The Best French Manga Not In English

Called out by Bart Beaty

In his newest Conversational Euro-Comics column at Comics Reporter, Bart Beaty provides an overview of the forthcoming “Angouleme Essential Awards”, to be handed out at Festival International de la Bande Dessinee. It’s a great article and totally essential reading, so hurry up and go read it. He also name-checks me in the article, when talking about the manga entries on the 50-volume list of books elligible for the top prize:
“Manga is also well-represented by Avant la prison (Kazuichi Hanawa), Gyo (Junji Ito), In the Clothes Named Fat (Moyoco Anno), Jacaranda (Kotobuki Shiriagari), Ki-Itchi (Hideki Arai), Non Non Ba (Shigeru Mizuki), Sorcieres (Daisuke Igarashi), and Zipang (Kaiji Kawaguchi). I’m not sure which of these seven series is available in English (I’m sure Chris Butcher or Dirk Deppey can help us there).” – Bart Beaty, Comics Reporter.
So I figured, why not? Let’s talk about which manga are or are not available in English.

Avant la Prison, by Kazuichi Hanawa. Hanawa’s Doing Time is published in English by Fanfare Ponent-Mon, and it’s a monotonous, unflinching portrayal of life in a Japanese prison. While it’s considered a fairly difficult read, I can definitely recommend it as a unique and engrossing manga. This volume acts as something of a prequel to Doing Time, and we all hope to see it follow Doing Time to the shelves… Eh, Stephen?

Gyo, by Junji Ito. As readers of this blog are aware, Junji Ito’s Gyo is published in English by Viz LLC, and books 1 & 2 were released in the 6×9 format in 2003 and 2004. Generally considered inferior to his Uzumaki series, Gyo has an aborted finish, but does deliver some truly terrifying visuals and moments (Sharks… WITH LEGS!). Also available from Junji Ito are Museum Of Terror Volumes 1-3 published by Dark Horse.

In the Clothes Named Fat, by Moyoco Anno. Despite an English title, this single-volume manga by Moyoco Anno is not available in English. It seems like a book worth translating though, as it deals with a woman who tries to lose weight to interest a man, and the body-image-related downward spiral she enters. Luckily for you reader, Moyoco Anno has been published in English before. A lot, actually: Happy Mania from Tokyopop features a desperate 20-something woman looking to settle down and find the right man, but Mr. Right-now will do; Flowers & Bees from Viz actually deals with body-image issues amongst men in a humourous way; Sugar Sugar Rune from Del Rey Publishing is an all-ages affair that has young witches breaking boys’ hearts for power; Anno even has a cute short-story in Japan: As Viewed By 17 Creators published by Fanfare Ponent-Mon.

Jacaranda, by Kotobuki Shiriagari. Totally and completely unavailable in English, and probably pretty unlikely to become so. This single volume appears to be a meditation on the human condition as viewed through the lense of the apocalypse–a giant plant grows up in Tokyo overnight oblitterating the city–but actually might just be a comedy, pages and pages of death and destruction included. I hope we order a copy of this into my store to look at, hint hint.

Ki-Itchi, Hideki Arai. Man, this is so unlikely to come out in English. Evar. Volume 1 is about a hyper-violent three year old boy who doesn’t show any emotions and is constantly lashing out at the world. It’s sort of a more-realisitically drawn Dark Crayon Shin-chan you know? Then, at the beginning of the second volume his parents are killed by a mugger and he’s left with no family and no understanding of what happened. Fierce socio-political commentary. I would totally, totally buy this if it were in English.

Non Non Ba, by Shigeru Mizuki. Oh wow. So I didn’t recognize the name, but following a viewing of the Takeshi Miike movie “The Great Yokai War” I did a little bit of digging on “yokai”, the various Japanese forest spirits and demons that make up Japanese mythology. It turns out that Shigeru Mizuki is probably the best-known manga-ka of yokai stories, and his ‘Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro’ is considered a shonen horror classic. NonNonbâ appears to be Mizuki’s newest manga, another yokai tale about a boy who befriends a yokai and the problems it causes to his day-to-day life. Sounds really neat, actually, and seeing as we got some of Kazuo Umezu’s excellent classic horror manga this year with Drifting Classroom from Viz, I think some Mizuki would go down nicely…!

Sorcieres, by Daisuke Igarashi. This would be known as “Witch” in English (making it, what, property #4 with that title?), but isn’t currently known as anything because it ain’t in English. We just got a copy of this book in this week at The Beguiling, because it was actually recommended by Black & White creator Taiyo Matsumoto in the back of the sixth French edition of his No. 5 series. Confluence! The plot seems a bit… magical such and such quest for grown-ups, but the art is lovely. It’s like a sketchy euro-Otomo, where every drawing looks absolutely effortless and dashed-off, until you realise that a) they’re beautiful, and b) he is not drawing easy-to-draw things. Absolutely beautiful, and I could totally see Dark Horse picking this up and fitting it seemlessly into their current slate of releases. YOU HEAR ME, CARL? 🙂

Zipang, by Kaiji Kawaguchi. You’re totally unlikely to see this this in English, as Kawaguchi’s previous English-language manga, the excellent socio-political drama Eagle from Viz, did not do well. This series, about a navy battleship from the Japanese Self-Defence Forces transported back to WWII, sounds like a gripping, mature story of tough choices and tougher consquences. So, TS, buy more Naruto.

There you go Bart, et al. I hope you enjoy this little run down of great manga that I cannot read as much as I enjoyed researching it all, only to find out after-the-fact that there’s an English-language description of most of these books in a Festival Program (right click save as) and that David Welsh covered some of this in his column 4 weeks ago. Le Sigh.

– Christopher

One Reply to “The Best French Manga Not In English”

  1. The anime of Zipang is being released in the US – my older son bought the first DVD and was impressed by the story. And my mother thought Eagle was fabulous (and yes, I bought the entire series). She was in her 70s when she read my copies. If the anime sells well, maybe there’s hope for the manga …

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