‘Akira’ artist Otomo wins top French comics prize

AFP-JIJI

Katsuhiro Otomo on Thursday became the first manga artist to win a lifetime achievement award at France’s renowned international Angouleme comics festival.

The 60-year-old is known the world over for the cult manga series “Akira,” set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo built on the ashes of a city destroyed by a blast that triggered World War III.

That the Grand Prix went to Otomo highlights the importance of manga in France, where the genre represents a quarter of all comic book sales. Last year the award went to “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson.

The festival, overshadowed by the Charlie Hebdo magazine shootings in Paris on Jan. 7, also awarded a special Grand Prix to the cartoonists killed in the Islamist attack — Cabu, Wolinski, Charb, Tignous and Honore.

Among others in attendance was Jiro Taniguchi, considered the “godfather” of manga, who is presenting a retrospective in Europe for the first time.

In an interview before he left Japan for Angouleme, Taniguchi said he constantly had in mind the impact his drawings could have on others.

“The human being is an animal for whom the visual sense reacts first, and words and analysis come after,” he said in his little Tokyo workshop.

“I know the expressive power of drawings and their risks, which is why I always did my utmost to handle them with precaution by always keeping in mind the impact that my story and my way of drawing may have on certain people.”