Japan recap – Week 1
So it’s been a while, hasn’t it! I skipped the October recap, which is entirely my fault and I will blame it on actually finishing my book, while planning a trip and generally freaking out. But nevertheless, I’m here to make amends and to talk about the last two months, but more importantly… JAPAN! As some of you know by now, I spent two weeks in Tokyo, from the end of November to December third, as part of a Quebec BD/comics delegation. Part of the trip was for business/cultural exchange but part of it was also for pure fun and wonderment. A lot of my work was and still is influenced by Japanese comic or video game culture so needless to say that it was like a dream come true. So here is a very abridged summary of my experience in Tokyo, starting with a very busy first week!
Our little French-Canadian, jet-lagged and culture-shocked group consisted of Thomas-Louis who manages the Festival de BD de Québec and who pretty much organized all the trip for us; Gautier, my editor, Francis, Stéphanie and Thierry, fellow comic artists, and Christine, aka Nunumi, an up and coming author who’d been in Japan a couple of times. Thank god she was there to ease us into the rhythm of the country and to translate a few things.
The first week was basically all of us attending activities put together in partnership with the Quebec delegation based in Japan. We gave a talk at Tsukuba University and were addressed as “-sensei”, which I found out, also applies to mangakas, and not only mentors or teachers. I have to admit, I had a bit of an ego-boost at that moment! The talk was hosted by Miki Yamamoto (an insanely talented author and artist), who had visited Montreal as part of the FBDM in May. We were off to a good start!
The following days were spent in two separate “comic book conventions” of opposing scales. The Comic Art Tokyo was in two tiny classrooms at an inner-city university. The Kaigai Manga Festa on the other hand, was held at the GARGANTUAN Tokyo Big Sight, and gathered crowds like the which I had never seen in my life. Oddly enough, despite being halfway around the world, the exhibition floor, the ambiant hum of the crowd, smiling to get people to stop and look at our books… it all felt very familiar. I managed to sell out the few Nuclear Winter copies I had brought and made a few bucks with small prints. Considering the language barrier, I’d say it’s pretty good! One of the highlight of the week was getting to hang out, if only for an hour or two, with old studio-mates Karl Kerschl (who now lives in Japan) and Brenden Fletcher, who gave me a hell of a pep-talk!
The following activity on our super-tight schedule was a meet-and-greet at the embassy of Canada, with all the protocol and hors-d’oeuvres one could expect. It wasn’t all stuffy and serious though, and I met with authors and publishers and web-comic people, who all seem to be on the verge of some kind of change in their industry. While I’m no expert, I felt like the model of the overworked mangaka slaving on a series for 10+ years, published in chunks in a cheaply-printed catalog (like the Jump), is slowly shifting. To prove the point, Shonen Jump rolled out a new digital subscription service this week, that I assume, will kill their iconic weekly paper anthology… Their is a definite shift in the way Japanese people are consuming mangas, and while comic bookstores are still very much a part of the landscape, I’m curious to see if there is indeed a slide towards phones and tablets.
So that’s the gist of what we actually DID on week one. This was of course, intertwined with a bit of sight-seeing and shopping, but I think I’ll cover my own personal experience of Tokyo in a follow-up post. I wanted to retell the “business” side of the trip because first, it’s the reason I could actually go and, and second, because I believe developing relations with other artists and publishers, regardless of where in the world, is a key part of growing as an indie author. I can’t rely on huge publishing structures right now, especially if I intend to keep on making creator-owned books, by myself. So part of the job is staying in tune with how the media and the market is evolving and that’s done by actually talking to people, be it readers or professionals, wherever they are! Plus, I find it genuinely interesting! I’m incredibly lucky to have had the chance to travel to Japan to hopefully, pave the way for other Quebec artists to visit. It was incredibly enriching, destabilizing, mesmerizing and at points, challenging. I’ll try to gather my feelings and thoughts on the trip for next time, as I write about week 2, which was spent touring the city freely.
Until next time!