TOKYO Foreign manga comic artists are trying to
gain a bigger presence in Japan's booming market but cultural
barriers make it a tough challenge, a professor in a leading
school for manga said on Friday.
Keiichi Makino, head of the manga department at Kyoto Seika
University, said around a tenth of the school's 600 manga
students were foreign -- many South Korean and some Chinese and
His art college, in Japan's ancient capital, was the first
university in the country to open a manga faculty in April
2006, with courses ranging from political cartoons to
"Manga is all about the audience, so no matter how good the
manga is, it won't sell if it doesn't touch the Japanese
people's hearts," he told reporters.
"Over half of our graduate students are South Korean and
they've been spending a long time in Japan not only learning
about manga, but also studying about Japan itself."
Several schools have since followed Kyoto Seika, working to
nurture future artists for an industry long seen geared only
for nerds, but now at the forefront of Japan's entertainment
scene. The comics industry alone is estimated at some 500
billion yen ($4 billion).
Animated movies such as those of "Spirited Away" director
Hayao Miyazaki top box-office sales and many recent feature
films and television series have been based on manga comics.
The government has also sought to use manga as a way to
showcase Japanese culture abroad, with Foreign Minister Taro
Aso -- an avid manga fan himself -- unveiling last month an
award for foreign manga comic artists.
Makino said manga schools were cropping up in China and
South Korea, and Kyoto Seika's professors -- who include
best-selling manga artists and former publishers -- have been
exchanging visits with one Chinese school.
"In China, it will be a question of whether ordinary people
will accept manga, and whether they reach a level in which they
can give artists advice on their work," he said of prospects to
expand China's manga industry.
Manga in Japan was already becoming a way of life, he said.
"It's like when people long ago wrote elegant letters on
scrolls with a brush.
"Japanese manga will reach its most sophisticated form when
ordinary people, even those who are not manga artists, are able
to draw manga about their daily lives and thoughts with ease."