Award-winning Works
Manga Division

Grand Prize

Excellence Award

Social Impact Award

New Face Award

Jury Selections


  • NISHI Keiko
    Manga Artist
    The End of Adolescence for Japanese Manga
    Japan's manga now has the ancien régime in its rearview mirror. With the inexorable shift to the digital market, manga need not count on only magazines for their platform, and genre boundaries like manga aimed at shojo (girls), shonen (boys), and the general public are dissolving. That intrigued readers can now access works more easily than by picking up print media is a blessing for manga. In the midst of such changes, I wonder if the proverbial "bestseller rules" are less of a sure thing. I believe only artists with truly intriguing things to illustrate will survive into the future. Further, artists native to digital media are steadily becoming mainstream players. In the past three years on this jury, I've felt acutely the tide turning. No longer are known names or lists of achievements required. I imagine it's the artists who can see this as an opportunity who will craft in the coming times. The Japan Media Arts Festival does not consider sales the only measure of a work. Submissions are truly diverse, and through them we can sense the present state of manga. What is current in creative works, especially those as affordable and accessible as Japanese manga, is in fact a reflection of the situations people find themselves in. What I felt in this year's submissions was, for better or worse, a grounded and earnest attitude toward reality. They have not become, for lack of a better phrase, carried away. That manga have expanded their readership means they have captured the thoughts of a greater number of people in the real world. This can be reframed as maturation. Manga is leaving behind the days of its adolescence. It has shed its old framework to hold different values and meanings instead. This is the sense reinforced by the submissions we received and awarded in the Manga Division of 2020.
  • SHIMAMOTO Kazuhiko
    Manga Artist and CEO, Aibic Co., Ltd.
    Works Brimming with Confidence Resonate with the Soul
    Manga and comics are methods of expression with a high degree of freedom. Equipped with the content needing expressing and the skills (and tools) to illustrate it, an artist may draw up new modes of expression previously not considered. As a fellow artist in the manga industry, I've learned much from evaluating such works. All of the submissions that made it to the lists are bubbling over with confidence and get to the core of their content from surprising angles. Some of these submissions have long been serialized and familiarized to the public, a train I'm embarrassed to say I seem to have missed. Each one takes the shape of its creator's mind and carries a message. Those I appreciate the most, I appreciate not only as finished pieces but as explorations of new horizons. I'm awestruck when I encounter methods of expression I, given the same blank sheet of paper (or digital document), had never thought to employ. Manga is mostly a lonely endeavor (and the artist's thoughts are reflected in the work more directly than in other genres), so nothing comes out perfectly, but the labor is intensive and draining, and artists cannot craft their works without chipping away at hours of their lives. And whether the completed work will resonate with readers is up to the readers. A number of this year's submissions used this same theme as a motif, but incoherently hurling diatribes onto the page does not make a refined work. Because the conflict with the theme is a personal endeavor, what stands apart (especially with numerous works with the same theme on the lineup) is how the artists confront their problems, how they overcome what needed overcoming. The production time of manga as a medium, hours of the artist's life, is astounding, but hours spent on the craft increasingly refine the craft itself (although there is something to be said for the charm of a newcomer's frayed edges). I hope artists continue to hone their skills, explore still uncharted frontiers, and discover new stories. I get the feeling, after 2020, there will be more themes to explore.
  • KURATA Yoshimi
    Manga Artist and Professor, Otemae University
    To Feel the Artistʼs Passion
    As evident in the lineup of award-winning works and the Jury's Selections, the submissions covered many genres this year. To select from among them a winner was as excruciating a task as deciding the best among top athletes in different sports, like marathon running, swimming the breaststroke, tennis, and the triathlon. None of the submissions had unanimous votes from the jury for any given award, be it the Grand Prize or New Face Award, so we narrowed down entries in the selection process by listening to the other jury members' opinions about nominations for each award. Evaluating the submissions reminded me of my first year of high school, when I first took up an ink pen to draw manga onto paper. Fifty years later, I'm still drawing with pen and ink. More artists are using styluses, tablets, and computers to illustrate manga of late. We call these methods digital and the old-fashioned method analog. Among the submissions reviewed this year were many digitally illustrated manga. Some were instantly recognizable as such, while others that appeared analog were actually digital. Whether of digital or analog works by newcomer or veteran artists, however, the judging process is what it is. Only the manga before you, right then and there, can be judged. In the end, I think it's the artist's passion for manga that determines which submissions will make it to the final round. Younger artists are direct with their passions, while veterans reveal their own particular leanings built over a long period of time. This passion the artist has poured into the manga is what moves readers. Be it a manga with breakneck action or a quiet, relaxing piece, each is illustrated with passion. How well this passion makes it across on the page is what moves the evaluation. I want readers to pick up these award-winning works once again. I hope readers can experience the great individuality of each artist and feel the intensity and passion of their thoughts anew.
  • KAWAHARA Kazuko
    Manga Essayist
    Manga Proved to Be Ever-Enthralling Even in Hard Times
