Photo/IllutrationTomoyuki Omote, a specialized researcher at KitaKyushu Manga Museum, explains works on display. (Satoshi Okumura)

KITA-KYUSHU--While Japanese manga, anime and other pop culture trends are touted as epitomizing “Cool Japan,” a museum here is showcasing foreign cartoons that it says are just as rich in content as Japanese comic books.

The KitaKyushu Manga Museum is hosting the special exhibition through Oct. 23.

Titled 2016 Kita-Kyushu International Manga Festival, the event is devoted to “gaiman” comics created overseas to offer visitors a chance to appreciate world views and drawings outside of a Japanese context.

The number of foreign comic books translated into Japanese has been increasing in recent years.

The Gaiman Award, which is co-hosted by the museum and other institutions, covers foreign comic books translated into Japanese and published during the past year. Sixty-five titles were in the running for the award in 2012, but it saw almost a threefold increase to 179 in 2016.

“With decreases in types and circulation of weekly comic book anthologies, readers’ minds have been changing to find and read interesting comic book volumes,” said Tomoyuki Omote, 47, a specialized researcher at the museum.

Featured at the special exhibition are replicas of manuscripts from about 20 titles and other displays to introduce the three genres of gaiman comics.

Asa Ekstrom’s “Sayonara September,” which won the No. 1 spot at the Gaiman Award last year, exemplifies manga techniques created by a non-Japanese author to produce a detailed panel layout and caricatured presentation of characters.

The main characters in “Sayonara September” are teen girls drawn in the familiar style of Japanese manga. There, the similarity ends. It features urban landscapes in Sweden, where the story is set, and the characters speak in a straightforward manner--for example, by flatly disagreeing with the opinions of others.

The South Korean equivalent of manga, “manhwa” comics and print cartoons, have been published mostly online in recent years and are referred to as “webtoons.”

The webtoon has developed in its own unique way because of its vertical scrolling layout, with panels vertically stacked and emblazoned with bright colors.

The last of the three genres is "bande dessinee" (literally, “belt-shaped drawings”) comics produced for French and Belgian readers.

Featured in this section is “Lastman,” whose Japanese edition was released in August. The story revolves around a boy who teams up with a vagabond to compete in a martial arts tournament. It sounds like a typical manga series running in Weekly Shonen Jump comic anthology for young boys, but the illustrations simply drawn in fine lines are distinctive.

“The use of lines and colors is different from Japanese manga artists. I feel uncomfortable with some of the works maybe because I’m not used to the style, but they are new to me,” said a 26-year-old man from Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, as he viewed the displays.

It is said that foreign comics clearly influenced by Japanese manga are still in the minority.

“I want readers to feel the diversity of the world of foreign comics, which are completely different from what we usually read,” Omote said. “I think they can also make manga artists aware of the new possibilities of comics.”

The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is 400 yen for adults and no extra charge for special exhibition.

Visit the official websites of the exhibition at ( and the Kita-Kyushu city government at (