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Monday, May 26, 2003

French fans are keeping up European profile of 'manga'

Staff writer

OSAKA -- The 1990s saw a "manga" boom in Europe, as younger generations discovered Japanese comic books from "Dragonball" to "Sailor Moon."

But with the exception of France, the art form's popularity is starting to wane even as a devoted fan base remains, according to European manga experts who spoke Sunday at an Osaka symposium on European perceptions of Japanese comics.

Until the early '90s, few in Europe were familiar with Japan's various manga forms. One of the first to succeed on a massive scale was "Dragonball." It was the first manga to be launched simultaneously with an animated show and was quite successful.

"This led to other successful manga being brought into Europe, such as 'Sailor Moon'," said Jens Balzer, arts editor of the magazine Berliner Zeitung.

"However, as of this year, the manga boom in Germany seems to have peaked, and publishers of Japanese manga expect the market to decline by about 30 percent," said Balzer.

In England, the first big Japanese comic hit was "Akira," which arrived in the late 1980s.

"Manga have had to often compete with American comic book forms. Today, Japanese manga in the U.K. is marginalized, but the fan base remains solid," said Roger Sabin, a lecturer at St. Martin's College of Art and Design in London.

But the manga boom has not yet started to recede noticeably is France.

"In 2002, 377 Japanese manga were translated and published in France," said Julien Bastide, a French journalist. "Sales of manga that same year reached an estimated 26 million euros, representing between 11 (percent) and 12 percent of the French comic book market.

"Although the French manga market declined throughout the 1990s, it picked up again in 1999 with the popularity of such manga as 'Ruroni Kenshin' by Nobuhiro Watsuki."

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The Japan Times

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