18th Manga Division Excellence Award
Harukaze no sunegurachika (Spring Breeze of Snegurochka)
SAMURA Hiroaki [Japan]
A historical romance taking place in 1933 in the severe cold of Russia, set to the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, a turbulent age in which Czarist Russia was transformed into the Communist Soviet Union. The janitor of a certain villa (dacha), Ilya Evgenyevich BAIKOV is proposed a strange bet by Bielka, a wheelchair bound girl and her silent attendant Shchenok: “If I win, let us stay a week in that villa.” Despite winning the bet, BAIKOV goes into exile, and Bielka and Shchenok begin to live in the villa. But they are captured by the secret police (OGPU), and are caught up in a cruel twist of fate. Why did they come to this land, and from where? Living in mutual dependence upon one another, what is the secret fate the pair is burdened with…? The destinies of the main characters come to intertwine with that of RASPUTIN the mad monk, MENZHINSKY, the chairman of the OGPU, and Prince Yusupov, heir to the House of Romanov, among other real figures who changed Russian history. Through the detailed character depictions and plot development, a story buried beneath history is slowly unearthed.
Reason for Award
His debut work Blade of the Immortal (award-winner in the first Japan Media Arts Festival), a masterpiece that ran for 18 years and includes 30 volumes, was a SAMURA-style historical epic that diverged from the syntax of so-called historical dramas. Depicting a plethora of stories, from entertainment to bizarre narratives, his work is often described as “unconventional”. However, this can be considered a reference to that aspect of his work which overflows with the artist’s will to surpass precedents of genre in terms of writing and drawing styles. In this work, while basing the story on facts relating to the Russian political system and the Karelian ASSR, a secret history play (or, if a rewording is permitted, a magnificent tall story) is constructed, for which it gained the support of all members of the Jury. Interweaving factual scraps within the plot, SAMURA devises a grand puzzle around the charming main character and her attendant, and, retrieving the hints as the narrative unfolds, solves the mystery. Depicted with a deep love, there was nothing lacking in the beauty of the characters’ expressions and actions. He has outclassed the others in his detailed portrayal of the characters, the intimate progression of the story, and in the sense of fulfillment felt after reading a whole volume that he gives to the reader. (SAITO Nobuhiko)