Mangas readers in Europe

Project undertaken by the Manga Network, an international group of scholars founded by the Professor Jean-Marie Bouissou from the CERI (Center for International Research and Study) in Paris.

I. Collective book on the reception of manga in Europe

Since the begining of the 1990’s, the manga industry has been undergoing another phase of its presence in Europe starting with countries that were already familiar with the animated versions of Japanese popular series, which had been broadcasted in the 1980’s in Italy and France. If its first steps on these two national comic markets were discreet, its progression has been absolutely dazzling these last few years. In France, mangas alone constitute already 1/3 of the comic market. The Manga Study Network took up the project to study the reception of manga in Europe in order to produce a collective book, which will describe some of the sociological aspects of this success, especially the role played by fans and their international communities, as well as the influence of new technologies in this phenomenon. It will also include articles written by Japanese and Korean scholars on the situation of the audiovisual entertainment industry in Japan and Korea.

Finally, the results of this project have been presented at various workshops and conferences and the part on France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany was published in a collection of essays edited in Australia, called: Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Check out chapter 15.

II. General context:

In the French- and Italian-speaking areas, mangas and their readers have been pretty badly thought of for the last 20 years, as a result of the strong controversies about the quality of the animated versions of these stories, that were broadcasted on TV in the 1980’s. Their reputation has been improving a bit recently thanks to positive critics on movies made by the Studios Ghibli and some manga masterpieces like Akira, Lone Wolf & Cub or more recently NonNonBa by Mizuki Shigeru. However, manga narratives tend now to be divided between what experts from the field of literary critics consider a minority of productions worthy of attention because of their high narrative and graphical quality on the one hand, and a majority of discredited series because of their essentially commercial nature on the other hand. The underlining understanding here being that what is aimed for mass distribution can only be of bad quality. It goes without saying that such conception doesn’t give much credit to the audiences of such products.

In the German-speaking regions of Europe, the reputation of mangas and their readers appears to be less dented, considering that they have been spared the deeply existential and largely mediated debates mentioned earlier. However, it seems that these narratives that mix both a commercial and artistic aspects still generate a lot of negative prejudices among those who are not familiar with them. And this is without reckoning with some media stereotyping as illustrated by the present journalistic focusing on cosplayers, often portrayed as narcissistic teenagers or retarded young adults.

The aim of this project is therefore to go to meet with manga readers so as to change some of the preconceived ideas about them and offer another portrait of these young and some times older audiences. As I live and study in Switzerland, I was naturally attributed the duty to investigate the Swiss audiences.

III. First step of the project – Gathering of general data [Sept. 2007 – Jan.2008]

The survey that was used to collect general data is now closed. The results should be soon published, but I still need to adapt them to some technical and ergonomical constraints of this blog. I therefore hope to be able to do so by March 2008.

III.1/ Presentation of the first results for the survey [March 2008]

After several months of tedious work for the processing of the massive amount of data collected through 76 respondents from the 3 linguistic regions of Switzerland, I have finally been able to gather the results of the first round of analysis. They addressed essentially the following topics:

  • consumption (types of preferred mangas, quantity possessed, mode of acquisition);
  • circumstances of the discovery of mangas (age, importance of the social environment, interest for Asia and Japan, pre-existing comics culture, exposure to animes);
  • positioning of the participants with respects to their social environment (perception of their passion by their family, colleagues, friends, classmates);
  • participation in collective activities centered on the manga universes (visits to convention, cosplaying, group memberships, participation in fanzines, fan chats or forums, fanarts).

I have been invited to present these results as part of panel on the reception of mangas in Europe during a conference organized by the Professor Bouissou in Paris from 15 to 17 March 2008 and entitled “Mangas, 60 years later… .” The results of the survey distributed in Italy, France and Germany were also presented at the same time.

Here is a more detailed and improved version of the text I presented at the conference along with the Powerpoint illustrations I used then. The content of my presentation was actually much shorter because speakers were allowed only 20 minutes per person.

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