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Manga-mania in France

posted on by Christopher Macdonald
Manga Accounting for as much as One Third of French Comic Book Publications

Naoki Urusawa's "20th Century Boy" won the grand prize for best series at this year's Angoulême comic book festival in France, often considered the "Cannes" of the Comic Book Industry. And this has European publishers, especially French and Belge publishes, worried.

In an article about manga in France the Financial Times reports that "almost a third" of all new comic books published in France in 2003 were manga.

However, unlike Japan, where manga make up 40% of all published material, comic books only make up about 10% of published material, meaning that Manga accounts for roughly 3% of all published material in France.

Part of the success of manga in France can be attributed to a comic-book culture that has long been open to comic-books for mature audiences. "Bandes dessinées" as they are called in France, have been marketed to adults since long before the arrival of manga in France. In fact, the French regard bandes dessinées as the "ninth art," on par with cinema (the 7th art) and classic literature. The Angoulême festival, which is 31 years old, draws an attendance of 150 000 to 200 000 people every year.

However, the growing popularity manga presents a threat to traditional French comic book publishers. A traditional European comic book is published in a large, hard-cover, full color format. These graphic novels sell for 10 to 15 euros, with as few as one volume to a series released per year. Comparatively, manga are released in France for 6 euro (US$7.50) with multiple volumes coming out a year. The manga are cheaper because they cost the publisher less to produce (licensing & translation fees) and print (cheaper paper, black and white).

In 2001 the festival invited Kia Asamiya as an official guest and focused largely on the growing popularity of manga, which at the time, accounted for a mere 10% of comic book publishing in France.

However, according to the FT article, many in the French publishing industry also see a lot of benefit derived from the growing popularity of manga. The article closes with statements from Jacques Glénat, founder of Glénat, one of the largest comic book publishers in France, and Benoit Mouchart, artistic director of the Angoulême festival, who suggest that the success of manga is also helping the sales of French bandes dessinées and introducing more yound readers to the comic book, which, in the words of Glenat, "Better that they read manga than never learn to read at all."

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