25th Manga Division Excellence Award
An armed terrorist group, the Animal Liberation Alliance (ALA), attacks a bioscience laboratory in California. While freeing the experimental animals, they find a chimpanzee about to miscarry, and take it to a vet and leave it. The newborn baby is a Humanzee, a human-chimpanzee hybrid. Named Charlie and raised by human adoptive parents, he enters high school. He becomes friends with classmate Lucy and enjoys his school life, but the increasingly aggressive ALA begins radical operations, plotting to get Charlie into the group. Then the deadliest incident that shakes the entire school happens, and an intense suspense and action drama unfolds involving Charlie and Lucy. Together with Lucy, “non-human” Charlie confronts the modern issues of terrorism and flaming, and the chronic conditions of mankind: discrimination and intolerance. When Charlie is accused of not being human, his matter-of-fact responses shake our perspectives.
Reason for Award
The presence of the human-chimpanzee hybrid Humanzee poses a philosophical question: Can human rights be granted to a subhuman that can be introspective and converse? The theme is similar to that of Vercors’s science fiction novel Jin-ju Saiban (Les Animaux dénaturés, Hakusuisha, 1953), but this work is a philosophical—rather than social—suspense drama, employing a much more sophisticated narration. The epic story unfolds with superb drawing skills, totally unexpected ideas, accurate investigations, elaborate plotting, and a calm narrative. I know no other Japanese manga that depicts a realistic American society as cogently as this work. The ambivalence in modern society is beautifully illustrated by contrasting veganism with terrorism, just like the description of discrimination and barbarism that prevail behind political correctness. The story is going to proceed to the tough subject of the human-animal boundary. This is one of the works that I cannot take my eyes off. (SAITO Tamaki)