16th Manga Division Critiques
The Fascination of Manga – Generated Time and Space
This is my first year as a Manga Division juror. As someone who has never given or received a prize in his life, I hesitated to accept the appointment, but hearing that I would be the first editor to serve on the jury, I vowed to give it my best shot. The final screening was the scene of fierce and lengthy debates over the best of the works selected in the first screening. I found this a bit unnerving, but was also impressed by the organic dynamism of this process by which various unrelated individuals pass judgment on the works of artists.
The award-winning Mashiro no Oto is a story of emerging talent (as is, in part, Muchacho). Many manga of this genre follow the template set by spo-kon, the "sports-spirit" manga epitomized by KAJIWARA Ikki and KAWASAKI Noboru's Star of the Giants, in which a hidden talent is born, revealed, and challenged by rivals, struggles and setbacks. The present work follows this format, but in a very sophisticated way (the "Shamisen Koshien" tournament being a good example).
Four works -- Muchacho, Gaku, Minna no Yama, GUNSLINGER GIRL, and Koori no Te, Siberia Yokuryuu-ki -- are tales of life on the edge, but their variegated approaches to handling time and space are cause for surprise. Sennen Mannen Ringo no Ko depicts the wonderment and preciousness of a limited space, and Bokura no FUNKA-sai those of a limited time (the period until high-school graduation). While working within the manga-magazine framework and its insistence on pushing characters (their actions and appeal) to the forefront, these works present an enchanting space-time continuum with their intense yet free approach to both story and frame layout.
An enchanting space-time is also a major virtue of the internationally-renowned Les Cités Obscures, the first entry that received a prize by unanimous consensus of the jury. The journey of the series itself has a romantic appeal: an epic that has spent years constructing imaginary cities and countries is finally translated into Japanese and compiled into a hardcover volume with its own special aura. Though my priority was to evaluate the content of the works, I also thought, that it would be nice if the 40-odd winners (including the Jury Selections) proved to represent the full breadth of manga in Japan today. I believe this has turned out to be the case.