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Manga Division

Excellence Award

Aoi honoo (Blue Blaze)

SHIMAMOTO Kazuhiko(Japan)

Summary

A “manga about manga artists” in which the main character, HONOO Moyuru, is comically portrayed as he resolves to make his debut as a manga artist. Though claimed to be a fiction, it possesses autobiographical aspects, while real figures also make an appearance. In the early 1980s, a first grader at Osakka Art University in Osaka named HONOO Moyuru passes his days while holding an ambition and strong passion to become a comic writer. In a search to find his own path, HONOO has confidence but with no grounding in his own ability. He takes his manuscripts to a publishing company in Tokyo, has a feud with classmate ANNO Hideaki, the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion in his younger days, and plays a game of love with Tonko, a senior he adores… This work is an elegy of agony about the daily struggles of an impassioned student, set to a backdrop of an age in which the Japanese manga/animation world was entering a new phase.

WEEKLY YOUNG SUNDAY (Shogakukan)
Start of Series: No.14, 2007 issue End of Series: No.35, 2008 issue
BIG COMIC SPIRITS YS Special, vol.2 (Shogakukan, 2008)
Gessan (Shogakukan)
Start of Series: June 2009 issue Series still in progress

Reason for Award

This work, categorized into the socalled “manga about manga artists” genre, is the story of an art student, apparently the artist himself, who aims to become a manga artist at a time in the early 1980s when art and design universities were places of fierce competition. In authentic manga of this genre, manga artists and animators familiar to the reader are essential, and this work is no exception. Before long, ANNO Hideaki, who took the world by storm with Evangelion, and OKADA Toshio, thought of as the founder of otaku culture, appear as themselves to play important supporting roles. The main character’s criticism of popular manga of the time is also accurate. The adventures in each volume are clearly shown to be fictional, and no reader will believe they are true. Is the implication, then, that ultimately art universities producing prominent figures at the time were the “Tokiwa-so of the 1980s”? In short, this work is the “way of manga” for the Heisei years. It has been seven years since the start of its serialization, but following its popularity as a late-night TV drama, it has surely become the in-season manga of the day. (SUGAYA Mitsuru)

A Chinese Life

LI Kunwu / Philippe ÔTIÉ / Translation: NOJIMA Tsuyoshi(China / France / Japan)

Summary

This is a work in which a manga artist born and raised in China has returned to the frenzied and tumultuous age through which he has lived. LI grew up in the middle of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The figure of an “ordinary” young patriot charging onward, and the enthusiasm of China at the time are conveyed with a sense of realism. What impression did the sudden changes brought on by phenomenal economic growth have on the young LI? He survived through an age in which being alive itself was already dramatic. In this work, which invites empathy in the reader for LI as a living human being, we see a different side to China, more commonly known for its achievement of rapid development, in the portrayal of a country that has been through confusion and anguish. In coming to know the age in which they lived, we are brought to feel a greater familiarity with the country of China, and the Chinese people.

Original Edition: 2009 (vol.1 and 2), 2011 (vol.3)

Japanese Edition: December 2013

Reason for Award

Reading this work, I was reminded of the time I joined the First China- Japan Comic Exchange Convention in 2000. Regulations regarding expression were strict, weapons or blood that appeared in works were whitened out, and it was not with the Chinese manga artists that exchange occurred but rather the painters. There were many films taking the theme of people’s liberation movements or the Gre a t Cultural Revolution, but the content of this work, told from the viewpoint of an individual, was of great interest. The story and the structure of the pages have been perfected, and even among the overseas entries it is very easy to read, allowing one to gently slip into the story. The drawing technique also employs pens not used by Japanese manga artists. Drawn using a brush or a bamboo pen similar to those used by manga artists in the past, the artwork amply conveys strength and at the same time a remote feeling of warmth and nostalgia. I was strongly drawn to this work for its depiction, with a high quality composition and technique, of the lives of ordinary Chinese people about which little can be known. (INUKI Kanako)

Harukaze no sunegurachika (Spring Breeze of Snegurochka)

SAMURA Hiroaki(Japan)

Summary

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. Through the detailed character depictions and plot development, a story buried beneath history is slowly unearthed. The janitor of a certain villa (dacha), Ilya Evgenyevich BAIKOV, proposes a strange bet to Bielka, a wheelchair bound girl and her silent attendant Shchenok: “If I win, stay a week in that villa.” 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. 

MANGA EROTICS f (OHTA PUBLISHING)
Start of Series: May 2013 End of Series: May 2014

Reason for Award

His debut work Blade of the Immortal (award-winner in the first 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. Positing 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)

Hitsuji no ki(Sheep Tree)

IGARASHI Mikio / Original author: YAMAGAMI Tatsuhiko(Japan)

Summary

What if the person next to you were an ex-convict who had committed an atrocious crime? The story takes place in a provincial town somewhere in Japan. Once flourishing in the marine trade as a port and deep-sea fishing town, it was chosen for the trial of a confidential project by the government to relocate former prisoners who had served out their sentences to local towns. The only people who know the full story about this scheme to transfer ex-convicts and hide their past are the city mayor and two of his friends, GETSUMATSU and OTSUKA. The townspeople are told nothing. Those relocated are eleven ex-convicts, among them murderers, robbers, and others who have committed vicious crimes of assault and fraud. Two great masters of gag manga, YAMAGAMI Tatsuhiko, known for Gaki deka, and IGARASHI Mikio, of Bonobono fame, depict the outcome of a project testing the compatibility of those who have committed crimes, and those who are forced to. This is a story about coexistence with former convicts, the wellspring of human fear, and the interstices between happiness and misfortune.

Evening (Kodansha)
Start of Series: No.13, 2011 issue End of Series: No.9, 2014 issue

Reason for Award

To say that laughter and seriousness are different sides of the same coin is a hackneyed affirmation but true. When talking about this piece, this “truth” is the first thing one comes across. This is a work by two master artists who have cont inued to publish gag manga, producing work that rightly pushes the threshold of criticism in reference to manga representation and expression. While hinting at a bloody, bizarre madness, the absurdity of the townspeople makes it easier to invert the dichotomy of justice and insanity, showing that the whole thing might actually be true. Within the scope of the story, one may find good and evil, justice and iniquity, and again the inversion or disturbance of such dichotomies is a technique at which gag manga excels, wherein a release of tension through laughter leads to seriousness. The same can also be said about the destination to which the finale of this work is directed. While employing a ludicrous setting, this work also deserves appraisal for its portrayal of the unavoidable problem of decline in small provincial towns. (ITO Go)