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Japan Expo reopens its doors and diversifies, after two years of absence

Japan Expo reopens its doors and diversifies, after two years of absence

On the poster for the 2022 edition of Japan Expo, which takes place from Thursday July 14 to Sunday July 17 at the Villepinte Exhibition Center (Seine-Saint-Denis), a phoenix flies over the Eiffel Tower. A significant symbol for this gigantic gathering of Japanese pop culture lovers, after two editions canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“An economic and moral phoenix”underlines Thomas Sirdey, co-founder and boss of SEFA Event, at the helm of this event which had welcomed more than 250,000 visitors in 2019 and claims, according to Agence France-Presse, the place of third most visited show in France, behind those of agriculture and the automobile.

Read also Postponements, cancellations… The Japanese manga and animation industry turned upside down by the pandemic

“We owe our survival to loans guaranteed by the state, to public aid, to the moratorium on charges. It is new for us to run a company in debt, which has had no cash inflows for two years, we who had always been in surplus”he says.

On the moral side, it was necessary to manage the frustration, the distended links with a Japan with closed borders for health reasons, the reduction in the wage bill… All this without knowing if a 2022 edition could see the light of day, dependent on government restrictions.

“A mandatory step”

The machine was relaunched at full speed in January, while manga and Japanese animation are more popular than ever in France. “Many exhibitors and publishers who had purchased their stand for 2020 have agreed to maintain it; the manga industry being in full swing, we have also seen several new actors sign up and the historical ones have competed in their efforts to decorate and animate their stands. This vitality will be noted on the festival »rejoices Thomas Sirdey, who sees it as a sign of confidence.

Mangetsu, the manga label of Bragelonne editions which is blowing out its first candle, is one of them. It is therefore the first time that he will hold a show at Japan Expo: “A mandatory step when you do manga, we didn’t even ask ourselves the question of coming or not”assures Sullivan Rouaud, director of the Mangetsu collection. “It allows us to meet the readers we only know at the moment through social networks” and convince new ones.

Read also How 20-year-old Japan Expo became one of France’s biggest shows

For the occasion, the publisher has decided to ” to mark the hit “ by inviting one of its authors, Yuka Nagate, creator of Butterfly Beast. A visit that is all the more notable as not many Japanese mangakas have agreed to come this year. In terms of animation and music, the boss of Japan Expo qualifies by recalling that “big names like Junichi Hayama, Mamoru Yokota, Yuji Kaida or the Mappa studio, to name but a few”, will also be there.

Beyond Japan

All the same, this year, Japan Expo has decided to open up beyond Japanese culture by devoting part of its 140,000 square meters to other countries under the “Amazing” label. Some will see it as a way to take advantage of the emergence of K-pop, webtoon, but also Marvel or Star Wars franchises, which are very present at conventions and festivals. But Mr. Sirdey claims to have already tried, in the past, to make room for other pop cultures, in particular a Comic-Con space in 2013:

“Pop cultures are no longer compartmentalised, as they once were. With the pandemic, but also the practices of the younger generations, people willingly move from one work to another without necessarily attaching themselves to the country of creation. The idea is both to please a common audience and to encourage discovery. »

Another change: Japan Expo is now also sponsored. Piccoma, an online reading service for Japanese comics (a subsidiary of the South Korean Kakao) recently established in Europe, has put its logo on this new edition. Partnerships with brands, such as Celio, Rakuten or Fnac, have also been established. “Most of our income remains focused on ticketing”, completes Mr. Sirdey, however. A ticket office whose prices have not been increased, but which this time will be entirely online, without a cash desk at the entrance for “better regulate the flow of visitors and ensure that those who present themselves with a ticket can enter”.

It remains to be seen whether the public will respond. “Our pre-sales indicators are rather green; but we are waiting for Thursday, the opening, to decide », says Sirdey. The postponement to mid-July, when the event traditionally takes place on the first weekend of the same month, does not seem to have dulled the fervor of festival-goers. “There is a lot of excitement around the event and the desire to meet face-to-face, after so much time”notes for his part Mr. Rouaud.

The only shadow hovering over the phoenix, besides the heat, that heavily equipped cosplayers will have learned to bravely overcome for many years: the Covid-19 pandemic and its seventh wave, which continues to grow.

Read also: At Japan Expo, booksellers sell thousands of manga in four days

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