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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Aso urges French presidential candidate to read 'manga'


Staff writer

As the French presidential election campaign enters its last days, Foreign Minister Taro Aso gave advice to one of the highest-profile candidates in the race: Read more Japanese comics.

Segolene Royal has criticized "manga" comics and animation as being violent and pornographic.

When asked in a news conference Friday to comment on her position, Aso said, "I think she should read a little bit more" Japanese comics.

Aso, a big backer of Japanese pop culture, said the contents of manga, citing some for girls as one example, are much more diverse than Royal may think.

He is well known for his love of comics and reads more than 10 manga magazines a week despite his busy schedule as Japan's top diplomat.

The Socialist candidate has criticized Japanese society for being tolerant of violence and pornography in a book published in 1989. She also reportedly expressed her concerns that some Japanese comics contain sexist material when she met with Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, in Paris in December. Aso was also asked to comment on Royal's main rival, rightist Nicolas Sarkozy, The former interior minister has reportedly said he doesn't like sumo. He was quoted in the weekly magazine Paris Match in 2004 as describing Japan's national sport as "battles between obese guys with slicked-down topknots." Sarkozy has denied that he made the comment.

Aso would not comment on the Sarkozy remark. He told reporters they should not react so much to comments from foreigners about Japanese culture.

"Why are you worried so much if someone in France makes this kind of remark?" Aso asked.

Whoever the winner is the presidential election -- which begins Sunday -- the departure of Jacques Chirac, a noted Japanophile and sumo enthusiast, will not seriously affect Japan-France ties, the foreign minister said.

"Can any of you (reporters) give better comments about sumo matches than Mr. Chirac?" Aso asked. "If you want someone like that (to be the next French president), you are wishing for too much."



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