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Japan offers assistance to domestic comic publishers

Update: December, 09/2005 - 00:00

Japan offers assistance to domestic comic publishers


Producers of Japanese comics will help Viet Nam develop its comic book market, which has been dominated by foreign products since 1991.

"Japan will help hone the comic skills of Viet Nam’s cartoonists and will transfer modern publishing technology to help make interesting comics with nice designs for young readers, " Matsutani Takayuki, president of Japanese Comics and Cartoons Association, said.

He said Viet Nam was a potential comics and cartoon market with young people accounting for 60 per cent of the total population of more than 80 million.

"The number of school-age children is on the rise as is the demand for children’s books with lively stories, " he said at a seminar organised last weekend in HCM City.

The seminar was organised by Tokyo Fund, the Japanese Consulate General and the Tre (Youth) Publisher and attended by many domestic and Japanese artists, writers and publishers.

"To make comics more attractive to children, it is important to have a well thought-out theme, as well as familiar and imaginative characters," Tomari Tsutomu, president of Japan’s Toei Cartoon Film Company, said.

"We have seen many Vietnamese comics featuring historic personalities and folk tales. I’m sure that Viet Nam can produce meaningful and interesting stories drawing on themes from scientific or imaginary worlds," he said.

With some 800,000 comic books rolling off the presses in Viet Nam each week, comic books have come to dominate the book market, proving popular with young readers.

However, 95 per cent of comic books are translations of comic books from foreign countries, chiefly Japan.

Vietnamese comics like Bim va Nhung Chuyen Than Ky (Bim and Marvellous Stories), De Men Phieu Luu Ky (The Adventures of a Cricket) and Ech Com De Vuong (Green Little Frog, the King) have received a warm response from young readers.

"But many comics produced over the years have failed to attract readers because most of them do not have interesting contents and designs," Quach Thu Nguyet, director of Youth Publisher, said.

"Young readers choose to read foreign comic books which feature worlds of adventure, magic, and supernatural and superhuman events," she said.

Nguyet said the domestic comic book market began to flourish after the debut of Doremon, a Japanese comic book which mesmerised local youth and even adults in 1991 and 1992.

After Doremon, Japanese comics like Dragon Ball, Detective Conan, Teppi and New Teppi have seized the imaginations of younger readers. "Japanese comic books including Teppi and Ninja set distribution records in HCM City of 500,000 copies a week in 1993-99," Nguyet said.

"Readers of Japanese comics may reach between 6 million and 8 million a week," Nguyet said.

She said the titles of Japanese books published in the country did not drop after Viet Nam became a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works last year. The convention calls for the protection of copyrighted works.

Le Linh, an artist from Tre Publisher said that children don’t like local comic books because the scripts are not imaginative. "We have yet to create characters attractive to children like Doremon, Tintin, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck."

Japanese writer Nakano Haruyuki said the Vietnamese comic book market is similar to that of Japan 30 years ago. "It took Japan 60 years to have its own comic book market. Before that, Japan had to import comics and cartoons and even had to borrow foreign names like Mary and Jack for its children books," he said.

He said Japan’s comic industry had developed thanks to close co-operation between comics and cartoons producers.

"In Japan, the publication of a comic is followed by a cartoon featuring the story of the comic and then the production of accessories like shoes, hats, dolls and clothes worn by the main characters of the comic and the cartoon. This is one of our main business strategies to attract readers," he said.

"Viet Nam with its enthusiastic artists and writers and a thriving trade market can apply this strategy to develop the comic book industry as well as the cartoon industry," he said. — VNS

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