16th Manga Division Excellence Award
AIDA Yu [Japan]
This work is set in Italy at a time when terrorism and a regional independence movement are raging. The Social Welfare Agency, a secret government organ, assembles a group of girls, all of whom are suf fering from serious diseases and have lost the will to live, turns them into cyborgs through surgery, and uses them as an advance guard to combat terrorism. Their memories are erased, and they are brainwashed into being fai thful to the cause. While posing as sisters of the men in charge of the operation, they devote themselves to the struggle. Is their love for their bosses also the result of brainwashing? Are their feelings of happiness real? In a series of episodes, the work raises a number of questions about human dignity. It turns out that the careers of the girls’ overseers were ruined through various circumstances, causing them to drift into intelligence work. Much of the story revolves around brothers who are seeking revenge after the death of family members in a terrorist attack. Depicting, against a backdrop of beautiful Italian scenery, the desperate acts of a variety of people, including terrorists, average citizens, scholars, and people involved in the just ice system, the manga transcends the framework of an ordinary “fighting-girls” story and develops into an epic drama on a vast scale.
Reason for Award
While functioning on one level as a commercially successful entertainment, this work also provokes serious discussion. In the story, the girls’ emotions are implanted using an artificial process known as “conditioning.” And while these emotions are indispensable to the characters and to the reader, we are constantly reminded that they are artificial. This might be interpreted as a critical allusion to depicting “human beings” via the expressive device of manga “characters” – or in other words, of symbols that attempt to convey a “personality.” If we accept this reading, the ability to sustain and conclude this challenging story over a decade or more might also be seen as the product of struggle with the challenge of telling stories in the manga format.