French manga publishers are a, shall we say, varied group (a.k.a. motley crew), in somewhat the same way as their American counterparts. However, I do think that overall the French side has been a bit healthier on average, which admittedly is not saying much considering the state of the U.S. comics industry. Anyway, here is what I have gathered about each of the major players in the French market (the manga players, as it were...):
The last year or so (as of January 2005) have witnessed the influx of a whole bunch of new manga publishers. It's clear we're in the midst of a whole new manga boomlet, as last seen ca.1996-7. I'll be posting more information and profiles here over the next couple of weeks as I get things organized.
|One of Christophe Lemaire (SEEBD)'s lines, which was to specialize in seinen (young adult) titles. However, rumor has it Japanese publishers hated the name, so he dropped it after publishing only one title (Strain).|
|Another of Christophe Lemaire (SEEBD)'s lines. They seem to specialize in shoujo manga. They've only just started, with two titles announced (Amakusa 1637 and Forbidden Love).|
|Seems to be kind of a spin-off of Tonkam. They specialize in seinen (young adult) titles, especially ones by Tezuka.|
|Atomic Club/Shadow Comics|
|Atomic Club is another Parisian comics shop, like Tonkam and (the late) Samourai. Like them, it too has entered into the manga publishing business, starting in late 1999, in association with Shadow Comics. So far, their only titles are the Kakinouchi Narumi vampire ones (Princesse Vampire Miyu and so on). Boy, their logo is even more annoying than Manga Player's, isn't it? However, the Miyu manga looks pretty good, unflipped, on decent paper.|
|Another of Christophe Lemaire (SEEBD)'s ventures,
publishing erotic B.D.s, started in mid-2000, taking up where Le
Téméraire left off. They did both "native" B.D. titles (that
is, from French and Italian authors), and H mangas as well. From what
little I can tell without actually having read them, it appears that
most of BD Erogène's earlier manga editions were based directly
on the American Studio Proteus ones. Later ones, including the "Anime
XXX" series of H doujinshi, seem to have more diverse origins - e.g.,
done from Spanish and possibly Italian editions, and maybe even directly
from Japanese ones in some cases. By French standards, they were quite
pricey (same as American prices).
It appears that BD Erogène closed up shop around March, 2004: they closed their web site, and cancelled all of the work they had previously scheduled to come out. Many of their previous works have now gone out of print.
|Well known as the publishers of Tintin, they
actually put out quite a range of B.D. titles. Their manga titles, though
few in number, are similarly diverse, with perhaps some bias toward the
science fiction side. Casterman is more of a mainstream publisher, and
all of their manga titles are (so far as I have seen) flipped - or at
least read left to right, since they often try to rearrange rather than
mirror. The ones I have seen are of good quality, though, with decent
retouch work, printed on good paper, in a larger-than-tankoubon format.
The main complaint about Casterman, aside from their limited and hesitant
production (only 30-some volumes between 1995 and 2002),
is that their editing can at times be a bit subpar, with misprints and
confused placement of dialog in word balloons. The latter is not
helped by the sometimes haphazard results of panel rearrangement, where
it can take a couple of passes to determine whether the dialog should
be read left-to-right or right-to-left.
Casterman seems to lean toward one-shots or very short series (2 or 3 volumes), from authors we tend not to hear about too much in the West. A very interesting and unique catalog. Widely sold in Europe and Québec. Even U.S. bookstores have been known to carry some Casterman titles.
Casterman obviously took my (well-meaning) criticisms to heart, since in Fall, 2004, they started a new manga line with new editing standards and much faster production, Sakka (q.v.).
|Dargaud is a French B.D. publisher; Kana is its
manga label. They were among the slowest to get going in the manga
market (starting around 1997) and, up until recently, only published
a few titles, including Detective Conan, St. Seiya, Slam Dunk, Yuyu
Hakusho. Recently, however, they've greatly expanded their line, which
is fortunate, since their editions are generally quite good: inexpensive,
mostly unflipped, careful translation work, with the original katakana
sound effects preserved, and most all the tankoubon extras included.
