Cross talk between animators and creators of bande dessinée
On October 22, 2016, a symposium on anime, bande dessinée (Franco-Belgian comics), and manga, titled ‘Animator Generation in France Influenced by Japan’ was held at Tokyo Espace Images, Institut Francais in Tokyo. The event was a part of ‘Festival Feuilles d’Automne 2016” hosted by Tokyo Institut Francais, a festival with various events scheduled from October to November.
This symposium featured Thomas Romain from Satelight, Eddie Mehong from Yapiko Animation, and the creator trio of Lastman (bande dessinée) Bastien Vives, Balak, and Michael Sanlaville.
The event started with a typical question to the creator trio of Lastman, ‘How do you like Japan?’ They said that they had the opportunity to discover many new things and to enjoy amazing food and drinks. They were also impressed by the unique reactions of the Japanese audience and by the fact that the Japanese fans find their work exotic.
Their work, Lastman, is a fusion of fantasy and battle action with supernatural powers, and they aimed to make their work of bande dessinée in a Japanese manga format. While general bande dessinée are in all colors and have less pages, they insisted on making their work printed in black and white with more pages like manga are in Japan. There are no bande dessinée creations in that format being released, and they had a very hard time getting it published. They also distribute digitalized versions with vertical scroll which is popular in Asia, and their work stands out as something very new in their industry. Lastman is getting an anime adaptation in November. Their target audience is relatively mature and older fans since the anime has many smoking and violent scenes, but France backs up their anime project with funding. ‘Perhaps it will be the first and the last anime for adults in France’, one of the trio said.
What the five panelists have in common is that they all went to Gobelins School of the Image in Paris. It’s the oldest and best known school of visual arts in Europe and has produced numerous talented individuals and teams of animators, illustrators, and bande dessinée creators. Thomas Romain and Eddie Mehong, the seniors of the trio, mentioned the school’s strong influence, and said they wouldn’t have made anime in Japan now if they hadn’t met Jeremie Perin, the director of the Lastman anime, other French animators working in Japan, and their Japanese faculty members including Yasuo Ootsuka.
The two animators who have been working in Japan explained how different the environment around anime production is in Japan compared to that in France. France only had 260 spent in anime production hours in 2014, and showed us that France while Japan had 2000 hours spent in total. The total number of anime videos, both long and short, produced in France in 2014 was only 6 while there were 74 produced in Japan. Both Thomas Romain and Eddi Mehong who do actual anime work in Japan explained the lack of animators and budget in Japan compared to France, which even surprised the Lastman creators.
Eddie Mehong is the founder of Yapiko Animation, the first animation studio with Japanese and French staff. Thomas Romain works for Satelight, and has worked on major anime series such as Basquash!, Macross Delta, and Space Dandy. Both of them have been involved with anime for longer than a decade, and they run a special website called ‘Furansu-jin Connection (French People’s Connection)’ with other French animators. The site introduces various information on anime studios, technical terms in anime production, staff interviews and so forth for young French animators who want to work for anime studios in Japan. He explained that he wanted the site to be a bridge between Japan and France and ‘create something nobody has seen before.’
After the discussion there was a game music concert, showing the game video footage of LAST FIGHT, the game based on Lastman. They had an autograph session afterward, and people made a long queue, thus proving the popularity of Lastman. It makes you wonder what international collaboration holds in store for Japanese animation!