24th Manga Division Critiques

Manga Proved to Be Ever-Enthralling Even in Hard Times

Amid this unexpected pandemic, we received a total number of 792 submissions for evaluation in the Manga Division. After intense discussion, we decided to award the highly individualistic and charming works that follow. March comes in like a lion is already both popular and acclaimed, and it was the jury's consensus that it merited the Grand Prize for its overwhelming ability to move readers of all ages. The Excellence Awards went to Innocent Rouge for its outstanding artistry and unique literary style in depicting the French Revolution, Hei no naka no biyoshitsu (The Depth of the Sky) for evoking a refreshing emotionality with its sincere style, Kashikokute yukiaru kodomo (A Wise and Brave Child) for showing the struggles of childbirth and the hopes lying ahead, and HITORIDESHINITAI (I Want to Die Alone), which comically depicts the very grave theme of solitary death. For the New Face Awards, we selected Swingin' Dragon Tiger Boogie for conveying from the screen to our hearts the vibrancy of music, SORATOBU KUJIRA(A Flying Whale): SUZUKI, Suzuhiro Works for its meaningful drama of everyday life, and My broken Mariko for its profoundly powerful ability to pull in readers. The Social Impact Award went to GOLDEN KAMUY for employing engaging illustration to portray Ainu culture to a wide audience. As evident in the variety and excellence of the awardees, manga are increasingly fascinating, a lively form of entertainment, and a fount of inspiration even in hard times. This is something I'm deeply proud of and heartened by. While the total number of submissions increased by more than 100 entries since last year, I am slightly troubled that the number of "Self-published comics" continued its downward trend from 56 to 37. That popular commercial works and indie publications undergo the same evaluation criteria is one of the terrific things about these awards. Although my time on the jury draws to a close with this year's festival, I hope future entrants catch the jury members and readers off guard with submissions in genres all across the board. Among the Jury Selections, Journal with witch's delicate examination of coexistence and IMURI as an end to a long-running epic left particularly strong impressions.

Manga Essayist
Born in 1968 in Hiroshima Prefecture and raised in Fukuoka Prefecture. KAWAHARA worked as a preschool teacher, in the PR department of anime studio Gainax, and at other jobs before turning freelance. Now, she writes essays and provides commentary about manga. She wrote Jinsei no taisetsu na koto ha omune, manga ga oshiete kureta (Everything I Know, I Learned from Manga) [NTT Publishing, 2009]. Her major columns include Ren'ai no otehon ha, itsumo shojo manga (Girls' Manga Was My Model for Love) for the women's website SmartWoman (currently Nikkei WOMAN [Nikkei Inc.]) in 2005, and the manga commentary columns Kore yomazu ni nani wo yomu? (Well, What Should I Read, Then?) [2007-2014] and Manga koso dokusho da! (Manga Is Reading!) [2015-2019] for the web magazine Webnttpub. [NTT Publishing]. KAWAHARA has contributed essays to publications such as Sotokushu MIHARA Jun (Full Review of Jun MIHARA) [Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2015]. She was a contributing editor and writer for the book entitled IKEDA Riyoko no sekai (The Wonderful World of Riyoko IKEDA) [Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2012]. She was a symposium panelist at the 10th Conference of the Japan Society for Studies in Cartoons and Comics in 2010, and has served as a guest lecturer at Tokyo Polytechnic University and Tokyo University of the Arts.