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August: wide eyes in Faro
Japanese Manga hits the Algarve
“In Japan, they release new cartoon-strips every week for all age groups. The production rate is incredible. In the Japanese subway it’s perfectly normal to see people in suits and ties, with executive briefcases, reading these kinds of magazines. There is manga for adults – where heroes aren’t youngsters with superpowers saving the world from an endless round of evil monsters, but more refined characters with complex plots. Here in Portugal, we still have the idea that cartoons and comic-strip are for children. But in Japan they are for everyone”, explains Fábio Neves.
“Our idea is to create a special event that’s fun – a bit like what takes place regularly in Lisbon and Oporto”, adds Jennifer Guerreiro, a graduate in visual arts from the University of the Algarve.
“The trouble with the Algarve is that the people here are very separated from each other. They don’t get together over a common interest” and this is what these two young people passionate over Japanese culture feel when trying to organise trips to manga meetings and events. This is why they have organised the nucleus of “Algarve Geeks” – with the idea of attracting people passionate about all kinds of things. Their prime objective is to promote a spirit of sharing between “geeks” (the English slang for people a little out of the ordinary/ oddballs).
For the time being, it’s simply an informal collective keen to do things.
One of the first challenges was to find a space for the first “Manga & Comic event”. Initially, “Algarve Geeks” tried a state-funded entity – one that receives taxpayers’ money to (supposedly) support initiatives by young people. It is rising from the ashes of the former and for long-time moribund IPJ, and soon to be renamed “Instituto Português da Juventude e Desporto”. Those in charge of the Faro branch seemed interested in hosting the event - despite all the building work they have in progress.
“We were quoted €40 an hour, for use of the auditorium and entrance hall. And we were told we had to hire private security for the event. Then they said the price would double if we charged an entrance fee!”, Fábio Neves, currently finishing his Masters in Biological Engineering, tells. “To be viable, the event has to run over two days, and that would have been completely impossible with those kinds of costs”.
Justification for the charges were that “Algarve Geeks” is not a legally constituted association (something that implies expensive bureaucracy). Faro council used the same argument. “We sent them a letter, explaining our initiative”, saying that Faro was the best place in terms of mobility for whoever wanted to take part using public transport, and “they said they couldn’t help us, because we were not an association…”
“There’s a whole Portuguese community interested in manga, anime and Japanese culture. It’s difficult to quantify, but there are a lot of people involved,” Neves guarantees, lamenting the disinterest of the Faro council.
But despite the set-backs, the duo didn’t give up. And now the Associação Faro 1540 has agreed to take them in, “in good faith”, in exchange only for a small amount of “free” maintenance work, organised thanks to the help of volunteers.
In a bid to promote the event, the youngsters have gone all out – spending their own money – visiting schools from east to west of the region. Reactions have varied from enthusiastic interest to outright disdain. There was one school that didn’t even want to talk to them…
Even though the Algarve doesn’t offer these kinds of events on a regular basis, there’s a lot of interest in workshops that fit into this kind of programme – designed to be as wide-ranging and eclectic as possible and including different types of comic-strip, like Franco-Belgic/ American and Portuguese illustration.
Up until now, the most requested variation is “Cosplay” – a shortening for “costume play”.
It involves the creation of wardrobes for characters in video games, comics, animation and films – encouraging the greatest realism possible. It sounds simple but involves a variety of technical crafts, from sewing to make-up.
In Portugal there are also “people who take months to make costumes and take part in international competitions”, says Jennifer. During the event, there’ll be a small parade of Algarve enthusiasts.
The workshops on offer are all covered by the entrance fee (€2 for one day/ €3 for two days), and are limited to 10/ 12 participants. “We’ll have to select people according to experience”. Jennifer highlights the sushi workshop, life drawing and the presence of Algarvian illustrator Tiago da Silva – “a well-known name abroad”. There will also be a show of various authors, the presence of amateur drawers, stalls selling comic-strips and retro videogames, and even a mini film festival.
The Japanese “anime” phenomenon comes from the 20th century, and was influenced by films that originated in France, Germany and the United States. The boom came in the 70s and 80s with a huge increase in production and recognition – which Japan sought throughout the world, getting many countries to buy the rights to show “anime” on their television networks.
In manga, certain characteristics come to the fore. “For example, drawing the hand as if it was a flower. In all the poses, the hands stay in the same position. Other characteristics are the large eyes and very expressive faces. In general, Japanese people are very reserved with their emotions, so manga is a way of balancing this a little”, she concludes.
Jennifer Guerreiro sees herself as a photographer, model, seamstress, designer and artist. She has family in France, the country that discovered manga. The choice there is greater, with more accessible prices. There’s even a secondhand market in manga.
For those who don’t know, you read manga from back to front. In other words, the last page in a manga strip magazine, is the front page. There are authors that demand this rule is maintained when published outside Japan – but the greatest difficulty is getting translated editions. And themes? Neves prefers the “robot universe”, while Jennifer goes for “horror and mystery”.What about you?
The Algarve Geek programme is being constantly updated on http://algarvegeek.pt.vu/