15th Manga Division Critiques
A collection of works that invites reflection on humanity’s direction
The historical epics that had jockeyed for top position the last few years disappeared this time to reveal a new trend. Grand Prize-winner Saturn Apartments is science fiction, but its ultra-analog depiction of the texture of everyday life in a space colony and the warm bonds between the people there seem to show a solid, if futuristic, step forward for humankind. Together with Excellence Award-winner Anohi kara no Manga (Manga after 3.11), which directly confronts the recent earthquake and nuclear power plant accident, it also makes us think again about the nearly inseparable relationship between people and place. HIMITSU THE TOP SECRET also addresses the issue of people and memory, and in this sense those three works inspired a serious meditation on how we humans will live in the future.
Yet perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this year's awards was the inclusion among the finalists of so many foreign mangas in translation. Many tackled topics also addressed in Japanese manga -- aging in Arrugas / el Faro and gender in Fun Home -A Family Tragicomic--- but from a distinctly Western perspective rarely adopted by Japanese artists. There were many discoveries, and I hope publishers persevere in digging up excellent works from around the world. It is interesting that the newly inaugurated New Face Award went to three works with such distinct and individual styles: traditional stories of human nature set in Edo, the experimental approach of a dojinshi artist, and a surprisingly simple yet evocative work created for the web.
With regard to digital manga published in media other than paper, there still appears to be no flood of distinctive new works. People like city councilor and graphic designers who are not manga professional are putting up a good fight, however, which suggests a breadth of amateur talent.