Former Executive VP of VIZ, The Legendary Hyoe’s History of Manga in North America
Chapter 9: What is the International Value of Manga?
It has been a little while.
I initially planned on writing about sound effects but changed course after something made me say, “hmm?…”
People currently in Japan, and only a certain group of people at that, know that just recently, the famous French football* team Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) F.C. came to Japan and played three matches against J.League teams. PSG is a dream team with superstar players like Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, and Kylian Mbappe, and the total annual salary is estimated to be approximately 60 billion yen (450 million euros).
For context, if I, Hyoe, were to be described in a simple sentence, it would be: I am a super ultra football fan. Albeit a bit of a cynical football fan. This will give away my age, but I have been following football for over 40 years now. During the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, I recorded and watched all 64 matches on tape. During the 2002 World Cup hosted by South Korea and Japan, despite being able to get tickets, I did not go to the stadium, saying, “It is 100 years too early to hold The World Cup in Japan.” (this is where my little bit of cynicism kicks in.) During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, I traveled to Germany and watched several matches. Besides that, I also made it a point to go to the stadiums in Europe and watch football matches whenever I had the time.
Going back on topic, soon after the team arrived in Japan, a press conference reception was hosted by a well-known TV station, where all 30 or so players took to the stage for commemorative photos and other events. As a special treat, Yoichi Takahashi, the creator of Captain Tsubasa, made an appearance as a special guest to do a live drawing on stage.
It is only available in Japanese, but this is a video of the reception for reference.
As many people know, Captain Tsubasa became very popular in Europe in the 1980s, and the story that Zinedine Yazid Zidane, Superstar of the French National Team, was inspired to become a football player after watching the anime is famous. Of course, Captain Tsubasa is still popular, and Neymar and Mbappe are big fans. Captain Tsubasa, the anime was titled Olive et Tom in France at the time. Olive was Tsubasa, and Tom was Wakabayashi.
The creator of Captain Tsubasa, a title beloved by superstars Neymar and Mbappe, did a live drawing right before them; the two players were immensely interested. Although the moderator repeatedly directed them to their next event off stage, the players did not budge and continued watching the live drawing. As the moderator continued to urge them on, the players feigned compliance to buy time just to stop again and watch Takahashi-sensei finish drawing Tsubasa and Misaki, then finally made their way off stage.
I watched the event on YouTube and thought, “I know there are probably scheduling reasons on the TV station’s side, but why do they have to keep bugging the players to leave the stage? These are some of the world’s superstars watching this live drawing with fervent eyes sparkling like children, so why not have them stay on the stage until the end and interact with Yoichi Takahashi and the finished drawing? Even if there were copyright and portrait rights issues, all rights holders are on that stage. And it is a reception, so why not allow some of that and just let it pass? It was a great opportunity to have such aspirational superstars lift the Captain Tsubasa that they admire and lift the whole world of manga and anime.”
Returning to what I said earlier because I am an avid football fan, it was very helpful for me as a communication tool with people from Europe. Soccer is a universal sport and form of entertainment.
Similarly, people outside Japan are interested in manga, anime, and Japanese games. It is also admired and respected as a form of entertainment. If the topic of conversation is manga, it is possible to stand face to face with and confront even celebrities. Manga and anime, like football, are as much or even more of a universal language. And in that aspect, Japan is in an overwhelmingly suitable position. As evidence of this, Manga Planet/futekiya, launched only three years ago, has users from more regions than UN member states.
Perhaps it is actually those in Japan who do not understand the true value of manga and anime. What a shame!
*Note: football = soccer
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