Straddling the reality of life in Europe and Asia – Jürgen Seebeck

Jürgen Seebeck has played a significant role in the success of the Japanese comic in Germany. After taking Japanese Studies in Hamburg and Tokyo, he began to translate manga into German, including the very first manga series, such as the successful Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Dragonball and Astroboy. Gradually Seebeck, in addition to his extensive knowledge of Japanese language and culture, gained an enormous stock of knowledge about the typical narrative form of the manga comic.

It was just a question of time until, inspired by the Japanese comics, he began to draw. But there’s a saying that goes ‘a prophet is without honour in his own country’, and indeed Seebeck was for a long time more popular in Japan than he was in Germany. He published his first manga Ha, Hamburg (1992), still in traditional black and white, in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Morning. Der fliegende Hamburger, his first comic published in Germany, appeared in 1996 in the comic magazine Schwermetall.

However, his most successful work to date is the two-volume short-story manga Bloody Circus, which was initially published by the Japanese publishing giant Kodansha as an online comic and was published in Germany in 2000. Bloody Circus is an unusual manga, and not only because it’s in colour – the Japanese comics are published almost exclusively in black and white. Seebeck straddles the reality of life in Europe and Asia and manages in his work to free both cultures from their contexts and then link them elegantly together. In his short stories, ghosts and mythological figures from both worlds appear, alongside literary themes and quotes from pop culture, which are all transferred into fantastic and futuristic spheres. Readers are equally fascinated and disturbed, as they are confronted with both familiar and strange patterns, drawings and scenarios and exposed to a kaleidoscope of cultures. In Bloody Circus, Seebeck succeeds in more than just straddling the two cultures, as his symbiotic way of working and including references makes readers curious about the unfamiliar and strange aspects of the other culture.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
March 2005