©︎ Sumako Kari

23rd Manga Division Excellence Award

Ashitashinuniwa, (To Die Tomorrow,)

KARI Sumako [Japan]

Outline

In this manga, women in their forties face changes in their work and personal relationships, in addition to physical and emotional alterations. HONNA Sawako is a hard-working, 42-year-old single woman employed at a film advertising company. The sweating and irritation lead her to suspect that she is experiencing symptoms of menopause, and one night her pounding heart and chills have her so concerned that she calls for an ambulance. She has to face the fact that she is no longer young, and needs to start thinking about how she will live out the rest of her life. Her classmate from middle school, KOMIYA Toko, is a housewife with a daughter at university. When her husband is transferred to Shanghai, she begins working part-time and is shocked when called obasan (“auntie”) by the customers there. She also becomes engrossed in a 20-year-old male co-worker. Looking for someone to talk to about all of this, she contacts Sawako for the first time in many years. Around the same time, Sawako’s colleague ARIOKA tells her that he has been diagnosed with cancer and doesn’t have much time left. The feelings experienced by those reaching their forties, a turning point in many people’s lives, are depicted in fine detail with lyrical monologues.

Reason

I was quite impressed to see the difficult theme of aging women depicted so beautifully in a visual medium like manga. The author is extremely skilled at choosing words that are completely natural. In this work, the physical changes in women in their forties, along with their anxiety over the future, are skillfully expressed in natural but insightful monologue and dialogue. A woman’s heavyset naked body is not given an idealized beauty, but shown with exquisite realism. Furthermore, when it is depicted through the author’s nuanced lines, readers even visualize it with affection, as vindication of the lives they have lived so far. This author has worked in a wide range of media, including BL magazines and magazines aimed at women and at young men, and this work is delicately drawn with great sensitivity even while incorporating life-size emotions. The changes incurred while aging are occasionally harsh, but they represent the casting off of one’s old skin to reveal a new self inside, and in this sense the aging process is quietly absolved. Personal conflicts at this ambiguous age, no longer young but not ready to die, are delicately depicted with a freshness of expression. This work, with its broad range and great depth, is fully deserving of this prize. (KAWAHARA Kazuko)