17th Manga Division Critiques
The Range of Manga Beyond the Borders of Genre and Expression
This is my first year as a juror, so I read as much as I could before the commencement of submissions. WhatI felt during the process was that a "long tail" phenomenon (The term is used to describe a method in internet business marketing, whereby selling many kinds of items in small quantities increases the bottom line.) in the manga industry has accelerated. These days there are simply too many manga for people to discover the interesting works, and only a few "megahits" are recognized by the public, despite there being many more works which deserve attention. This is why events like the Japan Media Arts Festival play a key role as a guide to the manga which people should be reading.I conducted my first screening with such an attitude. The Grand Prize-winning Work, JOJOLION, is already a well-established megahit and although it's true I was thinking "Why now?", I wanted to nominate a workwhich has a world-class level of excellence. This is why I agreed with it being awarded the prize. I find it very impressive that it is not only the most outstanding work among the candidates, but also continues evolving in terms of representation despite having run for 20 years. I cannot but admire that point.We reached an almost unanimous decision on the Grand Prize, but as for the Excellence Award, we took more time to make a decision, as selections varied between jury members. CHIISAKOBEE is a clever recast of YAMAMOTO Shugoro's novel and depicts humanity in an old part of town. The characters don't change their facial expressions and they hardly move. It's a unique work in that it taxes readers' patience, but at the same time makes them feel good. Its slow and simple depictions centering on dialogue remind me of OZU Yasujiro's films. SHOUWA GENROKU RAKUGO SHINJU is a story about a young man who was released from jail and aspires to be a rakugo storyteller. It dramatically features the relationship between him, the master and others, thereby holding readers' attention throughout all its volumes.Hikidashi ni Terrarium (TERRARIUM IN DRAWER) is a collection of very short stories, an uncommon form nowadays, and is filled with experimental ideas such as presenting different styles of illustration in each episode. At the same time it tests readers' "manga literacy", but there is no doubt that it be categorized in manga.Soredemo Machi wa Mawat teiru (The Town Keeps Moving) is entertaining at a universal level and I think it should be more acknowledged by the general public. While it's a comical manga, it also has a short novel-like flavor and a number of different dimensions, which reflects the author's diverse sense of creativity.For the New Face Award, I nominated two works from the outset of screening: Natsuyasumi no Machi (A Town during Summer Vacation), which I had read before I became a juror, and another of MATIDA's works, Aoi Saida, which failed to receive an award. While I was reading the online comic, Natsuyasumi no Machi, I enjoyed discovering that one picture of a firework "spins" through an optical illusion resulting from the use of the vertical scroll bar, although this is probably unintentional on the part of the author. Le Goût du Chlore is a work through which you enjoy your "senses". I used to be a member of my school swimming club, so I can practically feel the transparent water and experience the sensation of floating expressed in the work. The illustrations even make you feel as if you can smell chlorine, stimulating the back of your nose. However, I think it leaves something to be desired. Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku) features a story which could develop into a tremendous battle, but the author depicts it more as a lightweight novel for teenagers. Although it's a fascinating story, it is undeniable that it seems small-scaled. But maybe that makes it popular with young readers. There was a wide variety of works among the winners and Jury Selections this year, but contrary to our expectation not many Japanese submissions were focused on an electronic form. Works taking advantage of the unique features of electronic devices might have instead been submitted to the Animation or Entertainment Divisions. However, foreign submissions included some interactive works. As the environment surrounding manga has evolved to what it is today, we have to reconsider its definition and I think that's one of the important roles an open manga award like the Japan Media Arts Festival should play.