24th Manga Division Excellence Award
In 2020, the historical epic Innocent Rouge came to a close. As the sequel to Innocent, the series first published in 2013, this manga depicts the lives of the SANSON siblings, a family of executioners, during the French Revolution. Charles-Henri and Marie-Joseph’s ancestors have long served the royal throne, administering justice under the fearful gazes that regard them as harbingers of death. With the royal family overthrown, the guillotine reigning supreme, and France’s values in disarray, Charles faces his execution with a closed heart to uphold his family’s honor, while his strong-willed and bold younger sister, Marie, interrogates accepted moral principles. Their internal conflicts and resistance against the fates they inherited are made manifest in the two siblings’ contrasting actions. With artistic license and modern sensibilities, the series portrays a real family and perspectives of an inscrutable world. The finely detailed and exquisite illustrations, executed from ink to paint in digital environments, renders even grotesquery into beautiful scenes, lending the work greater appeal.
Splendid, beautiful, nonpareil, and all-consuming. The work is heaped with such compliments. The world now knows that manga is capable of this level of expressiveness and technical prowess. But as a peer in the industry, I instead praise the artist’s grit, courage, and iron will to tackle an unpalatable subject most would avert their gaze, and the prose and illustration that rouse an intense feeling unparalleled in any other reading experience. Reviews are non-uniform; the work provokes as many varied reactions as readers, just as death is unique for everyone. But the work asks the readers many questions about life through the theme of death. The work has carved its name in the halls of manga history, transcending emotionality and stirring our very instincts. (NISHI Keiko)