16th Manga Division Critiques
Japanese Submissions: Somewhat Disappointing
There was a dearth of outstanding manga from Japan in this year's screenings, making selection a difficult task. One reason may be that many manga publishers try to conserve their artists' best work and avoid participation in such competitions. On the other hand, entries from Europe, America, and other parts of the world continue to grow, as do submissions of web-based manga. I am all for seeing more unorthodox or daringly ambitious manga; besides, even if the number of Japanese entries declines, the stated purview of our manga awards is "manga from around the world," and that in itself makes these awards significant. Even with differences in the conditions for manga in every country -- the evolution of the genre, the fertility of the environment, and so on -- we should be able to compare them on the level of their inherent meaning.
From that perspective it is fitting that we pay our respects to a masterpiece from overseas by awarding this year's Grand Prize to Benoît PEETERS and François SCHUITEN's Les Cités Obscures, a bande dessinée that was translated into Japanese. Indeed, we could hardly not give this great work a prize.In the process of selecting the Excellence Award recipients, jurors inevitably nominated different candidates, which we then sought to justify through detailed arguments, leading to repeated votes before we reached a final consensus. The difficulty lay not with the choices, but the competing wills of the jurors. It was the same with the New Face Awards, but in any event we were able to talk things out until everyone was satisfied with each choice. The resulting selection is, I think, a well-rounded one. A work that stands out for me is Emmanuel LEPAGE's Muchacho, with a handling of picture frames and a velocity that may herald a new style for BDs. SINZO Keigo's Bokura no FUNKA-sai (Our "Eruption" Festival) offered a back-to-manga-basics kind of pleasure, while RAGAWA Marimo's Mashi ro no Oto (Sound of Snow White) evinced a spiritual approach to the depth and power of sounds as only a manga devoid of actual sound can do. Finally, the charming viewpoint of AIDA Yu's GUNSLINGER GIRL was an example of what makes Japanese manga at once powerful and risky: the appeal of the ambiguous.