20th Manga Division Critiques
The Kind of Manga the Times Demand
Lately I find myself saying, "I never expected to live in a time like this." I thought that war and prejudice and poverty and disease would be things of the past by now, and that I'd be living aboard a space station. Because that was the kind of manga I read.When I took manga like that to school to show my classmates, my teacher would confiscate them. Yet now the Agency of Cultural Affairs has asked me to judge a manga competition with all these remarkable submissions. This also says something about the times.In any era we have hurdles to overcome, and we may have personal hurdles that come with lifestyle choices as well. People assume life must be heaven if you're doing something you love, but there can be hell in loving something as well. This is true whether you have talent or not, and whether you succeed or fail. I suppose it comes down to people doing what they love because they can't not do it. In BLUE GIANT the young saxophonist trains like the star of a sports-hero story, and in Harmful City the manga artist goes on producing in spite of censorship. Both regulations and values are constantly changing. Yet, even knowing that the sands may shift, people persist in doing what they love.In Incomplete Life, a Go player who expected to advance into the professional world misses the cut, and he's forced to take an internship in a company with no connection to his academic background or experience or interests. But this doesn't mean he's doomed to unhappiness. His life up to that point isn't a waste. In fact, completely unrelated experiences come into play for him and make things interesting. And then there's Yamaguchi Roppeita, General Affairs Department, General Affairs Section, the epic, 30-year tale of a salaryman's career. Though I was saddened by Roppeita's premature retirement [Translator's note: the manga artist died in 2016], it was wonderful to see him in top form right down to the very end.The times may seem to be thrust upon us, but they are also the product of the choices we make. Will we see manga artists being pressured to glorify the nation like the poets in Can't be Howlin' at The Moon? Whether to welcome such a development or protest it, deciding what to do will take courage for both creator and reader. The greatest appeal of manga is that anything goes, and I hope it stays that way. I also don't intend to give up on my dream of one day living aboard a space station.