Saturday, December 26, 2009

Early Japanese comics

Kyoto International Manga Museum (photo P. Lefèvre)

The Kyoto Seika University International Manga Research Center invited me to participate in their conference Comics Worlds and the World of Comics: Scholarship on a Global Scale (December 18-20) of which next year will be published a bilingual anthology (Japanese/English). It was on the whole an interesting dialogue between Japanese scholars (amongst others Fusanosuke Natsume) and their colleagues from abroad (amongst others Thierry Groensteen and Thomas Lamarre). I presented a paper about the necessities of international collaborations for comparative research. The event took place in Japan's first general manga museum Kyoto International Manga Museum, which features not only interesting exhibitions but has also an impressive library and a research center. The museum is run by the Kyoto Seika University, which was moreover the first Japanese university to set up a proper faculty dedicated to manga. Already on a quantative level it seems to be a huge succes with 852 undergraduate students.
Today in the research center of the museum I had a chanche to browse through some early magazines from between 1900 and 1914 (as Nipponchi and Tokyo Puck). From the few copies of Japanese periodicals I could consult I saw quite a variety in publication formats (though always with soft cover), but all sequential works were drawn in a more or less charicatural style with clear contour lines, mostly with one or more additional color(s). All the characters and locations looked Japanese. On the one hand one can see an important role of politics (as the war with Russia), but on the other hand there is also a lot of purely funny material (as mischief gag comics). I didn't see any translations or reprints of European or American comics - though various magazines clearly refer through their title to 'Punch' or 'Puck'.

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