When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, French comic book writer Jean David Morvan felt a big tremor in the fashionable Kichijoji district of Musashino in Tokyo.
Watching the tsunami on a television there, he thought, “Is this really happening?”
Before dawn two days later, Morvan, 42, sat in front of his personal computer in his house in Mitaka, also in Tokyo, and called on people throughout the world in his blog, “Let’s draw illustrations for Japan.”
Professional and amateur illustrators and comic book artists responded to his request. About 2,700 illustrations were sent to him in three weeks. One of them drew young buds sprouting from the ground. Another showed cherry blossoms blooming in the debris. Each illustration was encouraging Japan in its own way.
Morvan compiled some of the artwork for a book and published it in France last autumn. The total print run of 4,000 copies sold out quickly and proceeds from the sale are expected to be donated to areas affected by the March 11 disaster. Revenues of about 3.5 million yen ($43,750) from the auction of the original drawings have already been donated to them.
Morvan spent his childhood years in Reims in northern France. When he was 9 years old, he was attracted by Japanese anime, such as “Candy Candy” and “Grendizer,” which were aired on television.
He bought manga, which were rare in France at the time, and became engrossed in reading them. After studying at an art school, he obtained success as a writer of "bandes dessinees," highly artistic Franco-Belgian comics.
When he was an art school student, he came to Japan for the first time. Now, he spends about six months of each year in Japan. He has more knowledge of the subway lines in Tokyo than those in Paris. He also favors “okaka-gohan,” or rice covered with dried bonito flakes.
“I also like Japanese people and their lifestyle. I can spend my life here in a relaxed, natural manner,” he said.
The Japanese version of the illustration book, "Magnitude Zero," was published on March 7.
“Through the book, I want to convey to the Japanese people that the world is taking note of you,” Morvan said.
He also hopes to see the affected areas and show the memories of the disaster to the world through comics.
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