A Brazilian artist who came to Taiwan to study after falling in love with the nation’s movies and music has written a comic book depicting a love story between a soccer player and a betel nut sales girl.
The Betel Nut Beauty (檳榔美少女) is Lucas Paixao’s first serialized work and his first publication, he said.
Paixao first came to Taiwan in 2014 as an exchange student at Taipei National University of the Arts’ School of Fine Arts, he said.
Photo courtesy of Yuan-Liou Publishing via CNA
The series showcases his view of unique aspects of Taiwan’s culture, as well as his deep love for comics, critics have said.
Paixao, who was born in Salvador, Brazil, became a fan of Taiwanese all-girl pop group S.H.E when he was 12 years old, which motivated him to learn Mandarin and sparked his interest in Taiwanese culture, especially films and TV dramas.
After graduating from university in Brazil, Paixao worked as a graphic designer, but it left him feeling “empty,” he said.
At 24, he decided to move back to Taiwan, and applied to a graduate studies program at the Taipei National University of the Arts, but while studying in Taiwan, he was still unsure about his future, he said.
“It was at this time that I saw a poster advertising a comic book artists’ competition,” he said.
From a young age, Paixao enjoyed drawing comics, but never thought of his hobby as a career option until he saw that poster, he said.
His decision to focus on betel nut sales girls came after hearing the expression “betel nut beauty” in the 2007 film Help Me Eros (幫幫我愛神), he said.
“At first I thought this was an occupation that film producers had made up,” Paixao said, adding that he never imagined that he would encounter so many real “betel nut beauties” after coming to Taiwan.
He slowly came to understand all of the inherent contradictions and intricacies in the occupation, he said.
When he first began to work on the comic, many people questioned the subject matter, telling him that a soccer star would never fall in love with a betel nut sales girl, who works an occupation that they described as uncouth, he said.
The reservations only strengthened his resolve to continue the series, he said.
While preparing to work on the comic, Paixao attempted to interview betel nut sales girls at a shop near his home, but they refused to speak with him, he said.
Nevertheless, the experience proved valuable to his understanding of the industry, he added.
“That experience helped me realize the extent to which betel nut sales girls go to protect themselves, and also the mysterious nature of this industry,” Paixao said.
The first issue in the series in 2016 won an award in the potential category of the Comico competition.
He finished the series at the end of 2017.
Yuan-Liou Publishing on Thursday last week published the series as a collection, which includes improvements to the work, he said.
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