Chinese manga artist tries his hand in Japan

Kyodo News

A promising manga artist from Shanghai aiming to become one of the first foreigners to make it big in the Japanese market will soon debut in a popular young men’s comic book.

If the works of Liu Chong, 25, prove successful, more foreign illustrators may follow in his footsteps and help internationalize Japan’s comic book style, which already has many fans, industry observers said.

Liu Chong grew up in the northeastern province of Hebei, reading popular manga from Japan, including Doraemon and the Dragon Ball adventure series. He has been a manga enthusiast since elementary school and began drawing on his own in college.

After he started contributing to a Chinese manga magazine under the pseudonym L Dart, his work once topped the widely read Japanese serial manga “Detective Conan” (published in Chinese) in the popularity rankings.

L Dart’s success caught the attention of major publishing house Shogakukan Inc., which decided to commission him to write a story for the monthly magazine Gekkan! Spirits.

He completed a new work after more than a year with Shogakukan editor Takashi Hayakawa, who advised him on how to tailor his stories to Japanese audiences. L Dart’s 60-page story, provisionally titled, “Killin-Gi,” is a fantasy version of China’s historical epic “The Three Kingdoms,” and will appear in the Feb. 26 issue of the Shogakukan monthly.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” L Dart said. “If you are to write a story in China based on ‘The Three Kingdoms,’ you have to be loyal to historical facts, but my Japanese editors let me give free rein to my imagination.”

Hayakawa said he was amazed by the depth of L Dart’s understanding of manga. “What I wanted was to introduce a (Chinese) artist with Japanese vibes rather than Chinese vibes. We intend to hunt for new talent among young Chinese,” he said.

Japanese watch many foreign films and TV dramas, but their manga preference is predominantly for Japanese works, said Kaichiro Morikawa, an associate professor at Meiji University who is an expert on Japanese subcultures.

“Enlisting foreign talent could help promote exchanges between Japan and other countries, but it is also desirable because it could help energize Japan’s manga culture,” he said.