16th Manga Division Critiques
Awards for the First Two Decades of 21st-Century Manga
Two works that won the Excellence Award -- AIDA Yu's GUNSLINGER GIRL and ISHIZUKA Shinichi's Peaks, Everyone's Mountains -- made their debut in the first decade of the 2000s and took about ten years to complete. I was very happy about these choices because I thought they reflected a proper appreciation of two works that represent the best of Japanese manga of that decade in the way they inherited the mantle of postwar story manga while at the same time critiquing the genre.
The awarding of prizes to two works from overseas will no doubt attract notice. In particular, the Grand Prize for Benoît PEETERS and François SCHUITEN's Les Cités Obscures, a work that has already enjoyed worldwide acclaim, may well provoke reactions like "Why now?" On the other hand, we should not forget that until recently, there was a strong tendency to treat "manga" as a peculiarly Japanese phenomenon, and the Franco-Belgian bande dessinée as something different from the domestic product. That bias, however, has rapidly waned of late, indicative perhaps of a change in how the Japanese market and readers themselves define manga. The award selections this time clearly reflect this trend.
With regard to domestic manga, meanwhile, the jury tried very hard to avoid any bias toward specific formats. This should be clear from the lineup of the Jury Selections, which may be seen as a response to the diversification of manga publishing formats. But I would also like to point out that the jurors shared a determination not to overlook such genres as educational manga and gag manga, which tended to get short shrift in the past.
Another factor was the ongoing shift in format from magazines to electronic media. It is worth noting that one of the Jury Selections, YAMAUCHI Yasunobu's Daily Lives of High School Boys, was submitted in the category of "web-published manga that can be read on computers or mobile devices." Having gone on to sell 100,000 copies and spin off an animated TV series, this work is a successful example of the model by which a serial manga is posted for free viewing on the web, then monetized through compilation into printed books. It certainly epitomizes a business model for Japanese manga in the digital era.