in portraying what we take for granted now - how the inner worlds of characters are visualized on the manga page. She invented the language. That is the power of a good comic art exhibition. They make you think and reexamine your assumptions. 

I have written about Shin-ichi Sakamoto in a previous post. But I want to talk about Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal exhibition. Which is excellent, of course. That's not surprising. But what is shocking is that some of my friends from Japan (manga profs) are not familiar with Blade of the Immortal. To them, Hiroaki Samura is not a well known mangaka in Japan. This blew my mind as I thought Blade of the Immortal was a popular manga series in Japan. So I am dispelled of this belief. That led me to think that back in the 1990s, the kind of manga that gets translated and published in the West really depends on agents and the kind of rights that get bought and sold in the trade market. Blade of the Immortal is popular in America and France. It was well reviewed in The Comics Journal in the 1990s when manga reviews were not so common. But according to my friends, it is almost unknown in Japan. Today, the world is flat, to borrow a phrase. What is popular in Japan (One Piece, Naruto, Demons Slayer, etc) is also popular in the rest of the comics worlds. This is food for thought as this means the manga translated into English and published for the American comic book market in the 1980s and 1990s was something else altogether. I think it is a good thing to have such anomalies in history. It makes things more interesting.

Which reminds me I should be getting round to review The Early Reception of Manga in the West by Martin de la Iglesia soon. But do I have time to read the extant literature? Casey Brienza wrote an excellent book about Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics (Bloomsbury 2016). She was also the editor of Global Manga: "Japanese" Comics without Japan? (Routledge 2015). I have gone through these books before a few years back but I doubt I have the time or energy to read them again. Maybe the easier way is to read back issues of Bubbles zine as they are also into 1980s and 1990s translated manga in America. 

I hope Iglesia's book will explain why Blade of the Immortal was picked up for translation and publication in America in the 1990s and what led to its success and popularity in the West. 

Talking about manga at Angouleme, my friends from Japan (Kazumi, Jessica and Fusami) had a panel about women manga in conjunction with the Moto Haigo exhibition, I think. 

Here's a photo of them. (i was appointed by Fusami to be the 'official' photographer)

(L-R: Kazumi Nagaike, Jessica Bauwens, Matthew Loux, Denson Abby, Fusami Ogi, moderator Xavier Guilbert)

I also had the chance to catch up with the ever popular Peach Momoko and her business partner Yo Mutsu in Manga City. The queues for her signing were less hectic than the Singapore Comic Con last December. So we had a nice chat. 

But it was a different story when she had an event at Pulp's Comics in Paris a few days later. You can see the long queue here. It went all the way till the end of the block. 

It was her first time at the Angouleme Comics Festival and in Paris and they were surprised by the warm welcome she received. I asked Yo Mutsu why was manga so popular in France and his reply was: "We don't know. Manga has just been the norm for us, so we don't know what sparked the popularity." 

Just goes to show how manga is ubiquitous in France / Europe now. 

Ok, I think that's all the Angouleme / Paris reports I have.

Oh yeah, Akira Toriyama passed away at the age of 68 a few days ago. Someone should translate and publish Bounthany Suvilay's book on Dragon Ball. 

(all photos by CT)

CT Lim

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