24th Manga Division Critiques
A Delightful Range, from Vigor to Serenity, Maturity to Freshness
The disastrous effects of the novel coronavirus are multi-faceted in the arts and entertainment industries, but the worst effect may simply be the disruption of inperson communication. The damage is comparatively lighter in the world of manga than in music and theater, partly due to the increasing digitization of both production and distribution. But dojinshi comic markets (that is, the market for self-published comics) is another story. Most of these events, especially the larger ones held in Tokyo Metropolis, have faced cancellations and, even when conducted, have had to severely limit the number of participants, which has forced them to take meager returns and drastic reductions to their income. Japan's richly diverse manga are underpinned by the dojinshi comic market, which means this is a crisis for all manga. Our choice to give SAKATA Fumihiko a Special Achievement Award is in recognition of contributions to the launch of the Niigata-based Gataket comic market and nearly 40 years of its operation, but it is also a subtle rallying cry to the growing role of smalland medium-size markets across Japan. Perhaps as a reflection of the difficulties dojinshiare facing, there were fewer submissions this year from that and other indie markets than there were last year. Among those submissions, The waterside left a significant impression on me, although it didn't garner an award. With an inkbrush that left rough lines in pages reminiscent of a woodblock painting, the artist captures a moment of wonder in a nostalgic landscape that blends the line between this world and the next. Its featuring of the Saga dialect is also memorable. I will say the representation of, shall we say, yokozuna-class premier works already wreathed in acclaim was strong as a general trend this year. It's not worth repeating that these works are exceedingly interesting, but as a member of the jury, I felt my ability to interpret, compare, and award their appeal being tested. March comes in like a lion and GOLDEN KAMUY were otherwise peerless and impossible to rank, but in the end we decided the Grand Prize would go to the former for its uncompromising completeness as a whole and the Social Impact Award to the latter for its influence on our society. Both are masterpieces destined for the annals of history, to be read for a long time to come. The Excellence Award-winning Innocent Rouge is a provocative work that sublimates the inexcusable ugliness of humankind into paradoxically beautiful illustrations and composition. This is a must-read in today's intolerant world. The ability to deliver timely social messages in the form of an entertaining read is surely one of manga's strengths, one shared in other works. The tragedy and joys of living as a woman and dying alone amid increasingly diversifying ways of life are depicted in HITORIDESHINITAI (I Want to Die Alone). In response to the attack on Malala, a young girl in Pakistan, Kashikokute yukiaru kodomo (A Wise and Brave Child) wonders whether the world we live in is worthy of new life. In contrast to these active stories, Hei no naka no biyoshitsu (The Depth of the Sky) quiets the reader's mind. Based on the popular novel, the manga employs superior illustrations to allow for enjoyment of the strange atmosphere of such a closed-in space as a beauty salon operated by incarcerated people, inviting us to widely examine the human heart and the state of our society. The New Face Award often goes to submissions exhibiting the artist's sheer ability to pull readers into the work, but it is awarded more so in anticipation of the artist's future growth and involvement in the field rather than the comprehensiveness of the submissions as it stands. The illustrated motions of the characters in Swingin' Dragon Tiger Boogie embody swing itself. My broken Mariko is an all-out mad dash that overpowers readers and yanks them into wild situations and violent emotional turmoil. In SORATOBU KUJIRA (A Flying Whale): SUZUKI, Suzuhiro Works, insignificant catalysts spin entire stories, swathing readers with quiet humor and leaving the cockles of their hearts pleasantly warmed. My hopes are high for the future. Lastly, I'll speak on not the works themselves but the challenges facing these awards. No prize was awarded in the U-18 Award category, as there were few eligible submissions this year, a shame following last year. There is no doubt artists have emerged at a young age in the manga industry, and we are made keenly aware of our own inadequacy in soliciting eligible works. And now, with the inability to hold exhibitions and events on the usual scale, we must exercise greater creativity to spread these award-winning works across the world. This, I too must acknowledge and reflect on.