23rd Manga Division New Face Award
There is no other.
WAYAMA Yama [Japan]
This is an omnibus of eight stories that elegantly depict people being drawn to each other. The first four stories concern HAYASHI, a high school student of unusual charisma. At a sports festival, he gets wrapped up in a net during the obstacle relay; he counts every stair on all the school’s staircases and photographs the letters on signs. He then uses those letters in his photograph to play shiritori (a game in which players say a word that begins with the final syllable of the previous word) on SNS, and makes dried sweet potato using a picture canvas. Everyone around him is puzzled by his strange behavior, but both girls and boys are drawn to him. The remaining four stories in “NIKAIDO in the Back” deal with student NIKAIDO Akira, who is disliked by the rest of his class, while it also treats his relationship with MEDAKA Yuichi, who sits in front of him. MEDAKA finds out that in junior high school NIKAIDO was idolized for his good looks, although he now cultivates a dark persona so that girls will leave him alone. The two of them develop a close relationship that goes beyond friendship.
This manga is unlike any I’ve seen before in the way that it treats emotions that go beyond camaraderie. It could be categorized as a tale of boys’ love, but more importantly I find that it truly highlights the best that this genre, developed in Japan, has to offer. It shows, in concrete form, one possible method for artists to depict love given to someone of the same gender. What I found most moving of all was the manga’s conclusion, which can gracefully stir the heart in everyone, regardless of gender, who has ever been in love. It makes one want to protectively keep watch over all of the characters. Nothing earth-shattering really happens in this manga, but that’s exactly how I hoped it would be. (NISHI Keiko)