Their books are tankoubon size, with
separate slipcovers, looking pretty much the same as their Japanese
counterparts. Paper quality is OK, I guess, though a few of mine
were a little yellower than I'd like. The main complaint against
Kana is a fairly trivial one - though it's clear they have plenty of
expertise in Japanese and French, they tend to miss or get confused
by words which show up in mangas from other languages, like English
or German. (Clearly they need to hire me at exorbitant rates to
exert a little editorial quality control!)
Kana tends to follow an "every other month" schedule for most of
their titles, though this sometimes stretches out a bit. Widely sold
in Europe and Québec.
Now that they're publishing a broader range, Dargaud has started differentiating their line a bit - "Dark Kana" for what they considers their more "intense" titles (the Ghost in the Shell anime comic, and the manhwa title Angel Dick); "Big Kana" (inspired by Shougakukan's "Big Comics" line of magazines, I think) for more "mature" seinen titles like Monster; and "Pink Kana" (not my idea!) for shoujo works like Basara.
Recently they've started a new line, "Made in Japan," for somewhat quirkier works.
|Dark Horse France/Cryo|
|Dark Horse made an attempt starting in late 1995 to enter the French manga market in partnership with Cryo, bringing out French versions of Caravan Kid and Outlanders. However, its experiment at marketing manga American style (high priced individual comics, sold only at comic boutiques) was evidentally a flop, and it withdrew a couple of years later. (Its titles were taken over by Soleil; other publishers, notably Glénat, have since taken on other Studio Proteus/Dark Horse titles.)|
|Another French publisher of a wide range of B.D.s,
which did a few manga titles back ca. 1996-7, and then mostly
lapsed out of the market (except for the Star Wars manga).
In 2002, however, Delcourt revived their manga business, in partnership with Akata, the new company founded by the ex-Tonkam founders. They now have a fairly broad line of fairly unusual titles out now. They seem to specialize in darker, more violent works. All I have seen are unflipped, reasonable in quality.
|Dybex (Dynamic Visions)|
|The Benelux/French affiliate of the "Dynamic group
of companies," founded for the original purpose of propagating Go
Nagai's "dynamic" manga and anime, which (very slowly) got into
the French manga publishing business starting around 1998.
In addition to his stuff, they also have a few other titles such
as Golden Boy. The books of theirs I have are much like
Glénat's (below): flipped, tankoubon-sized, and with an "integral"
slipcover. Dybex is perhaps the slowest manga (and anime) publisher
in the world, taking up to three years(!) between volumes.
In fact, the delays are now tending toward infinity. Dybex seems to have lost its affiliation with Dynamic, and has published almost nothing in over a year now. It's unclear what will happen to the titles it had - I've heard variously that other publishers might get them, or that Dybex is working to reacquire licenses individually. My best guess is that they are only pursuing video licenses nowadays, and have pretty much given up on the manga business.
The latest news is that Dybex definitively lost their license for Berserk. This has been picked up by Glénat, which has already redone the first couple of volumes and promises to have new volumes out on a monthly basis. Dybex also says they've lost interest in Golden Boy and will not be doing any more of it, but claim they are still going to do more volumes in other series "by the end of the year." It's not clear to me which series those might be, though, since so far as I know, they actually finished the few other series they were doing. Dynit (Dynamic Italia) has done many other titles, but it seems dubious that Dybex is much inspired by their example.
|Editions ego comme x|
|They've been around for a while, but ego comme x seems to have just started in the manga business. They're a tad more "serious" than most, aiming for more adult readers. (Adult as in "somewhat older urban sophisticate," not adult as in "naughty.") They seem to go for fairly large, fairly expensive editions. In addition to a couple of manga titles, they're also doing work by Frédéric Boilet.|
|Génération Comics is a label of Marvel
France, which seems to be part of the Panini Group, so far as I can
tell. They didn't get into the manga business until quite late (sometime
around the beginning of 2001), but have since expanded their line rapidly.
