Award-winning Works
Manga Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


    Manga Artist and Manga Researcher
    A Worthy Crop for the Festival’s 20th Year
    I'm not sure whether to call it a comeback or a rewind, but I am beginning my second term as a jury member following a three-year hiatus, and right about when this catalog comes out, I will be entering my seventies. The first time around I did battle with towering stacks of paper manga crowding my desk, but this time I read the digitized collection of works on a screen. Feeling torn between my disorientation and the greater convenience, I found myself wondering, as I finished each work, just how long I'll be able to keep up with the times. Clearly, the techniques developed by earlier artists for composing in full-page (or two-page spread) units are losing their raison d'etre. Being able to simply scroll sideways or down seems so intuitive, but I fear it may foster a tendency to skim. At the same time, in an ironic twist, I see a historical resemblance to the picture scrolls of the Heian period (894-1185), and I find myself experiencing an odd back-to-the-future sensation.With the judging behind us, I think we can say it was a year of great bounty. A healthy crop of masterpieces, tours de force, lightning rods of controversy, and one-of-akind wonders made up the 634 submissions. I had a hard time eliminating any of them. The title that left the strongest impression on me was TAKEDA Kazuyoshi's PELELIU GUERNICA OF PARADISE, whose disarmingly light tempo and characterizations at the start put me off my guard, but ultimately left me marveling at how the artist could use such a drawing style to portray the terror of the battlefield and grapple seriously with the theme of war. The work carries a power that is reminiscent of, yet also distinct from, previous award winner Frozen Hands: Tales of a Siberian Prison Camp Survivor by OZAWA Yuki. By contrast, Harmful City by TSUTSUI Tetsuya matches its weighty theme with a heavy drawing style. Yet by no means a mere "antipropaganda propaganda piece," it masterfully reprises the philosophy of Heinrich Heine, who astutely observed that "those who burn books will end in burning people." There were also nerunodaisuki's Sudden Encounters, a prime example of how unconstrained manga can be; MATSUO Hiromi's Waltz of department store, which steeps readers in a flood of art-deco culture; YOSHIMOTO Koji's You're Not the Only Lonely One, in which the artist cleverly disguises himself; and too many other masterworks to mention, which altogether made for a very fine festival this year.
  • MATSUDA Hiroko
    Manga Artist
    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.
  • FURUNAGA Shinichi
    Scholar of Literature and Associate Professor, Tokyo Metropolitan University
    A Cozily Isolated Galaxy of Vying Talents
    This year I once again encountered a great many excellent works. Compared with last year, overseas manga seemed underrepresented--though we did get the outstanding Incomplete Life (YOON Tae Ho / Translation: FURUKAWA Ayako and KIM Seungbok). The reasons are no doubt complicated, but one likely factor is that it has become harder to get translations of overseas manga published in Japan. The breadth of mind that supported the pursuit of differentness even at a higher cost seems to be disappearing on both the personal and societal levels as everything continues to contract into the smartphone space. There were also fewer memorable submissions than last year among independently produced works. Perhaps such artists tend to be more interested in the approval of their peers, and don't care to be formally graded in a public event like the Japan Media Arts Festival. Or perhaps the number of "likes" they get on social media gives them all the recognition and validation they crave. Whatever the truth may be, I came away wondering if both factors might reflect the atmosphere of cozy isolation that currently prevails in Japan. On the other hand, Web manga that make use of audio, sliding images, and 3D effects suggest the rise of a mode of expression that, though still developing, may ultimately find a place somewhere between conventional manga and animation.As usual, the submissions by Japanese artists were all very good, which made it difficult to choose among them. A work casting light on the lives of hearing-impaired people that incorporates the real-life story of a composer who created an uproar when his claim of deafness was exposed as false. A lighthearted yet compelling collection of manga by a legendary creator of animated films. A poetic work that depicts scenes of the Tohoku disaster area from the perspective of a rooster. A first-person documentary account of a laborer at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A work that portrays with color and warmth a group of children who come from complicated family circumstances. The story of a manga artist grappling with censorship, addressing violence in manga, freedom of expression, and the ethical position of the artist himself . . . I could go on and on. There is much doom and gloom on the economic front for both publishing and the country at large, but no pessimism is needed with regard to the quality of manga being produced.
