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New York Comic-Con 2018 Interview: Tony Valente, Creator of Radiant

by Kalai Chik,

As the current anime adaptation of Tony Valente's French manga, Radiant, plays on the airwaves in Japan, New York Comic Con attendees got a first look into the mind of Valente and his universe of characters. At Anime Fest 2018, Viz Media hosted the Radiant panel with guests Tony Valente (creator of Radiant), Urian Brown (Shonen Jump editor), Marlene First (editor of Radiant), and David Brothers (Viz Editor). The audience was excited to see and hear how Radiant came to be as Valente gave insight into French manga, the global publication of Radiant, and hints of what to look forward to in the anime adaptation.

The panelists gave a quick overview of the Radiant world, where monsters, known as Nemesis, endlessly attack citizens while Sorcerers, survivors of such attacks, battle against Nemesis in order to destroy their nest, which is referred to as Radiant. Despite their position as defenders with great power, society rejects Sorcerers, often as fearing them as much as the Nemesis creatures. Seth, a young yet stubborn sorcerer, ventures with a group of friends to take down the mysterious nest.

Most people in the crowd were interested to hear how the panelists categorize Radiant as a French manga, as the style is almost indistinguishable from Shonen Jump series. Valente was all too familiar with the comparison, and enjoyed that American fans have already started reading his series. First, Brown, and Brothers all shared their favorite scenes and characters from the story, as this is one of the first series that was not first published in Japanese and then translated to English.

After a live drawing of Seth and Melie, the two drawings were raffled off to two fans who could answer some quick Radiant trivia questions. Once the panel ended, Valente spoke with ANN on a number of different topics, including the nuances between French manga and comics, European folklore, and the Radiant anime.

ANN: Did you have any issues pitching Radiant to your publisher?

Some of the publishers did not want to make "French manga" at first, but they're now more willing given all the success. There are definitely more French manga than just mine. It wasn't so difficult, but some of them didn't want to publish my manga at that time. It was a lot of energy and money to put into a genre that was failing a lot back then. Now we have many good successes, and times have changed.

What are some of the other French manga and why do you think it wasn't doing as well?

One of the first ones that went well was DreamLand, and is a huge part of French manga history. The story has been going on for about 15 years. Thanks to Reno Lemaire, there's now a huge range of different stories. Perhaps, I'm the first one who is published globally. Luck is a big part of it, good timing, etc.

You're very much a one man team, where you do the writing, art, etc. How do you balance all of this?

I spent 10 months working on the first book, and now I release two volumes per year. Now it takes me about 3 months to make one volume, though with some delays as I have book signings and other events. Since I don't have the power of a big company, I have to be the one to push and defend my work.

Were there any parts of Radiant that you were afraid would get lost in translation, given the many languages it's been translated in?

Of course, but it's the same when Japanese manga is translated into English or French. You just can't make the same joke. The main part of the story is intact.

How involved are you in the process of translation?

I'm not involved in the translation process, but I do check and ask how certain puns or plays on words were interpreted. Sometimes they ask me a question to be more precise in their translation, but that's rare.

France has a huge fan base for anime and manga, given that it hosts Japan Expo, one of the biggest anime/manga conventions in the world. There's a lot of comparison between Radiant and Shonen Jump series. Was there a particular audience you wanted to reach?

Me, I'm a reader of Shonen Jump and I really enjoy them. My favorites are Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. When I think about making a manga, I don't see a reason as to why I can't do a Shonen Jump-like manga. I wanted to tell a similar type of story to please the type of reader that I am.

Being a fan of Shonen Jump, what were there elements in those stories that you wanted to include?

Superpowers, definitely. And big action scenes where many things are destroyed; this is because I see that in manga. As for other elements, when you try to describe human beings, you will naturally talk about friends and family.

Were you surprised that mangaka Yūsuke Murata and Hiro Mashima happened to be fans of yours?

That was a big surprise to me. I'm not sure if they're fans of me, but they support my work. That made me very happy. Yūsuke Murata is my favorite mangaka, and when the news about the anime came up, he sent me a nice drawing to congratulate and encourage me to reach the top. I was so pleased, and now I'm part of it and it means a lot to me.

