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Comic: robot-samurai “as a matter of course”

While the first volume of “Yojimbot” was rewarded in Angoulême this year with the Fauve prize for high school students, volume 2 released in February confirms all the good that we thought of the young and talented Sylvain Repos. Interview.

– How would you present “Yojimbot” (the final t is pronounced) in a few words?

« Yojimbot is my very first comic. I wanted to make the comic that I would have liked to read when I was a child or a teenager. It depicts a young boy abandoned in a post-apocalyptic world, who will be protected by robot-samurai, who have also been abandoned. They will nevertheless follow their initial programming, as well as the code of the samurai to protect this child in distress and preserve him from an evil militia who do not wish him well. »

– Is it a comic for children?

“Rather for older children, or “adultescents”, like me! I love to consume things that are not my age. What I loved as a child was robots. But in all the stories, they were secondary characters. I wanted the robots to be the main characters, to be at the center of the attention, of the narration. »

– The hero of the story is not the little boy then?

“Hiro serves me more as a common thread. As there are many characters, the child is the motor of the narration. It’s not always practical to have a child in your narration, but that justifies everything. It’s a very natural engine. »

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– Is it a child who looks like you?

“Yes, I definitely put a bit of myself into it. Hiro is proud and temperamental. There is also an autobiographical, metaphorical side to some of the themes covered, such as the disappearance of the father, the trust we place in people we don’t know… Like a somewhat fantasized personal story. My mother always tells me that I drew myself as a child! »

“Yojimbot” is the contraction of “Yojimbo”, bodyguard in Japanese (like Kurosawa’s film of the same name), and “robot”.

– Your publisher gave you carte blanche?

“I planned four volumes and Dargaud accepted that. They took a risk by trusting me and it did me a lot of good. The first volume sold well, the Fauve prize for high school students in Angoulême was also the icing on the cake. In addition, it’s an age group that suits me well, I was happy and touched. »

– How did you decide to get into comics?

“I’m 33 years old and I started my first sketches as a professional when I was 30. I had an atypical school career, I missed my schooling because I drew too much! I did a pro turner-miller baccalaureate, we worked on machine tools, we did industrial design. I still had to keep from this time a meticulousness, a coherence in the graphic. Then I did a college of plastic arts which allowed me to improve my style, and I worked in parallel as a supervisor in colleges and high schools. This meant that I was always in the midst of young people, I got along well with them, while doing my job. But I imagine that it further reinforced my regressive side as a teenager! After my master, I took advantage of unemployment to prepare files for several publishing houses, I gave everything on several projects. All my adolescence, I said to myself: “if I do comics, it will look like this or that”. So I was prepared. I presented an esoteric fable and Yojimbot, and both projects have been accepted by publishers. I decided to focus on Yojimbot. I really had this luxury of being able to choose my publishing house. »

– It’s quite rare to start your career right away with such a personal work.

“At 30, I really wanted my first comic to be mine, I didn’t want to share the poster. It worked well for me even if in the future I would also like to share the work, collaborate with someone. One of the disadvantages of working alone is the pressure we put on ourselves: all the problems we may have come only from us, and we are the only ones to solve them! »

– What did you want the most: to draw robots or samurai?

“Robots have always been obvious to me, before the samurai. In class, to practice, I drew complicated things, like skeletons. But since I didn’t want to pass for the gothic from the back of the class who draws skeletons, I started drawing robots, and over time, my technique asserted itself. When I tried to characterize them, to dress them, it was obvious to put them in samurai attire. With my editor, we had the same thought, the association of the two is very natural but no one had done it yet, probably because these are two complicated things to draw. It takes a lot of work, but I love to draw. »

– So the samurai came to you later?

“For my generation, the first contacts with the samurai, it is rather with Star Warsor cartoon samurai like Samuraï Jack de Genndy Tartakovsky, Samuraï Champloo or manga Afro Samuraï. These are my first graphic shocks, which left me with a very strong retinal imprint. »

– And from there an attraction for Japan which one finds in the decorations of “Yojimbot”?

“I went to Japan in 2019, it’s the best trip of my life, it was a slap! My comic strip was the pretext, the opportunity to go there. I found everything I hoped to find there and even more. I liked being one with nature. In Japan, we let nature take its place, a teeming and wild nature…”

– And after “Yojimbot”, do you have other projects?

“I already have other projects in mind. At some point, I will have to move on with my career. Here I am making good progress on the third volume, I have made 25 pages for the moment. »

“Yojimbot, act 2: Rusty Nights”, Dargaud, 160 pages, €16.50.

The summary

Stuck in an amusement park, on an island, the young Hiro owes his salvation only to a band of old samurai robots who have reactivated themselves to protect him. In this second volume, Hiro is still in a very unfortunate position as we learn more about the organization that is tracking him and a new robot emerges, upsetting the precarious balance established between the “yojimbots”. Sylvain Repos unfolds his story with enthusiasm and brio, gradually delivering the keys to his universe.

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