[Série] The nekketsu: the most popular subgenre of manga

This Saturday, the 1000e episode of One Piece is shown in theaters *, the day after its release in Japan. The first volume of the legendary saga was first presented in 1997 by its author Eiichirō Oda. Today, the manga is one of the most popular in history. In France alone, a tome of One Piece – published by Glénat – is sold every 8 minutes.

The screening of this episode in the cinema is proof of the democratization of Japanese comics in our country. Last May, the animated Demon Slayer was shown on the big screen and garnered a total of 700,000 admissions, making it one of the top 10 Japanese animated films featuring another big name: Dragon Ball. One Piece, Demon Slayer, Dragon Ball, all three are categorized as belonging to the shonen (see box). This term defines the editorial target intended by the author, namely here, mainly young male adolescents, aged 8 to 18 years.

All these stories follow the same narrative process: nekketsu, literally “hot blood” in Japanese. The reader follows the initiatory journey of a protagonist, centered around the surpassing of himself of the hero who will brave all obstacles to achieve his goal or become the best in his field. In his quest, the main character – often male – forges friendships that will later become decisive.

Son Goku, Naruto,

Eren Jaeger

Son Goku, the hero of Dragon Ball, is the typical character of this sub-genre: in his career, from childhood to adulthood, he is brought to fight opponents, thanks to his allies in the resumption of the seven Dragon balls. In Naruto, the protagonist dedicates his life to becoming a hokage like Izuku Midoriya in My Hero Academia who seeks to outdo the greatest of superheroes. In the background, the heroes lived a tragic childhood: Tanjiro de Demon Slayer saw his family slaughtered by a demon and became a demon slayer to save his little sister
– transformed too – of this curse. Like him, Eren Jäger, from The attack of the Titans, witnessed the death of his mother, devoured by a titan, and joined the killer battalion in revenge.

Historically, nekketsu have their origins in the educational manga of the 1920s intended to give young Japanese people examples of courage and heroism through warlike and patriotic stories.

For the author Valérie Cools, these manga ” correspond to the advanced individualism of hypermodern beings by emphasizing the intimate quests of the characters “. According to her, the reader sees in these works, “ both a crystallization of one’s own identity instability and a way of countering it “, She explains in” The Nekketsu shonen mangas: a hypermodern literature “.

* Screened in participating CGR cinemas in our region: Martigues, Vitrolles, Draguignan and le Lavandou