Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Nouvelle Manga Manifesto 

Well, I stumbled on a thread started by Abhay yesterday mentioning a three-page article called the Nouvelle Manga Manifesto written by european comic creator Frédéric Boilet two years ago, recently translated to English.

This is one of the most interesting things I've read in quite a while, due to the unique perspective offered. Boilet spent some time living in Japan and was able to see the entire of scope of the manga industry first hand, as opposed to what titles were translated in France. He also has the experiance of trying to market his own work to Japanese readers and knowledge of how well other BD titles have sold there.

I find it funny that while the French industry has been touted as being ahead of the American one in many ways (and I've been quite excited in my recent explorations through various european sites detailing comic titles), Boilet details what he feels the problems with the euro industry and how Japan is doing it better. Some of the things he describes (targetting too narrow markets, reliance on certain genres, art over story) are things I've seen used to describe the US industry.

An interesting thing he comes up with is that there is a disconnect between French comics and cinema, with the cinema being able to explore daily life and personal characters to greater degree while the comics are stuck in fantasy worlds. In order to try to describe euro comics that are more like French cinema and some manga, he comes up with the term "Nouvelle Manga". Am I the only one reminded of "New Mainstream"?

One thing he hits on that I find really interesting from the perspective of a manga fan is his critism of which titles have been translated to French, I'd think somewhat similar to what has come across to the US so far. He mentions several authors (Jiro Taniguchi, Yoshiharu Tsuge, Naito Yamada, Kiriko Nananan, Yoshitomo Yoshimoto, etc.) who I've certainly never heard of before, and am now curious about. Most people don't realize just how big the manga industry is, with manga anthologies for things as down-to-earth and specific as stories for young mothers or golf fans. I think there is definitely a lot of room for growth past the fantasy and soap opera type stories currently in the market if the readership finds it wants it as they grow older...

That said, I have to say that I don't go to Boilet's degree of aparant disdain for normal escapest stories. I'd like to see even more variety on the market, but I will still love to read stuff like One Piece, GTO, Paradise Kiss, or Sandman.... =)

One other thing that gets brought up is the whole writing versus artwork debate, which is on my mind from another thread I was reading recently, as well as Understanding Comics.

It is easy for this discussion to devolving into a "writing's more important!" "no.. artwork!" shouting match, but I do think it is an important thing to keep in mind. Especially that the artwork itself should be helping to tell the story. One of the people on the thread mentions how it can be destructive for an artist to indulge a detailed close-up when a distant establishing shot is really what is needed. This is something I vehemantly agree with. Personally, I think story is king and both the writing and artwork need to serve the story to some degree, or else why not just make a pinup gallery or a novel to begin with?

Back when I was a kid, fascinated with Image comics, I remember that my mentality was different. I did enjoy stories, but there was this big focus on artwork in my mind. I'd love all of the detail going into each panel, and keep track of my favorite artists like Jim Lee, Jae Lee, Sam Kieth, etc. Frankly, some of these titles were in fact like series of pinups, with characters aparantly unable to not strike a pose at every opportunity (like Sentai battle scenes). ;) I think that mentality can also tie into the collecting end of things. Taking a comic book as a work of art as opposed to how you usually think of a novel.

I think this is one reason why I recently got so attracted to manga, in that while many do have beautiful artwork (Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou anyone?), the cinematic influence from Tezuka and just the general mentality over the there causes artwork to more likely become part of the story instead of something separate from it (it helps that usually one person writes and draws the story, as well). Of course this is all generalizing. Many many exceptions on both sides of the fence, as well as the third side of euro stuff.

For now, I think I'll end this with some very funny quotes from Bat-Mite on the original thread:

Something I have seen in 90% of all the manga books I have read and in 0% of all the euro comics is an inmediately identifiable likeable character, even in the crappiest stories you KNOW the characters quickly. No matter if the story takes place in the kitchen sink or inside the testicles of a giant space dog.

Man! I'm not kidding, but if you say Yoshitomo Yoshimoto fast, it sounds like "Yes, I drink alcohol and drive a motorcycle" in spanish ... kickass name.

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