    Amid this unexpected pandemic, we received a total number of 792 submissions for evaluation in the Manga Division. After intense discussion, we decided to award the highly individualistic and charming works that follow. March comes in like a lion is already both popular and acclaimed, and it was the jury's consensus that it merited the Grand Prize for its overwhelming ability to move readers of all ages. The Excellence Awards went to Innocent Rouge for its outstanding artistry and unique literary style in depicting the French Revolution, Hei no naka no biyoshitsu (The Depth of the Sky) for evoking a refreshing emotionality with its sincere style, Kashikokute yukiaru kodomo (A Wise and Brave Child) for showing the struggles of childbirth and the hopes lying ahead, and HITORIDESHINITAI (I Want to Die Alone), which comically depicts the very grave theme of solitary death. For the New Face Awards, we selected Swingin' Dragon Tiger Boogie for conveying from the screen to our hearts the vibrancy of music, SORATOBU KUJIRA(A Flying Whale): SUZUKI, Suzuhiro Works for its meaningful drama of everyday life, and My broken Mariko for its profoundly powerful ability to pull in readers. The Social Impact Award went to GOLDEN KAMUY for employing engaging illustration to portray Ainu culture to a wide audience. As evident in the variety and excellence of the awardees, manga are increasingly fascinating, a lively form of entertainment, and a fount of inspiration even in hard times. This is something I'm deeply proud of and heartened by. While the total number of submissions increased by more than 100 entries since last year, I am slightly troubled that the number of "Self-published comics" continued its downward trend from 56 to 37. That popular commercial works and indie publications undergo the same evaluation criteria is one of the terrific things about these awards. Although my time on the jury draws to a close with this year's festival, I hope future entrants catch the jury members and readers off guard with submissions in genres all across the board. Among the Jury Selections, Journal with witch's delicate examination of coexistence and IMURI as an end to a long-running epic left particularly strong impressions.
  • OMOTE Tomoyuki
    Researcher, Kitakyushu Manga Museum
    A Delightful Range, from Vigor to Serenity, Maturity to Freshness
    The disastrous effects of the novel coronavirus are multi-faceted in the arts and entertainment industries, but the worst effect may simply be the disruption of inperson communication. The damage is comparatively lighter in the world of manga than in music and theater, partly due to the increasing digitization of both production and distribution. But dojinshi comic markets (that is, the market for self-published comics) is another story. Most of these events, especially the larger ones held in Tokyo Metropolis, have faced cancellations and, even when conducted, have had to severely limit the number of participants, which has forced them to take meager returns and drastic reductions to their income. Japan's richly diverse manga are underpinned by the dojinshi comic market, which means this is a crisis for all manga. Our choice to give SAKATA Fumihiko a Special Achievement Award is in recognition of contributions to the launch of the Niigata-based Gataket comic market and nearly 40 years of its operation, but it is also a subtle rallying cry to the growing role of smalland medium-size markets across Japan. Perhaps as a reflection of the difficulties dojinshiare facing, there were fewer submissions this year from that and other indie markets than there were last year. Among those submissions, The waterside left a significant impression on me, although it didn't garner an award. With an inkbrush that left rough lines in pages reminiscent of a woodblock painting, the artist captures a moment of wonder in a nostalgic landscape that blends the line between this world and the next. Its featuring of the Saga dialect is also memorable. I will say the representation of, shall we say, yokozuna-class premier works already wreathed in acclaim was strong as a general trend this year. It's not worth repeating that these works are exceedingly interesting, but as a member of the jury, I felt my ability to interpret, compare, and award their appeal being tested. March comes in like a lion and GOLDEN KAMUY were otherwise peerless and impossible to rank, but in the end we decided the Grand Prize would go to the former for its uncompromising completeness as a whole and the Social Impact Award to the latter for its influence on our society. Both are masterpieces destined for the annals of history, to be read for a long time to come. The Excellence Award-winning Innocent Rouge is a provocative work that sublimates the inexcusable ugliness of humankind into paradoxically beautiful illustrations and composition. This is a must-read in today's intolerant world. The ability to deliver timely social messages in the form of an entertaining read is surely one of manga's strengths, one shared in other works. The tragedy and joys of living as a woman and dying alone amid increasingly diversifying ways of life are depicted in HITORIDESHINITAI (I Want to Die Alone). In response to the attack on Malala, a young girl in Pakistan, Kashikokute yukiaru kodomo (A Wise and Brave Child) wonders whether the world we live in is worthy of new life. In contrast to these active stories, Hei no naka no biyoshitsu (The Depth of the Sky) quiets the reader's mind. Based on the popular novel, the manga employs superior illustrations to allow for enjoyment of the strange atmosphere of such a closed-in space as a beauty salon operated by incarcerated people, inviting us to widely examine the human heart and the state of our society. The New Face Award often goes to submissions exhibiting the artist's sheer ability to pull readers into the work, but it is awarded more so in anticipation of the artist's future growth and involvement in the field rather than the comprehensiveness of the submissions as it stands. The illustrated motions of the characters in Swingin' Dragon Tiger Boogie embody swing itself. My broken Mariko is an all-out mad dash that overpowers readers and yanks them into wild situations and violent emotional turmoil. In SORATOBU KUJIRA (A Flying Whale): SUZUKI, Suzuhiro Works, insignificant catalysts spin entire stories, swathing readers with quiet humor and leaving the cockles of their hearts pleasantly warmed. My hopes are high for the future. Lastly, I'll speak on not the works themselves but the challenges facing these awards. No prize was awarded in the U-18 Award category, as there were few eligible submissions this year, a shame following last year. There is no doubt artists have emerged at a young age in the manga industry, and we are made keenly aware of our own inadequacy in soliciting eligible works. And now, with the inability to hold exhibitions and events on the usual scale, we must exercise greater creativity to spread these award-winning works across the world. This, I too must acknowledge and reflect on.