Nouvelle Manga in 2007

The world currently has three major markets of graphic novels, Japan, the United States and France, represented respectively by three distinct "genres", "manga, "comics" and "BD" ("bande dessinée").
Based upon geographic origins and marketing criteria, this categorization can be partly explained by historical reasons (until the mid-1980s, the three markets were virtually separate with almost no cross-fertilization) but, to my knowledge, is not operative in any other artistic medium. Literature, fine and contemporary art or cinema are all considered at once as universal art forms. To take a comparison from cinema, although their influence is overwhelming, the commercial productions of Hollywood have not been categorically relegated to a genre called "movies" nor can they claim to represent once and for all "American cinema" in its entirety.

In the field of the graphic novel, however, it is by comparing their commercial outputs that manga, comics and BD have been defined.
Perhaps the medium lends itself to this kind of classification. Commercial Japanese, American and French graphic novels feature easily recognizable formulae, stereotypes and nostalgic references, both in their plots and drawing styles. Developing in relative isolation, manga, comics and BD have spawned a divided readership. In France, manga fans and BD fans are quick to set one genre against the other, thus perpetuating mutual exclusivity.

But as soon as one leaves the "entertainment" sector of the industry to examine graphic novels "d'auteur", comics that are simply more adult and audacious, they quickly realize that the differences are more apparent than actual. While certain formatted and targeted series, which feature the tricks and characteristics of each "genre", are aimed specifically at the fans of manga, comics or BD, the work of such innovators as Japan's Kiriko Nananan (Blue), Adrian Tomine (Summer Blonde) from the US or France's Fabrice Neaud (Journal) can most likely be appreciated by readers of manga as well as those of comics or BD; by specialists and neophytes alike ; by the Japanese, the Americans as well as the French.

In reality, the borderline that divides the commercial graphic novel from the graphic novel d'auteur seems more significant than that between manga, comics and BD. It is this connivance and the consciousness of the universality of the graphic novel d'auteur that the Nouvelle Manga movement seeks to express.

Imagined in 1999 by Kiyoshi Kusumi, director of the monthly art magazine Bijutsu Techô, the term "Manga Nouvelle Vague" - promptly shortened to "Nouvelle Manga" - was used at first to describe my own graphic novels, perceived by the Japanese as graphically close to BD but read like manga, and recalling the spirit of French cinema.
Officially launched with the manifesto published on my website in August 2001, then with the event set up in Tokyo the following autumn, Nouvelle Manga is, today, on a larger scale. It has become an initiative lead by authors who search to promote a universal comic art form by creating bridges between artists, publishers and readers of all origins. Their aim is to show manga, comics and BD at their most particular and not only at their most pecuniary level, mostly in the universal register of daily life, whether autobiographical, documental or fictional.

Furthermore, the label Nouvelle Manga can also currently be applied to several publishers worldwide : Casterman, Ego Comme X and Les Impressions Nouvelles in France, Akashi Shoten, Asukashinsha and Ohta Shuppan in Japan, Ponent Mon in Spain, Fanfare in the UK and US, Coconino Press in Italy, Dala Publishing in Taiwan, Casa 21 and Conrad Editora in Brazil. They have dedicated themselves to publishing programs which are independent of geography and genre, aiming to present their readers with the best international graphic novels, original or translated works by such established masters as Emmanuel Guibert and Jirô Taniguchi, as well as those by newcomers and innovators such as Aurélia Aurita from France and Little Fish from Japan.

Frédéric Boilet
Tôkyô, March 9, 2006

Updated on august 12, 2007
for the Nouvelle Manga exhibitions in Belo Horizonte and Barcelona

First versions of this text appeared
in Japan in Art It nº 4, "MangArt", Summer / Fall 2004
and in France in Art Press nº 26, "Spécial Bande d'Auteurs", October 2005

© 2007 Frédéric Boilet
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