Manga in Dutch

"Dutch version"

“Dutch version”

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).

manga-collectionWe 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.

This is the biggest rack of manga you can find in a Belgian shop. The picture is only a small part of a corner dedicated to "graphic novels".

This is the biggest rack of manga you can find in a Belgian shop. The picture is only a small part of a corner dedicated to “graphic novels”. Tezuka’s “Buddha” is prominently present.

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.

detective conan-dutch versionI 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?

From Shōnen to Shōjo to Seinen (especially detective-like series). Urusawa is well represented.

From Shōnen to Shōjo to Seinen (especially detective-like series). Urusawa is well represented.

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.

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7 thoughts on “Manga in Dutch

  1. When I try to explain about manga and anime I often get the same responses as you do. If I mention comics for adults, everyone starts smirking. I always thought this was due to the dirty minds of my friends, but now I guess it is a widespread thing.

    I would like to add something to your statement that Belgian comics focus on a younger public. It is true that the best know Belgian comics are for a younger public (like, indeed, Tintin). But the Belgian comic scene is very diverse. The diversity and excellence of Belgian comics is something that is little known the broad (international) public, which is a shame. It is something we should be proud of.

    • It is true that there are Belgian comics for a grown-up public too (like XIII etc.), but it is a fact that these are (national and international) but little known, except if you’re “into the scene”. There are festivals and prizes to promote them, but somehow we stay stuck with only the image of “Jommeke” or “Suske en Wiske”. These comics are something to be proud of as well of course, but I have the feeling we haven’t moved forward since the ’40 adventurous comics or the newspaper gags. Literature changes all the time, and comics, in contrast to books, stayed the same in people’s mind.

      • Hmm. We can see interesting changes in that area. Just think of Suske & Wiske which now has its two first adult-focused comics (called ‘Amoras’) on the market. At the same time, comics for adults get -very slowly- a more prominent place within the literature lessons (now under the name ‘graphic novel’), which, I myself as teacher find, is something important (not everyone is born to read books, and comics are also an excellent and enjoyable step into the world of reading). It are small steps forward, but nonetheless: it’s progress.

      • Oops, I’m sorry for my late answer, Jonas! (Exams at the moment…) I’m glad as well graphic novels finally seem the be given a place in literature world wide. I remember my teacher Dutch in high school who introduced us a book every week, and sometimes it was a graphic novel! Marjane Satrapi for example.

  2. Hey Ann-Sofie,

    another reason (which you did mention though) for the lacking popularity of manga in Belgium and the Netherlands, is that publication of the longer series is terribly behind over here. Most fans of the medium know enough about the internet to get everything they want up until the latest chapter serialized in Japan, and for free as well. It used to be more of a challenge, but online reader sites ruined the once noble idea of trying to introduce manga to the west and put their hopes on companies bringing it over.

    I’m afraid this doesn’t seem to be improving at all though. From what I hear sales are awfully low, the companies don’t seem to be too interested in making risky promotion, and like you said, publication is slow, or not happening at all. My personal favourite Pluto is a steady example I believe, being stuck at one published volume out of eight since 2009.

    Concerning Glenat: our own Nele Noppe translated a great deal of these publications, so we can be sure about a direct translation from Japanese nowadays. I’ve had a bad experience with Kana’s Monster though, which I stopped reading out of sheer frustration towards its unbearably unnatural dialogues.

    • Hi Dennis,
      thanks for dropping by. I had the same experience with Pluto. We pre-ordered the second volume, which had to be cancelled after two years. I’m waiting on volume 18 of Nana since 2011. Publishing of Detective Conan took such a long time that we read the sequel on the internet. Of course readers drop out if they start promising series and give up halfway.
      The bad Glénat-translation experience I had while reading “Fruits Baskets” and “Rurouni Kenshin” (though the old-fashioned writing style suited the Meiji-restauration). I didn’t experience any frustration while reading “Monster”, on the contrary.
      It’s a pity things will only get worse. I prefer reading a manga on paper, instead of on the screen. And like I mentioned, the books look nice. I remember even buying my first manga in De Standaard and Carrefour. Nowadays, there’s no manga in sight in those shops…

  3. Pingback: Nejishiki: Avant-Garde Manga | nippaku

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