From our Continental Correspondent – comics and politics

Published On May 1, 2007 | By Wim | Comics, Continental Correspondent, Film & TV

As Didier Pasamonik reports on Actua BD, the fact that Ségolène Royal may become the next (and first woman) president of the French Republic, meets with scepticism and concern in an unexpected area: the publishers of manga in Japan, who fear that Royal will try and stop the expansion of Manga in France.

As it turns out, Royal wrote a book in 1989 called ‘Le Ras-le-bol des bébés zappeurs’ (“Enough with the baby zappers”), in which she especially ranted against popular television programmes like “Dorothée” (TF1), which presented a whole range of popular Japanese cartoons. Royal dismisses them as being only about “beatings, murders, severed heads, electrocuted corpses, repugnant masks, horrible beasts, terrible demons. Fear, violence, noise. With a minimum of animation and scenarios which are limited to the most simple”.

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OK, so that was a long time ago, when manga and anime still were a more marginal phenomenon. Royal’s opinions undoubtedly were shared by most well-thinking people, even those interested in cartoons and comics. If only because of production value, European and American titles were much preferred and Japan was mostly terra incognita.

However, when Royal met Fukushima Muziho, president of the Japanese Social-Democrat party, in December 2006, the Japanese press recalled this vehement attack. While talking about women’s rights in Japan, Royal asked Fukushima if the problems in that domain didn’t stem from “the manga”. Undoubtedly, somebody told her in the mean time that manga covers a whole range of genres, but in the mean time, this incident has been making the rounds on Japanese culture sites, and is being used by Royal’s opponents to show her less-than-liberal views on foreign cultures.

As Pasamonik mentions, however, she is the only one taking a stand in this matter; the other candidates simply ignore comics.

Nevertheless, Royal is not the only one who sees eastern comics as some kind of threat to western culture and economics (or econo-comics? Sorry… Joe). Bande Dessinées luminaries like Jean Van Hamme and Albert Uderzo have voiced the same concern, and only as recently as last month, the editor-in-chief for Stripgids, a Belgian monthly, stated that if comic shop owners don’t get in touch with Manga soon, they’ll simply go out of business. It would seem that Manga is here to stay.

Muchacho

At the sixth international forum on Cinema and Literature in Monaco, Muchacho by Emmanuel Lepage, has won the award for “Most adaptable comic” of the year. This book, published by Dupuis, tells the story of Gabriel, a son of a well-off family in Nicaragua, who is sent by his seminary to a faraway village to paint a fresco about the passion of Christ in the local church. When confronted with the suffering of the villagers, Gabriel’s life goes through a crisis of faith and of identity.

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(the Dupuis edition of Muchaco by Emmanuel Lepage)

Other nominees for this award included Universal War One (Denis Bajram) and La Perdida (Jessica Abel).

Persepolis

The animated version of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (published in the UK by Jonathan Cape) is slated to debut in the cinemas on June 27. The film is directed by Satrapi herself, in close collaboration with Vincent Parronaud. Sony Classics already secured distribution rights for the United States. Even though the film closely follows the story of the comic, in which a young woman flees Iran after the Shah’s downfall, only to return briefly, it does differ significantly according to Satrapi. “Without Parronaud’s help, the film would have been more art house, but less enjoyable”. To soothe the waiting, Satrapi has launched a MySpace site where she tells how she made the film, and even shows some preview images.

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