The books I have of theirs are somewhat reminiscent of the better Dark
Horse editions: flipped, with noticeable editorial additions at the
beginning and end, but well-done. However, unlike U.S. editions, the
original slipcovers and author's note are preserved. Recently, they've
begun doing unflipped versions, just like everyone else.
Sort of like
Pika, they tend to specialize in works with cute girls and fighting,
though they also do more serious titles like 20th Century Boys.
Their prices are on the high end of the range.
The main complaint against Génération Comics is that they have a tendency to let things go out of print rapidly and then never reissue them. Unless you collect their volumes as they come out, it can be hard to get a complete set.
|The Viz of France, with a huge range of titles,
including the most popular titles for the general (non-otaku)
public, such as Dragon Ball, Ranma, Sailormoon
and Ghost in the Shell. They pioneered the current generation
of manga publications in France back in 1991 by bringing out a French
version of Akira, based on the (colorized) American one. Then in
1993 they began bringing over titles directly from Japan, starting with
Most of Glénat's titles earlier titles were flipped, though some series such as Dr. Slump and Kenshin le Vagabond (Rurouni Kenshin) are unflipped. Currently, just like everyone else, most of their titles are unflipped - with, however, shoujo teen soap operas like Mint na Bokura a curious exception.
Glénat publishes in both smaller (tankoubon) and larger size; the longer series are all the smaller size, I believe. Glénat used an odd sort of "integral" slipcover on its older tankoubon-sized books. The paper used, though, seems good. Glénat's translation quality was a little variable in the past, though recent titles have for the most part been good.
Glénat publishes a lot of titles, but perhaps in consequence tends to be a bit slower in bringing out new volumes, with three or four month waits not uncommon. The most frequent knocks against Glénat is that they have been known to drop series halfway through; and that their editions can be lacking a bit esthetically (ugly covers, and occasionally sloppy touchup work, like massive sound effects covering up all the art). Widely sold in Europe and Québec.
Glénat has recently begun a number of moves to increase the quality and faithfulness of their editions. Touchup should be improved, and all new series will be brought out unflipped.
|Les Humanoïdes Associes|
|A publisher of science fiction B.D.s which has also done one or two manga titles.|
|Another French publisher, with a fairly broad
catalog from fiction to cookbooks, with perhaps a bit of an
emphasis on children's books. They got into the manga business
during the first big rush in 1996, but have still only done a
few manga titles, including most notably City Hunter
and (Kimagure) Orange Road. Interestingly, they strongly
favor long-running series, something we haven't seen much of in the U.S.
The books of theirs which I have seen are unflipped, with the katakana sound effects preserved. Some of their editions have a good reputation, but those translated by "Roger Marti" (apparently a pseudonym) such as Fly and Orange Road have more than their share of inaccuracies (some of which were real howlers...) J'ai lu's paper quality seems a step down from what I have seen. The ones I have are tankoubon sized, with separate slipcovers, and are quite inexpensive. While perhaps not the best quality around, J'ai lu's editions have to rank among the fastest: typically, they only do two titles at once, but bring out new volumes at a steady monthly rate. Widely sold in Europe and Québec.
|Another label of SEEBD, which seems to specialize in adventure stories involving police (Patlabor), firemen (Daigo), and so on.|
|A fairly new publisher, which so far seems to be specializing in heroic fantasy and action.|
|The Japanese publishing house issued Candy Candy in French back ca. 1995. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a copy of it yet...|
|Did a few titles back around 1995, but seem to be out of the business now. I don't know much about them.|
|As the name suggests, originally a label for
Média Systèmes, a marketer of anime-related video
games, which got into manga publishing as a side business
starting back in 1995, with their magazine Manga Player.
Manga Player is (or rather, was) a manga magazine, like Pulp
or whatever the heck Mixxine is calling itself nowadays.
