25th Manga Division Critiques

Manga Reflecting the Times

My first thought when I saw the entries was that this
year’s judging was going to be tough. It was like when
all the 100m-sprint runners cross the finish line within
0.1 second. All entries were of such high quality that
it made the selection extremely hard. With a coffee
mug on my desk, I started reading through the entries
in order.
After reading for a while, I wondered, “Are there
more analog works this year? No, this one appears to
be analog but it’s actually digital, isn’t it?” Distinguishing analog and digital works had been easy until last
year, but this year, it was hard to tell the difference. Why
is that? I halted reading to solve this mystery. By comparing several works, I figured it out. Most of the digital
works were processed to resemble an analog style.
Do readers of Japanese manga prefer analog, handdrawn looking pictures? I continued thinking about
that in the midst of the judging process. In Japan, a
great number of manga has been placed on the market over a long period of time, through rental manga at
first, then serial publication in monthly magazines and
in weekly magazines. These manga manuscripts were
hand-drawn, before the prevalence of digital devices
for facilitating drawing. Therefore, long-time readers of
hand-drawn manga might feel more comfortable reading hand-drawn ones. Manga artists might have thought
the same and employed the analog style, in order to
convey their messages in a more readable manner.
When looking at the entries again, it seemed to me
that there were more analog-style manga, with less of a
digital look, than there used to be. As I resumed reading, I began to think that this may be associated with
the storylines. The number of fantasy or otherworldly
stories was clearly smaller than before, and manga
stories taking place in a real or realistic world were
dominant. Analog and digital, and the real world and
another world—there might be some kind of relationship
between them.
Different drawing techniques might be
suitable for portraying different worlds, such as analog
drawing for the real world and digital drawing for another world. Soft lines of analog drawing surely enhance
a realistic feel, while digital processing adds unrealistic effects. Analog and digital techniques are perhaps
effective in guiding readers into different worlds. One
possibility from the viewpoint of a manga artist is that
manga artists are often artistically inclined, so they tend
to challenge themselves to draw analog-looking pictures by using digital tools. Anyway, manga artists are
doing their best to usher readers into their world.
Meanwhile, there are changes in manga storylines
as well. The story structure itself remains mostly the
same, but it seems to me that characters are becoming genderless. They are not male or female, or even
human, but just one character acting in a magazine or
on screen. This may be another reason for readers to
feel comfortable reading. I think the social situation may
have contributed to this.
Thus, the entries this year became different from
those in the previous years, not majorly but surely.
Manga artists are going through changes and new artists are emerging rapidly. In addition to printed media,
manga works are published online, and some are only
digitally distributed. Manga will continue to evolve by
repeatedly going through various changes. The world is
also changing. No one knows how manga will change
while responding to the times ahead of us. Nevertheless, I hope we will see many works that will contribute
to a better future and a brighter world.

KURATA Yoshimi
Manga Artist and Professor, Otemae University
Born in Akita City, 1954. KURATA studied under CHIBA Tetsuya after graduating from high school. After working as an assistant for five and a half years, he struck out on his own. He won the 4th Shogakukan New Face Comic Award and made his debut with the prize-winning Moeizuru (Start Sprouting...). KURATA won the 44th Shogakukan Manga Award in 1999 for Aji ichi monme (A Pinch of Seasoning), which he'd begun drawing in 1984. His Aji ichi monme series is currently ongoing. KURATA began teaching at Otemae University in 2009. He presently holds workshops in Japan and throughout the world, including China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Paris, Seattle, Mongolia, and Ukraine. He is a member of Manga Japan, and a director of the Japan Cartoonists Association. He has served as a judge for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan International Manga Award, the Japan Cartoonists Association Manga Award, the Golden Dragon Award in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian New Face Comic Award, and more.