Today, I want to write about the king of Japanese pop culture: manga (for the newbies to Japanese topics: Japanese comics). There are various reasons why I haven’t touched upon this subject up till now. In the first place, it’s not my hobby. I like to read, and I often have read manga in the past, but I prefer books. As a result I’m not an expert, unlike some of my fellow students. For a handful of them, manga, and evidently anime (newbies: animated comics), has been a major stimulation to study Japanese.
How is manga represented in Belgium? For that question, I took a look at my home collection. I have a younger brother and sister, so all the genres are well represented (me: josei and seinen, brother: shōnen, sister: shōjo).
We almost bought all series translated into Dutch, published by Kana and Glénat. There are a handful of publishers, but these two are the main ones. These days, the Dutch manga business is kind of sloppy, due to the fact that translated versions doesn’t sell very well. Why is that? Reasons I can think of are:
1) Practically everyone understands English and reads them for free at scanlation sites.
2) Price has risen.
3) Manga are not promoted or displayed by shops, like you can see on the next picture, taken in the Fnac store.
I fairly agree with the genres of manga they provide. The first manga I bought, was Detective Conan (and I’m still a big fan). However, we always had to wait a long time for the next volume to appear. And suddenly they stopped publishing it. So in Dutch you can only get 13 volumes, quite poor if you know that there are 79 volumes and 15 movies in Japanese.
I believe the lay-out of the Dutch versions quite pretty. They have an extra plastic cover and the illustration and colors are attractive. As for the translation, manga published by Kana is very well translated (and that’s why it takes them so long, I suppose), what can not be said of Glénat. The translation is old-fashioned and unnatural, and I even saw a text balloon filled out with French, what raised the question: is it translated from Japanese to French, and afterwards from French to Dutch?
The most well-known Japanese thing here is Pokémon. Many children watched it daily on television. That’s why the image of anime is still linked with the shōnen genre. If you tell Belgians that there is also anime and manga for grown-ups, they immediately think of pornographic stuff. Comics are seen as something for kids, and only slowly so-called “graphic novels” could gain the attention and the interest of the public. The fact that they even had to change the name proves the connection between infantile stories and comics (because you have to admit, graphic novels are still comics). It’s true, Belgian comics focus on a younger public. Yes, even Tintin. That the storyline can be somewhat more complex than the umpteenth treasure hunting, is often surprising.