A very manga 50th Angoulême Comics Festival

The event this year in Angoulême is the first exhibition in Europe of Hajime Isayama, author of The attack of the Titansa worldwide hit in both books and animated series. SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN Hajime ISAYAMA / Kodansha Ltd.

The anniversary edition of the event dedicated to the ninth art relies on Japanese comics to attract crowds from Thursday January 26 to Sunday January 29.

The Angoulême International Comics Festival celebrates its 50e edition from Thursday, betting on the manga to attract crowds, after the controversy that caused the cancellation the Bastien Vives exhibition.

The event is the first exhibition in Europe of Hajime Isayama, author of The attack of the Titans , a worldwide hit in both books and animated series. This 36-year-old international manga star will give a “masterclass” on Saturday at the Angoulême theater, which is already full.

Other “mangakas” honored with an exhibition each: Ryoichi Ikegami, 78, famous for his gangster characters, designer among others of the series Crying Freemanand Junji Ito59, whose work in horror has just been adapted into a series by Netflix (Maniac by Junji Ito, macabre anthology).

Manga, Japanese comics, or Japanese-inspired comics, have carved out a place of choice among booksellers in France in recent years. In 2022 according to the GfK institute, of the 100 best-selling books, a quarter were manga.

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Recover attendance

The Manga City space, a 2500 m2 pavilion, is a must for fans, with meetings, debates, screenings and even drawing lessons. Added to this is Halle 57, redecorated like a large Asian city under the name of Alligator 57. It’s no secret: the famous Festival is struggling to make ends meet, despite its nearly 200,000 visitors in good years, in a city of 42,000 inhabitants.

Recovering attendance seems essential after a 2022 edition which had suffered from its postponement in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of visitors had not been communicated, but it was visibly lower than that of the previous edition, in 2020, while that of 2021 had been canceled.

As the departmental daily pointed out The free Charente in early January, local authorities and other public partners “are not stingy with grants. Depending on the year, they bring between 1.6 and 2.2 million euros», or almost half of the budget. For the city of Charente, which has lost a good part of its industries, the Festival is the showcase of an economy that relies on creative studios and cultural tourism.

“Necessary debate”

The highlight is the annual presentation of the Grand Prize of the City of Angoulême to an author consecrated by a vote of his peers for all of his work. The ceremony takes place on Wednesday evening. The three contenders this year are the American Alison Bechdel, the French Catherine Meurisse and the Franco-Syrian Riad Sattouf. Catherine Meurisse is a finalist for the fourth consecutive year. Is it the right one?

She is facing two very popular rivals, a designer who has carried the feminist cause high, beyond comics with the famous “Bechdel test” to know if a film is macho, and the author of The Arab of the future, who in 2016 had declined to be a candidate for this award when discovering that he was with 29 other men, and zero women. The Angoulême Festival has gone through many controversies. This year, it related to an exhibition which was to be entitled “In the eyes of Bastien Vivès”. The idea that this author, accustomed to coming to signings, is entitled to this honor has aroused the indignation of petitioners and associations hostile to his work, where certain titles mix minors and pornography. The exhibition will not take place.

I think there was a lack of explanation upstream», estimated in mid-January the Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malakinterviewed in the French daily The world. “But he missed a necessary debate time after the controversy“.

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