  • KADOKURA Shima
    Manga Journalist
    What Goes Into the Jury Selections
    There's something I realized only after becoming a juror: In the Japan Media Arts Festival, you should be paying attention not just to the award winners but to each and every one of the Jury Selections as well. I'm embarrassed to say that I had previously given the Jury Selections relatively short shrift.When the jurors meet to make their final decisions, they each come to the table with a kind of "favorites list" from reading through the entries beforehand, and they share their thoughts on these works in detail. A juror will sometimes realize something about a work that he didn't notice when he was simply reading on his own, and the discussion can grow heated. This year as always, it was through this process that the Grand Prize and other major prize winners were selected, but it's important to understand that the 29 Jury Selections were named to that list after undergoing exactly the same kind of debate."Reason for Award" statements aren't appended to each of the Jury Selections, so I'd like to comment here on a couple of titles that seemed particularly representative of 2016 to me. Among an increasing number of works that feature fujoshi (girls fond of male homoeroticism in manga), TSUDUI's Days: Lost in "Boys' Love" World has a particularly powerful appeal. I think this owes to its freshly conceived protagonist, who is free of self-loathing and displays a healthy dose of self-esteem. She has something she loves, and friends she can share it with, and we simply see her enjoying days filled with happiness. It's a catchy subject, and the universal and highly contemporary theme affirming diverse lifestyles unfolds with superb gags. On a different note, the French entry PHALLAINA suggested new possibilities for digital graphic novels by synchronizing horizontal scrolling on a smartphone with a story that involves hallucinations of whales.I will leave the award-winning works to the other jurors here, except for just one thing. As exemplified by titles like BLUE GIANT, which took the Grand Prize, and Harmful City, which took an Excellence Award, I felt that this was a year when the "virtuosity" of the artists really stood out in many of the works. I personally tend to be drawn to works that stand out for something dramatically unique, or that throw me a curve ball, but this year's entries reminded me once again of the appeal of more straightforward works into which an artist has poured every last measure of his passion and skill.
  • INUKI Kanako
    Manga Artist and Visiting Professor, Osaka University of Arts
    My Experience as a Juror, and the Decline of the 4-Frame Strip
    This is my third year on the panel of jurors, which means it is also my final year. From past experience, I have come to expect each year's submissions to show a collective trend of some kind. One reason for this can be a large number of submissions coming from the same publisher or the same manga magazine. In my first two years, I was surprised by the number of adult manga submissions. Most of them were undistinguished, run-of-the-mill stories and were quickly eliminated, but I do remember one particular title that I thought was very entertaining. If we had an "Adult Manga Grand Prize," I'd have wanted to award it to this title. I suppose if we did have a genre-specific contest of that kind, though, perhaps the standard would be based on how erotic it is rather than how entertaining.In looking back over my experience as a juror, I would note that it was a constant process of trying to figure out exactly what standards I should be using to select winners. Each of the jurors brings a different set of preferences and judgment criteria to the process, and I suppose the works that garner the most votes in spite of those differences deserve to win. This year there were quite a few submissions of manga that have been adapted to animation, and I couldn't help feeling they had somewhat missed their moment. I'm reminded just how much winning an award depends not only on talent but on timing and luck as well.In my first year on the panel I recall being impressed by the high level of technical skill displayed in today's manga. In the second year it was the tremendously broad range of subjects treated. Fujoshi (girls fond of male homoeroticism), boys' love, homosexual love, nuclear power, earthquake disasters. Some of the winners reflected the concerns of the time. Being well aware that titles submitted to the Japan Media Arts Festival do not represent the totality of current manga, I find myself wondering just how many manga are out there today.Manga reached their present form roughly during the Showa-40 decade (1965-1975). Simple 4-frame strips had given way to manga with any number of frames that were to be read from right to left, tracing an S-curve down the page. From children's manga to dramatic narratives targeted at adult readers, creators had experimented with and ironed out every wrinkle. Manga targeted separately at young boys and young girls were enjoying a golden age, and it seemed as if manga of every possible genre were being produced. If the expression "a hundred flowers blooming in profusion" applies to that era, then perhaps the present one, with its ever more fragmented division of genres and ever deeper and more meticulous portrayals of situations and psychological states, should be described as "a thousand flowers blooming in profusion."Eligibility for the Manga Division encompasses comics published in book form or in magazines (including works still being serialized), self-published comics, and comics published online for reading on computers or mobile devices. In selecting winners, I have tried to always include at least one title from each of the subcategories. My intention is to provide a bridge to the future. Web manga in particular seem likely to undergo dramatic new developments as time goes by. Self-publishing is open to both professionals and amateurs, so it offers a chance for new artists to be discovered--and even for established professionals, selfpublishing offers the possibility of releasing works of a kind they can't publish through commercial outlets. As submissions in these categories increase in quantity and quality, I think we can expect to see the festival start to pull away from other manga awards.On another note, it has struck me that we may be about to lose an important manga genre: the 4-frame strip. Some time has already passed, in fact, since the 4-frame manga boom subsided, but this remains the genre that represents the original roots of manga. Today's story manga developed by breaking out of the 4-frame mold and devising conventions that allow the frames to flow without restraint. The 4-frame manga we see today borrow the superficial layout of the genre but lack the razor-sharp wit of the traditional kishotenketsu (foundation, development, unexpected twist, resulting effect) progression of the frames, and instead merely tell stories of, or comment on scenes from, ordinary daily life.The number of 4-frame manga submitted to the Japan Media Arts Festival has trended down from year to year. It used to be that artists proved their talent by producing 4-framers with zinger punch lines, but it appears as though most of those people are now satisfied with just being facile entertainers. I'm all for talent thriving in whatever way it can, but I'm left with the feeling that the manga world is going to be a little bit lonely in the future.