FRENCH CINEMA IN JAPAN
The second largest market in the world for French cinema is, after France itself, Japan. In 2000, French films attracted 2.6 million viewers in the Archipelago for the forty or so releases that took place there : a success that was not only due to the spectacular productions of Luc Besson, but also to more intimate works by directors like Jacques Doillon, Cédric Klapisch, Leos Carax and many others.
Since the Nouvelle Vague, Japanese film enthusiasts especially appreciate art films : it's among these amateurs of cinema, and very often of novels, that we can find in Japan a considerable number of potential readers for our '90s-born BDs that remind of the celebrated mood of French cinema...
In France, and more particularly since the release of Tôkyô est mon Jardin (Tôkyô Is My Garden) in 1997, people sometimes consider that my BDs are close to manga. For example, the Flemish critic Aarnoud Rommens, in an attempt to define my work, spoke of « European manga »...
In Japan, readers clearly perceive my stories AS BD, and although they may seem a bit unusual, they appear closer in their eyes to French cinema than to Bilal's albums. While French readers notice the « Japanese » side of my stories, it is their « French » tone that strikes their Japanese counterparts.
The term Nouvelle Manga was thus born in Japan to define my picture stories that are neither completely BD nor completely manga, and that remind of the tone of French cinema.
THE JAPANESE NOUVELLE MANGA
I discovered manga at the beginning of the '90s, in Japan, where I had access to the entire local production rather than simply the limited range of French translations, which was sporadic at the time but a little more extensive today, although still extremely fragmentary and aimed at niche markets.
What immediately struck me was the number of manga dealing with daily life. Manga, its works, its authors, its readers, all proved me that, like literature or cinema, graphic stories could speak about men and women, daily life, and still attract many readers. Better yet, I discovered that it was precisely thanks to this topic that the Japanese manga readership was so varied and so vast : that it wasn't limited only to the « otaku » , as opposed to the readership of BD in France, which is mainly made up of « fans » of the medium.
I realized what I had wanted to do for years in BD had existed from the start in manga, so not only has it become for me an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration but Japan is now also a favourable basis for me to create and publish my stories...
That's why, when a Japanese reader or journalist tells me that I make « Nouvelle Manga », I feel like replying that I am not the only one, since my work is inspired, or has affinities with, other manga by authors like Yoshiharu Tsuge, Naito Yamada, Kiriko Nananan, Yoshitomo Yoshimoto and many others...
But these authors are precisely the ones that French translators ignore ! It seems to me that the term « Nouvelle Manga » could help respond to this need in France through a communication strategy designed to promote adult, daily-life manga.
Having only been used in the French media for a few years, « le manga » is unfortunately already perceived in a very stereotypical way by both the public and the media. Manga in its masculine form is shorthand for a cheap Japanese comic book for children and teenagers, that is simultaneously violent and pornographic (7) : the Japanese equivalent of the sleazy imported Italian comic books of the past...
We're well placed with our own « BDs » and « comics » (8) to know that stereotypes die hard once they've become associated with a word.
That's why I propose to circumvent them ! Using the historical and sociological roots of the feminized version of the word « manga » (9), I think it would be possible to change its public perception.
Beyond « le » manga, essentially Japanese comics for a public mostly composed of teenagers, there is « la » manga, referring to Japanese comics d'auteur that are adult and universal, that speak of men and women and their daily life : a manga closer, for example, to the films of Yasujirô Ozu and Jacques Doillon or to the novels of Yasushi Inoue than to Sailor Moon or Luc Besson.
The term « Nouvelle Manga » will appear in France in September 2001 through a collection on which I am now working with publishers Ego comme X.
It will be inaugurated by one of my own « BD-manga », Yukiko's Spinach, which will then be followed, I hope, by translations of Japanese authors such as Yoshiharu Tsuge or Kiriko Nananan... The Nouvelle Manga will also welcome any French author acquainted with Franco-Japanese trends whose work is inspired by Japanese comics, an inspiration which would not only be graphic, as is too often the case, but above all narrative.