Collections from it were published under the label Manga Player
Collection (and also another name I forget...). As you might expect
from its origins, Manga Player seems to lean toward the
"girls 'n' [possibly] guns" genre, with titles including 3x3
Eyes, Ah! My Goddess, You're Under Arrest, and Magic
Knight Rayearth. Their titles are generally flipped, but for
the most part the touchup has been pretty good. (There were a few
notable exceptions in the past.) The series I have seen are
tankoubon sized, with separate slipcovers and good paper.
Translation quality seems a bit variable, but for the most part is
OK, sometimes very good. Found widely in Europe; occasionally seen
With the dissolution of Média Systèmes, Manga Player suspended publication around the end of 1999. Since then, almost all of their catalog was picked up by a newly-formed entity, Pika Édition (q.v.)
|Talk about your minimalism... A very simple website, just a couple of odd titles, distributed through Le Comptoir des Indépendants...|
|New on the scene. They appear to be the outgrowth
of a fanzine, "Anime Toki." Truth be told, it kind of shows in
their web site...
Unfortunately, it looks like enthusiasm did not win out over lack of experience - after bringing out exactly five volumes in two series, Muteki seems to have bitten the dust. The web site is dead, and no new books have come out in months.
|The successor to Manga Player, which has picked up
many of their people and most of their titles. They began bringing
out books again in April of 2000. Pika's books so far are
essentially identical to the Manga Player ones in appearance
(except Pika's logo is a heck of a lot more tasteful than Manga
Player's was). They're a bit more expensive than some of the other
publishers, but they generally use better quality paper and have
more reliable printing. (Of late, Pika seems to have picked up a
much better brand of paper; some of the latest books have been relative
heavyweights, 50% thicker than anyone else!) Pika started a
bit slowly, but has really picked up the pace of late, publishing
two volumes a month in some series! Legacy series from Manga
Player days are mostly still flipped, but most recent series have
Pika titles are distributed through Hachette Livre, so are already widely available in Europe and Québec. In fact, U.S. bookstores ought to be able to obtain them, too, if you can convince the staff to order them.
|Pika Édition - Collection Senpai|
|Pika has recently launched a separate label, Senpai, for
their more "adult" titles. This includes their old Urushihara titles, and
some newer ones, such as Futari H (Step Up Love Story) and MPD Psycho.
Just as a curious aside, the word senpai/sempai, which of course just means "senior, elder" (as contrasted with kohai, "junior"), and is commonly used at school and at work in Japan, seems to have somehow attracted sexual connotations in pop French usage.
|A fairly new publisher with a few titles out, which
seem to center on sports and silliness, not necessarily in that order.
They must employ some decent artists, since they run their own
I guess they decided "Punch" sounded a little too British, and are changing their name to Taifu Comics.
|Casterman, spurred by Frédéric Boilet's frustration at the effort required to produce decent flipped/rearranged editions, decided to start a new manga line in the Fall of 2004 - Sakka ("author"). Sakka titles are, so far as I have seen, all unflipped, medium format, and well-edited. Along with many new titles, a number of Casterman's older manga works will be reissued in Sakka editions.|
|A late, not-that-widely-lamented store in Paris
which got into the manga publishing business around 1995. They
released a number of titles, mostly of the hentai variety. This led
to a number of encounters with French and Belgian censors. (In America,
that would lead to increased sales, but I'm not so sure about
France.) Some suspicions arose that they hadn't quite secured
rights to all the titles they were publishing. They denied this,
but vanished suddenly shortly thereafter (somewhere around
mid-1997, I believe), and the business was later liquidated. At
least some of their catalog was taken over by the French publisher
Albin Michel, under the L'Echo des Savanes label. Production
quality for their books tends to be kind of lousy, with flipped
ones having minimal or no retouch. However, some of the unflipped
ones are pretty good. The book I have of theirs which is colabeled
L'Echo des Savanes is actually thick, good quality paper, in a larger
format with separate slipcovers. The one with no colabel listed
seems to be a step down in the paper quality, but still in the
larger format. Availability is very spotty, with only a few B.D.
stores in Europe seeming to have any left. The used market
(livres d'occasion) is probably your best bet if you're
interested in any of their titles.
