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Thessaloniki producing a homegrown brand of manga

By Iota Myrtsioti

A group of writers (genshaku-sha), and cartoonists (mangaka) in the northern port city of Thessaloniki are making a splash with manga fans by producing their own online series, which has already drawn 700,000 views from around the world.

Although homegrown manga is not a new concept in Greece, the Thessaloniki initiative seems to resonate with a broader audience and has gained popularity among French, British, Egyptian, American, Swedish and Japanese readers.

Thessaloniki has been nominated as the European Youth Capital for 2014 and is hoping to promote its youth-oriented cultural, social, political and economic life. In this context, 5,000 free copies of a new manga, Thessaloniki through Time, have been published in both English and Greek.

The comic tells the story of four Japanese children in Thessaloniki where they embark on a journey which takes in both its history and modern culture. The main characters are RuN (Remember ur Nature) and Mythos (Myth).

There are about 30,000 manga and anime artists around the world and their work focuses mainly on uniting Western and Japanese culture through Japanese stories originating in the 19th century. The Thessaloniki group includes writers Voutsidis Rafail and Kariofillis-Christos Hatzopoulos, cartoonist Manos Lagouvardos and 3D artist Nikitas Efimidis.

Their initiative was launched four years ago and to date they have published several stories in English on the website www.mangatellers.gr, one comic book of 45 pages and eight 25-page issues of the RuN series. They have also made a video about parkour, or freerunning. Their work has been translated into French, German and Russian, while they have also forged ties with the Japanese Embassy in Athens and the Future Library, which has created an online network of Greek public libraries. They have participated in festivals and competitions too. The four artists grew up reading comic books about Western superheroes in the 1980s and 90s. As they got older, they became hooked on Japanese comic books.

The Japanese heroes are ordinary people who have to fight to overcome obstacles. They show us that we dont need superheroes to save humanity but everyday heroes who give us faith and hope, says manga-teller Hatzopoulos.

Hatzopoulos explains that manga generates 6 million yen in Japan and more than 450 million dollars worldwide annually. He also tells us how the genre is divided into shonen manga, directed at males aged 10-18, shoujo manga, for girls and boys of 10 years old or older, and seinen manga, for readers of 15 and above.

They have millions of readers, especially online. In Greece manga started to gain popularity in last decade.

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