After a canceled 2021 edition and a 2022 edition where attendance suffered from the postponement to an unusual date, the Charente city may have reconnected with its nearly 200,000 visitors in the best years... thanks in part to Japan.

You had to be patient on Saturday to enter the Manga City marquee, a vast marquee of more than 3,000 m² erected on the edge of the railway tracks.

The queue stretched in the morning to a street in the popular district of L'Houmeau.

Same thing near the city center, with a queue that wrapped around the Espace Franquin, for the exhibition of mangaka Junji Ito, known for his horror drawings.

As for the exhibition devoted to "Attack on Titans", at the media library near the TGV station, it has been sold out since mid-January, despite an entrance ticket.

Visitors to the Junji Ito exhibition, master of horror manga, on January 27, 2023 at the Angoulême Comics Festival © YOHAN BONNET / AFP

Bringing in the cartoonist behind this bestseller, Hajime Isayama, was a resounding success of the International Comics Festival.

"He travels very little outside of Japan. He did two exhibitions in Tokyo, including one that went to Singapore. He was at New York Comic Con in the fall. And there in Angoulême “, explained to the press the artistic director in charge of the Asian programming, Fausto Fausulo.

"Creative Industry"

The exhibition showed 170 original plates by this artist who works in the old fashioned way, on paper, entirely in black and white.

"I'm not a rock star," he told France Inter on Thursday.

But the reception reserved for him by the fans on the occasion of his conference on Saturday morning at the Théâtre d'Angoulême, in front of 400 privileged people, said quite the opposite.

In a comic book market that is doing relatively well, manga is a dizzying growth engine.

Visitors in front of the Pika Edition stand under the Manga City marquee, January 27, 2023 at the Angoulême Comics Festival © YOHAN BONNET / AFP

In ten years, the volume of the French manga market, second in the world behind Japan, has quadrupled.

It reached 381 million euros in value in 2022.

The city of Angoulême (42,000 inhabitants) is betting big on this enthusiasm.

Because the Festival is the showcase of its "cultural and creative industry", which represents 4,300 jobs, and nearly 1,800 students in the image, according to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Charente.

Attached to the ephemeral structure that is Manga City, the Alligator 57 hall opened its doors for this 50th edition of the Festival, in a renovated former SNCF hangar.

"Structuring development"

The atmosphere of a large Asian city has been recreated there, and the place must then remain open outside the short period of the Festival at the end of January, dedicated to urban cultures (skateboarding, graffiti, parkour, hip hop, etc.).

The Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak, during her visit to Angoulême on Thursday, welcomed this "extension" as a "structuring development for the future of the Festival", in which the State and local authorities have invested.

Visitors to the Taiwan Comics stand under the Manga City marquee, January 27, 2023 at the Angoulême Comics Festival © YOHAN BONNET / AFP

The interior of Manga City is dotted with booths of publishers that sell handsome amounts of manga.

There were also meetings and workshops, which attracted an audience of families and young people.

A round table on Saturday morning focused on the future in France of shojo, the manga intended for girls, which is not meeting the dazzling success of its counterpart for boys, the shonen (43% of comic book sales in France in 2022 to him alone).

The unexplored potential of teenage readership shows that manga still has room to grow.

"A great frustration is that the male readership does not go to shojo. Female readers easily buy shonen, readers do not do the opposite," explained Timothée Guédon, editor for Kana.

© 2023 AFP