What inspired you to create the fantasy world of Radiant? How would you compare it to your Hana Attori comic?

Hana Atori is a French comic, much like American comics, are bigger, in full color, and about 46 pages. It comes out every year. When I created Radiant, I wanted to make a bunch of things that interested me, such as Europe, folklore, wizardry, and The Inquisition. I read a lot about the witch hunts in France, Italy, and Germany, and so I introduce a lot of history into my story. I'm passionate about European folklore and I need to be familiar with the subject and culture that I base my manga on.

As someone who has worked in both manga and comics, which comes more easily?

Manga is better for the story I want to write. I want to be very close to the characters and be inside their mind. I want the reader to live through the characters. When you make French comics, it's hard because you don't have too much space. The story is seen from an exterior point of view, so you don't have as much insight. In the future, we'll have a lot of different foreign countries that make work that resonates around the world and I think the US will be a big part of that.

Who's your favorite character in Radiant?

That's a difficult question, because I put a lot of myself into the hero even if he's very different from me. He only exists because of the others that are around him. The others are also part of myself, so I can't pick one and say they're my favorite.

The story of Radiant is a little tragic as the heroes are actually survivors of the Nemesis attacks. Even though they have magical powers after surviving, they carry a curse. For Seth, it's his horns that physically stand out. How did you go about developing these tragic story elements?

I give a nod to American Superheroes, where they have powers, but they have a big burden to carry. Because of that, I can tell a different story. If the characters just had powers, it would just be a normal story. They're not burdened by their powers, for example if someone can fly, they're not limited because they're can't tell others. Why would you hide that? Radiant's characters have to carry their infections and are challenged by them. Seth has to hide himself, but because of his horns he can't and must fight against it. People can see that he is different, yet he doesn't want to be seen as such. Each character is challenged by their curse.

Discrimination plays a big role in Radiant. Is this based on French society?

Yes, a lot. Every time in history, you have people who are perfect scapegoats. Obviously, in this time it's people who are fleeing their own countries because of war. In order to find a normal life, they leave, but no one wants them, which makes them an easy target. The idea is that they also bring bad things with them, and in France it's the same. I grew up in an area where everyone was a part of this. My friends and my family came from other countries. Even though I grew up in France, my father is from Portugal. At the time my grandfather came to France, it was a hard in Portugal, because there was a dictatorship. Everyone wants to leave a bad situation.

How personally involved are you in the production of the Radiant anime?

I'm a consultant on the Radiant universe, and every week they send me a script to read and comment on it. They send me every design so I can edit and correct them. They're very transparent with the process. However, I don't write or draw. I comment on what they're doing to make sure they're sticking to the story. Now, I can say they are experts in the Radiant universe.

In the anime, will there be some differences from your manga?

Some of the episodes are completely original. The first half of the season is a rewrite of the first volume, so it's not an exact adaptation of what I wrote. However, the second arc sticks closer to the story. The major plot points and lines are the same, but some details may be different. Characters don't always come out in the same way and don't interact the same way as the manga. Dragunov also has an entire episode for himself, and it seems that his voice actor is quite popular. The staff tried to build the universe and the characters for a younger audience.

The director, Seiji Kishi, is a prolific artist who has worked on a ton of other anime, including Yuki Yuuna is a Hero, the Persona anime, and the upcoming Kengan Ashura. Did you have input on the decision to bring him on as the director, or was that decided solely by the production committee?

When the producer spoke to me about the team he put together, he told me how much he wanted to work with that group of people. If NHK gave him the green light, then that would be the team he would be working with. I didn't know much about them, except for the fact that most of them worked on Assassination Classroom. I'm not too familiar with the talented directors and writers that work in anime, but I really like the staff now after I got to know them.

How have your French fans felt about your success?

They're very supportive and excited. I hope they'll enjoy it even if it's not the same as the manga. People don't like when it's different, but I did let them know that the anime will be different and some will probably just stick with the manga.

Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?

I hope my fans enjoy Radiant in all of its forms, whether it be the manga or anime. And I want fans to enjoy Radiant not just as a French manga, but as a story to enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, that's okay too. I'm looking forward to seeing the response. Radiant premiered on October 6th and is available on Crunchyroll.

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