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Iconic Japanese manga style catches on in Việt Nam

Update: June, 26/2016 - 09:00
Vivid colours: A page taken from the artbook Mysterious Princesses. — Photo
Viet Nam News

While they are already popular in Japan and elsewhere, Vietnamese artists are penning books in this vivid style that merges the comic and art worlds. An Vũ reports.

The vivid image of legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi brandishing his sword was meticulously illustrated by one of Japan’s top manga artists, Takehiko Inoue.

Takehiko’s Water artbook was based on the manga Vagabond, which made its official debut in 1998. The artbook was then revised to promote the content of the manga, gaining much admiration from manga fans in Japan and around the world.

The illustrations, when blown up to full page size, show a magnificent amount of detail in brush strokes, textures and line art, and are painted all in ink. Every page is a delight.

“You have no idea what great art is until you see Takehiko’s work,” says Nguyễn Linh Dương, a Japanese aficionado of the genre, explaining that the Japanese comic books and graphic novels, for children and adults, are a cultural specialty of the land of the rising sun.

Vietnamese readers might one day have an opportunity to appreciate this intricate and beautiful art form.

“I know that the artbook genre is already popular abroad, but in Việt Nam it has also started to take hold,” Dương added.

Elsewhere, artbooks are already considered icons of the entertainment cosmos. Spin-off movies, animation, comics and music have invariably sprung up in large markets such as the United States, Europe and Japan.

For the past few years, the artbook (another name for a picture book) has received rave reviews from Vietnamese readers. Although it has not been extensively introduced to the public, this hybrid of comic, animation and artistic pictures promises to be the next trend in the domestic book market.

The artbook is a collection of photos and graphic images centred around a particular illustrating a story. There are two kinds of artbooks in this market. The first is comprised of fresh content and new characters created by the artist-author, and the second is based on a well-known previous work, movie or animation.

In Việt Nam, both these kinds of artbooks are now on shelves, drawing the attention of curious readers eager to discover something new. 

Những đôi mắt lạnh (Cold Eyes), published in 2012, was written by Phan Hồn Nhiên and illustrated by painter Phan Vũ Linh for teenagers. Its intriguing fantasy plot, stunning exquisite and rare artistic style, were an instant hit. The artbook has become a best-seller with numerous reprints.

“I have received several offers from young writers to co-operate with them in making similar fantasy comics. However, so far I have not accepted any offers, as when I am working, inspiration comes first, and money is always second. At the moment, no one has ever inspired me like Phan Hồn Nhiên,” Linh said.

In catching up with the world’s artbook trend, as well as readers’ demand for comics and photos, some publishing houses have started buying and importing art books.

Some of those published in Việt Nam are One Piece, Dragon Ball, Clamp, and Những Nàng Công Chúa Bí Ẩn (Mysterious Princesses), in addition to Tuyệt Đỉnh Sinh Vật (Amazing Creatures).

Mysterious Princesses, an already published artwork in France and Italy, illustrated by artist Khoa Lê, recently made its debut in Việt Nam.

Creative and polished, poetic and colorful, the book with its fairy tale content and modern art is a combination of fresh Western art and Eastern mystery. The artbook tells of six mysterious princesses, each with different magical abilities.

Other artbooks, among them Amazing Creatures and the 200-page Day Dreamers by Dzung Yoko, contain impressive fashion designs. Gà Trống Nuôi Con (Single Dad) by photographer Tâm Bùi has also taken social networks by storm with its artistic features.

Fine details: A page taken from Takehiko Inoue’s Water. — Photo

Obstacles ahead

However, artbooks in Việt Nam still face obstacles.

Though not having as many words as other books, their prices are much higher due to the advanced printing techniques.

Trần Thu Ngọc, a reader, said the price could discourage anyone. Mysterious Princesses is priced at VNĐ199,000, Day Dreamers at VNĐ200,000, and Amazing Creatures costs VNĐ180,000. Families in financial straits will find it hard to buy them,” she said.

Nguyễn Cao Cường, representative of the Kim Đồng Publishing House, said it was making efforts to bring less expensive good quality artbooks to Viet Nam.

“The trend has been there in Việt Nam for the past four to five years, when young readers ordered artbooks of best-selling mangas such as One Piece, Dragon Ball or Clamp. We will continue to buy copyrights of foreign author’s artbooks, and promote the development of domestic artists, too,” he said.

The numerous difficulties and young age of Việt Nam’s comics readers might make an artbook a distant dream for most, but fans still hope the domestic artbook market will develop.

“Artbooks will find their way to growth in our country, but young artists should understand that just by sitting silently painting nice things, no one will come and help you publish or buy them. In order to do so, we need to communicate and promote them so as to attract a big enough number of fans,” says the artist of Amazing Creatures.

After her first artbook, she is nurturing her next project and hopes to have it ready in two years. — VNS


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