By the way, there is a website for a wholesaler named Samurai Anime which seems to have some sort of vague connection with the old Samourai that I haven't quite figured out. However, they seem at least half-dead as well...
|SEEBD's line of sunjung - i.e., the Korean equivalent of shoujo manga; manwha intended for girls.|
|Publisher of the Manga X series of hentai (and also
several lines of B.D.s, some with a similar emphasis). These were
(so far as I know) all flipped, and had the Japanese censorship.
(That is, they were not retouched like some of this stuff is for
the American market.) The books are larger than tankoubon size,
with decent paper. (Hey, something about them has to be decent!) I
don't know about the translation quality, but really, it hardly
matters with a lot of their titles.
The Manga X line was mostly what might be considered "lighter" or more story-oriented than the average translated hentai title. Some of them were actually kind of cute, in a way.
Le Téméraire started their Manga X line with the big rush at the end of 1996, but they stopped abruptly a couple of years later and have now dropped out of the manga business completely. Some of their earlier volumes at least got caught up in the manga censorship craze, but I don't know if this influenced their demise.
Since the Manga X line is out of print now, you will have to scrounge around if you want to buy any of them. (BTW, the name "Le Téméraire" means "the headstrong.")
|SEEBD's line of (boy's) manwha.|
|Another Parisian comic book and otaku shop which
also got into the manga publishing business - one of the first, in
fact, with Video Girl Ai starting in 1994. As it happens,
they also ran afoul of the French censors (over U-Jin's Angel).
Unlike Samourai, however, they have a good reputation and are most
definitely still around! They have a great range of fan-favorite
works, such as Video Girl Ai, Bouddha, Rg Veda, Asatte
Dance, and Fushigi Yugi. They also have the coolest logo
I know of. Their earlier books were flipped, not so well produced
(with visible scan artifacts), and had some reputation for
looseness in translation. Currently, though, their output is mostly
unflipped, with translations that can be quite faithful. However,
they generally do not preserve the katakana sound effects in the
original. For certain of their titles (X and Kimengumi in
particular), they have also demonstrated a certain level of, shall
we say, willfulness which does not sit well with some
correspondents on fr.rec.anime.
Most of their series are published in tankoubon size, with separate slipcovers, though Asatte Dance, for one, was in a larger format with fixed cover. Print and paper quality are usually at least OK, sometimes very good. Found in European B.D. shops, but only starting to show up in general bookstores. Tonkam's publishing schedule is all over the map, with anywhere from a couple of months to a year between volumes, depending on the series. Prices are also all over the map, with some of the cheapest and most expensive titles coming from Tonkam.
Availability in Canada of Tonkam titles used to be pretty bad, but this has much improved recently. In fact, it's a lot easier to find them in, say, Montreal than in most of France.
|This time it's a store in Bordeaux which got into the
manga publishing business. They specialize in shoujo and "ladies" comics.
Here is one case where the logo is a a good fit: if you think it's cute,
you'll probably like their manga; if you think it's stupid, well, take
it as a warning.
The books I have of theirs aren't bad (unflipped, OK paper), though the first couple of them would have benefitted from another editorial pass. I found their lettering kind of ugly, too. However, recent titles have improved considerably on both these scores; I think they're now one of the better publishers.
Availability at first was quite limited (European comics stores only), though this has also improved greatly of late, since they've entered into a partnership with Soleil, a (relatively) big French B.D. publisher.
Starting in 2004, Soleil/Végétal has begun branching out into manwha (Korean comics), still again with the shoujo emphasis.
Unfortunately, Végétal's website, which was sort of interesting in a quirky way, seems to have vanished, so we're only left with Soleil's "professional" (but in my opinion, kind of boring and ugly) one.
|Vertige Graphic is fairly well-known for translating more mature comic titles by authors such as Hugo Pratt (Corto Maltese) and Frank Miller (Sin City). They've started now doing some classic manga works by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.|
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