22nd Manga Division Critiques
Remembering Your Roots No Matter How Far YouGo
So as not to repeat the same thing every year, I'll keep my point short: manga is becoming increasingly global, diversified, and digitized, and its expansion seems to know no bounds.Let me share two stories. One is about Mr. Y, the managing director of Shochiku Kabuki. I met him be- cause a kabuki-version of my manga is being performed this June. I learned that the popular manga NARUTO will also be performed as a kabuki play in June at Minami-za in Kyoto. Perplexed, I asked, "You mean manga-based kabuki will be done at both Kabuki-za and Minami-za? I can't believe it!" To which Mr. Y responded, "Oh no, it's not unusual anymore. These days, many forms of art expressions like kabuki, films, TV dramas, plays, or literature are sourced from manga. We can't live without manga today." When I was an aspiring manga artist only 50 or so years ago, manga was at the very bottom of the hierarchy of art expressions -- ignored or made fun of. I saw those days. Has any genre ever grown this dramati- cally in so short a time? It feels almost frightening.The other story was from manga artist Mr. N. Al- though he had once been a popular artist who ran series in a certain weekly magazine for boys, he be- gan to question the excessive requests for changes in the rough drafts and the competitive commercialism. He thought, "Where has the fun and joy of creating manga gone? Manga's purpose should not be for ma- jor publishers to make money." He quit making manga for commercial magazines and has been creating self- published manga ever since. His perspective made a lot of sense to me. No matter how much the genre of manga grows, each piece has to start with the simple creative drive that Mr. N speaks of. I want to believe it is this drive that gave us the phenomenal "garden of the manga world" we see today.The Japan Media Arts Festival's Manga Division is extremely appealing in that it accepts submissions of works not only in commercial magazines, but also in self-published magazines. To dusk by SAITO Nazuna which won an Excellence Award, and a New Face Award-winner KIIROI ENBAN (Yellow Disk) by KIJIMA Tenshin are the polar opposite of mainstream. The Grand Prize winner ORIGIN by Boichi, a solid near- future robot sci-fi genre piece created with excellent drawing skills, was an easy choice for the top prize, supported by almost every jury member. I personally view it as "Astro Boy of the new age." Excellence Award winner Spacebattleship Tiramisu is another sci-fi piece with superior drawing skills. Despite its "utterly bone- head uncontrived humor," it scored high, surprising the jury member who nominated the work. MOMO & MANJI is in a way the most controversial piece, and it is time that this type of work is recognized and valued. Nagi's Long Vacation by KONARI Misato is a brilliant piece that shows deep understanding of the young protagonist Nagi's loneliness and pain due to her inability to stop being "excessively sensitive to subtleties in the air" when it comes to relationships. I look forward to seeing how Nagi grows. Another New Face Award winner is meta- morphose no engawa by TSURUTANI Kaori. "Manga that's read cross-generationally" helps prevent today's major issue of "disconnect between generations." Here, again, the power of manga. For The Invisible Difference by MADEMOISELLE Caroline, I am grateful that it famil- iarizes us with Asperger syndrome's extremely subtle conditions. Of the jury selected works, WAKADANNA by SHIOKAWA Toko, FRAGILE The view of Keiichiro Kishi, a pathologist by MEGUMI Saburo, The Second Goldfish by panpanya, HIIRO NO BUNRAKU by KITA Komao, and awoniyoshi soremoyoshi by ISHIKAWA Rose also left a lasting impression on me.