20th Manga Division Critiques
A Worthy Crop for the Festival’s 20th Year
I'm not sure whether to call it a comeback or a rewind, but I am beginning my second term as a jury member following a three-year hiatus, and right about when this catalog comes out, I will be entering my seventies. The first time around I did battle with towering stacks of paper manga crowding my desk, but this time I read the digitized collection of works on a screen. Feeling torn between my disorientation and the greater convenience, I found myself wondering, as I finished each work, just how long I'll be able to keep up with the times. Clearly, the techniques developed by earlier artists for composing in full-page (or two-page spread) units are losing their raison d'etre. Being able to simply scroll sideways or down seems so intuitive, but I fear it may foster a tendency to skim. At the same time, in an ironic twist, I see a historical resemblance to the picture scrolls of the Heian period (894-1185), and I find myself experiencing an odd back-to-the-future sensation.With the judging behind us, I think we can say it was a year of great bounty. A healthy crop of masterpieces, tours de force, lightning rods of controversy, and one-of-akind wonders made up the 634 submissions. I had a hard time eliminating any of them. The title that left the strongest impression on me was TAKEDA Kazuyoshi's PELELIU GUERNICA OF PARADISE, whose disarmingly light tempo and characterizations at the start put me off my guard, but ultimately left me marveling at how the artist could use such a drawing style to portray the terror of the battlefield and grapple seriously with the theme of war. The work carries a power that is reminiscent of, yet also distinct from, previous award winner Frozen Hands: Tales of a Siberian Prison Camp Survivor by OZAWA Yuki. By contrast, Harmful City by TSUTSUI Tetsuya matches its weighty theme with a heavy drawing style. Yet by no means a mere "antipropaganda propaganda piece," it masterfully reprises the philosophy of Heinrich Heine, who astutely observed that "those who burn books will end in burning people." There were also nerunodaisuki's Sudden Encounters, a prime example of how unconstrained manga can be; MATSUO Hiromi's Waltz of department store, which steeps readers in a flood of art-deco culture; YOSHIMOTO Koji's You're Not the Only Lonely One, in which the artist cleverly disguises himself; and too many other masterworks to mention, which altogether made for a very fine festival this year.