Unless you’ve had your head buried in one very deep sandbox, you’d have noticed that Japanese art, film, music and fashion has had a huge impact on the stylings of its Western brethren. With this in mind I occasionally yack with foreign musicians and creative types about the influence of Japan on their own art, and this month I placed the spotlight on French artist Kmye Chan, with whom I’ve been liaising about a potential book cover.
|Kmye Chan ‘Dancing Puppet’|
Her name itself was a giveaway: Kmye CHAN.
Chan in Japanese is an honorific suffix originally used for babies, but these days employed to refer to anyone with an endearing quality, be the individual a super-cute grandmother or a zany seal (look up ‘Tama-chan’ online for one example).
Kmye is an amazing painter, someone who has taken the obvious influence of manga and rendered it anew in a style also reminiscent to me of American comic book artist Steve Ditko.
|‘Rapunzel’ by Kmye Chan|
You can investigate more of her work online at www.kmye-chan.com.
Here’s what Kmye had to say about the legacy of Japan in terms of her art and life in general.
|Yukito Kishiro’s ‘Gunnm’|
Who are your favourite manga artists, and which stories did you most enjoy as a fan?
“My favourite would easily be Yukito Kishiro — reading Gunnm [Battle Angel Alita] was a turning point in my drawing life. Both the artwork and plot were something completely new and out of this world, so far as my fifteen-year-old self was concerned!
“I love Ai Yazawa (Paradise Kiss, Nana) for her bittersweet shōjo characters and quirky linework. Graphically, I am also always amazed by Kaori Yuki’s art… When I started drawing, her work was my ultimate reference since I collected her manga and art books! And last, but not least, in my teenage years I was a massive Rurouni Kenshin fan [by Nobuhiro Watsuki] — this series still occupies a sweet spot in my heart and I happily read it over and over again.”
So you obviously would you say you’re more influenced by shōjo (girls) than mecha (giant robot) manga. Are the two compatible?
“My artwork is undeniably more influenced by shōjo manga — you can see this in the flowing clothing and hair, the highly detailed, decorative style that is typical of shōjo has always been something I have been fascinated with. There is something inherently beautiful about it, where shōnen manga style [aimed at teenage boys] in general is more focused on reflecting action and movement.
“That being said, I have read and loved my share of mecha/kaiju manga: Neon Genesis Evangelion has been a staple in my manga collection. Of course, both are compatible — they are different but both equally enjoyable. I would actually love to see a mecha manga storyline drawn with a typical shōjo manga style. That would be an interesting twist!”
|‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’|
What do you think of recent homages to manga/anime like the movie Pacific Rim?
“I think they can be great when they are done tastefully by directors that truly enjoy the genre — ie. not in the ‘It’s popular, let’s turn it into a movie!’ Hollywood frenzy. Many film directors have grown up reading/watching manga and anime, so it’s only natural that they are influenced by them and wish to pay tribute. As a manga fan, the idea really appeals to me.
“However, these movies often leave me slightly frustrated, because they concentrate on the ‘mecha fighting’ part but have fairly inconsistent other scenarios — something that is usually not true in manga and anime.”
How do you feel manga influenced your own artwork?
“If you look at my steps as a beginner, the influence of manga on my drawings was absolutely obvious. I was drawing in manga style, period! Gradually, my work has evolved to include diverse influences, but my old love for manga is still quite visible in the way I draw bodies, faces, eyes, clothing, et cetera.”
|‘Incubation’ by Kmye Chan|
If you could create a painting of any particular manga character, which one would you choose?
“Probably Gally [Alita] from Gunnm [Battle Angel Alita]! Smart, badass, beautiful, and with an android body — what more can you ask?”
|‘Alita Battle Angel’|
Finally, how do you feel manga has most influenced Western art?
“Many artists of my generation have either read manga or watched anime at one point in their lives, and many will cite Japanese art and manga in their CV.
“As far as I can tell, manga has influenced Western art in all sorts of ways. I see its influence in the way people draw comics nowadays, especially in France — much more dynamic, using strong constrast in a more efficient way — and I see it in animation, in fine art, especially the lowbrow movement inspired by popular culture in general, which reclaims manga as a major influence. You see it in advertising… it’s everywhere!”
|‘Tensai Bakabon’ by Fujio Akatsuka|