License Request Day: Prix Asie

July 10, 2009

Earlier this week, The Comics Reporter noted this year’s Prix Asie award winner and runners-up. The Prix Asie is presented each year by Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinee (ACBD) to a worthy Asian comic that’s been published in French. So for this week’s License Request Day, I thought I’d run down the contenders and reinforce of our envy of the comic-reading French. Again, I’ve probably taken some serious liberties with the translation of the publishers’ solicitation text, so feel free to correct me if you spot something soul-crushingly egregious or just garden-variety wrong.

undercurrentThe prize went to Undercurrent, which is the title that I’m most interested in seeing published in English. It was written and illustrated by Tetsuya Toyoda and published in French by Kana and originally serialized in Kodansha’s Afternoon magazine:

“Kanae manages a public bathhouse with her husband, Satoru. Both are helped in their task by Kanae’s aunt. When Satoru disappears mysteriously, the rumours swirl: accident, escape, secret liaison… Many judge Kanae to be too authoritative, too independent. Unable to manage the business without her husband, Kanae takes in a young man, Hori, sent by the trade union of the public baths to help her. Presented in a manga with clear graphics is the story of a meeting place and separations where tragedy crosses comedy, where feelings of gratitude mix with major regrets.”

The other nominees were:

enfantsoldatEnfant Soldat by Akira Fuyaka and Aki Ra, published in French by Delcourt, originally serialized in Shueisha’s Business Jump magazine:

“A ten-year-old boy, whose mother was killed by the Khmer Rouges, must take up weapons to survive the massacres. He lives then in total unconsciousness of his actions, ignorant that of other ways of life than that of the soldiers. Shifting between the forces of Pol Pot, those of Vietnam and Kampuchea, it delivers testimony to us; a drama that humanity should not forget.”

gringoGringo by Osamu Tezuka, published in French by Kana, originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Big Comic magazine:

“In 1982, in a world where competition is fierce, a large Japanese company names Hitoshi Himoto, 35, to a high position in its South American subsidiary company. Hitoshi has to give up his dream of being a sumo wrestler, but he’s conscious of this exceptional promotion and determined to make his way! The difficulty is that these duties are in a zone controlled by guerrillas directed by the terrible Jose Garcia. Hitoshi lands in the banana republic of Santa Luna. He discovers another world there: dictatorship, misery, corruption, insurrection. By chance, Hitoshi discovers the existence of rare metals for electronics. From now on regarded as the “gringo,” Hitoshi will have to face multiple obstacles to negotiate with the rebels for access, the purchase and export of the invaluable ores while navigating the local politics and their hierarchy! Gringo immerses us in political-financial intrigue always with the inimitable style of the Master of manga.”

intermezzoIntermezzo by Tori Miki, published in French by IMHO, originally published by Kawade:

“An explosive mix of Monthy Python and the absurd humour of Gary Larson, Intermezzo looks at the chaotic and surrealist life of a bookseller who spends his days lost in parallel universes. Extraterrestrial nuttiness, divergent realities, impromptu modifications of the laws of physics, this worldess comic strip plays with the conventions of the form with humour and intelligence. Intermezzo is composed of different stand-alone comic strips and is part of a cycle of four albums (each one being able to be read separately).”

Update: In the comments, José Filipe notes that an English-language version of Intermezzo, titled Anywhere But Here, has already been published by Fantagraphics. And, I suppose I should have noticed that translations probably don’t matter that much with a wordless comic, do they? Here’s their solicitation text for the book:

“The American debut of one of Japan’s most distinctive humorous voices. Tori Miki has won awards for his essays, screenplays and manga, including the prestigious Bunshun Manga Award. With four best-selling volumes released to date, the comic strip series Anywhere But Here is one of his greatest successes. Running weekly in Japan’s TV Bros, a respected magazine of television and media criticism, Anywhere But Here is a wordless comic strip that could perhaps best be described as ‘Monty Python meets The Far Side meets Zen humor.’ Miki’s unnamed lead character (modelled after himself) works as a bookstore owner but somehow finds himself entangled with aliens, alternate realities, and other mysterious disturbances in the space-time continuum. Like Gary Larson’s The Far Side, Anywhere But Here can leave you scratching your head in bemusement almost as often as it makes you laugh, but we’ve selected the very best of his first two volumes for this special collection, printed in an elegant two-color edition.”

JQ_UneVieChinoise.qxdUne vie chinoise by P. Ôtié and Li Kunwu, published in French by Kana:

“A completely new manga told from the inside by a Chinese author who lived through the vertiginous rise of the Communism of Mao Zedong. This autobiography makes us share the insane destiny of the Chinese given birth to by Mao Zedong in the 1950s, to today’s revolutions in counter-revolutions under the reins of modern China. It is an enthralling voyage in time, mixing nostalgia and awakening, accurately respecting the historical facts and references with an almost clinical approach to the subject.”