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Exprorting manga culture
The Animation & Manga Art Festival (AMAF) is an organization that introduces Japanese anime and manga overseas, with a focus on the art of creating work in this area. By chance, I got to know one of the staff members of the AMAF at a manga event. I know there are many events related to manga in other foreign countries, but the place I made such an acquantice was quite unusual: France.
I think two very different cultures, such as those in France and Japan, using anime and manga to exchange ideas is really meaningful, and it’s always been disappointing to me that there are few Japanese manga artists who are interested in foreign culture or speak foreign languages. My eagerness to participate in this kind of exchange brought me to France for this event.
At the AMAF event, I helped create some panels and a detailed pamphlet of how to draw manga. This was a topic very close to my heart as I have been writing a book with the tentative English title, "How to create comics in the Japanese style".
If the panels and the pamphlet are favorably received at the event, I'd like to publish the book in France, though I have yet to identify a publishing company.
As you may know, in France, many Japanese manga comics are translated into French and published, and they are quite popular. For this reason, I thought it would be suitable to show French manga fans how to create manga.
But at this event I also heard that some French editors who love Japanese manga were rather disappointed to know that some Japanese manga editors look down on them, saying "They’re just making money off other peoples' abilities." I was disappointed to hear that, too.
When people in some country are charmed by some attractive part of a foreign culture, usually the cultural aspect is imported just as it is at the very stage. Then at the second stage, the “foreign culture” is rotated and developed in ways unique to the importing country. Many years ago, Japanese people were fascinated by Western music, and began to import it. Now it has developed into the "J-pop" scene. This, generally, is the process of cultural diffusion, and it follows the old saying that imitation is a sign of respect.
Further, it’s tiresome to hear that some people in the Japanese manga industry act as if they were creating Japanese manga culture on their own. When people join the manga publishing industry, their following in the footsteps of their predeessors who created the big manga culture. It’s true that most people in this position make a good effort to publish good manga, but it’s important not to forget what we have gained from our predecessors' abilities. I think being arrogant is quite different from taking pride in one’s job.
After all, we shouldn’t forget that Osamu Tezuka, one of the founding fathers of Japanese modern manga and animation culture, was highly influenced by the works of a foreign culture, the works of "Walt Disney". In the world, many wonderful cultural changes have been created through the influence of those open-minded enough to consider what we can do with foreign countries.
Some Japanese people may worry that Japanese manga culture might be stolen or defiled in this way. But I think we could all agree that transmitting it to foreign people who clearly have sincere interest and do not have any ill-intent is a good thing.
You can’t “steal” Japanese manga culture anyway just by copying it superficially. It’s indispensable to understand the essence of creation and practice it with continually. If foreign students of manga study seriously in this way, then their works would be their own creations and a big compliment to Japanese manga culture. So, for this reason, I would like to introduce the essence of manga-drawing to foreign people and continue to cooperate with the AMAF.