It feels like 2012 took me in like a tornado. I spent the first week thrown into the fray of work and my lungs were hacking a lot more than what I inhale. That said, the year has started to calm down and I am more than pleased to see the nominees for Manga Taishou this year.
Last year, it felt like there were clear winners among the nominees. While I felt that the horse-riding bride of Otoyomegatari (A Bride’s Story) will be shooting straight for the coveted prize, Sangatsu no Lion seemed to have played the right pieces last year and took the prize home.
This year’s nominees is quite an interesting set. For one, I can’t seem to distinguish who will take the Manga Taishou home. More so, it seems that there are brave soldiers who are still fighting for this prestigious prize.
I was surprised that among the said 216 titles reviewed for the prize, there were some who managed to make it again in the list. It’s as if these titles are brave fighters who keep on pushing their story forward just to win the Manga Taishou. I think these brave titles have a good shot at winning. After all, one of them has been nominated thrice.
I am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa
I actually read this title this year and I was particularly impressed with the amazing detail of the artist and the growing complexity of this zombie apocalypse. I will confess that I haven’t read far and I haven’t read what makes this manga deserving of this third nomination. I do understand why this title makes manga gold.
Drifters by Kouta Hirano
Most of us probably remember Kouta Hirano for Hellsing. Drifters might just be his next international fandom hit. As a story that taps historical heroes and misfits being sent to another world to save it from destruction, this story is a beautiful execution of those crossovers and AUs that have been sprawling in fandom’s imagination. For a man who understands what fans love (Hirano’s quite active in doujin projects), this is a story that we can’t miss again.
The New Blood
And like every year, there are new titles that appear among the nominees. I’m not saying they are new titles. More like, we haven’t seen them in the list before and they’re making enough waves among manga readers that they probably deserve a shot in winning the prize. Without thinking of the prize, I still think they’re good additions for one’s manga reading list! Among the nominees, here are my picks.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu by Haruko Kumota
I just love it when BL mangaka get acclaim for their non-BL work. I think I’ve shared with the world this excitement with my spotlights on Fumi, Ono, and Asumiko, thus this nomination for Haruko Kumota is something that makes me giggle. I will confess that I have not read it. In saying that, I will say that I trust Haruko Kumota as a writer and as such, I believe this story will be quite a fascinating read. It involves an ex-prisoner who tries his shot in performing rakugo under a difficult master. Rakugo is a lot more than just being a comic story teller. I can trust in Kumota to portray this comedic trade with the same elegance and flair that it really has in real life.
Takasugi-sanchi no Obento by Nozomi Yanahara
My professor actually recommended this to me saying that this was our life captured in a manga. It speaks of this professor who is buried under piles of work only to find himself taking care of his cousin. As a dude, his bento skills are pathetic but his cousin somehow manages to find some ways to make a pleasant bento for both of them. While I do make bento with my professor, I still don’t understand what he meant and I am rather amused that I haven’t made a hijiki bento. This manga is a heartwarming story though. And I’m hoping it doesn’t make the Usagi Drop twist towards the end.
Aku no Hana by Oshimi Shuuzo
I know nothing of this title apart from it being licensed by Vertical. That said, it appears to be a dark story of a girl blackmailing a guy for stealing a girl’s trainers. Because it was handpicked by Vertical, I can trust in them that their selection will be quite a treat and will probably impress us. Also, I wonder if they’re keeping these odd covers. I was quite surprised by them. Like a strange yet honest confessional. Looking at images online remind me that it’s similar to Nana to Kaoru, but it actually looks better executed.
Getenrou by Ishiguro Masakazu
This manga’s summary reminds me of Tatami Galaxy where a particular apartment contains a twisted mystery. It isn’t one of those strange tales that might or might not be endearing. I haven’t read this but the summary is good enough to lure me in. With one volume, I’m not risking a lot.
Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa
This is probably the most familiar title among fans simply because this was written by the girl who did FMA. While I do understand that she has a knack for story, I’m hoping that it isn’t because of her skills that she’s been nominated for a Taishou as well. Silver Spoon is an interesting story about a city boy turned farm boy. It reminds me a little like Moyashimon but with a bit of city arrogance and idiocy that sometimes makes me raise an eyebrow. But it seems these farming antics illicit the spirit of “youth” that fans adore it like it’s the best food manga ever created… right. As long as they don’t hear the vegetables singing, I think it won’t be the best food manga for me. But it does have its merit… just not as good as what the others have to offer.
Tonari no Seki-kun by Takuma Morishige
This has been in my manga radar but I’ve never had the chance to buy it. From what I’ve seen people talk about it online, it’s about this girl and her strange seatmate who seems to be either a genius or a savant, playing games on his desk the entire day. It looks funny and if it’s in the list, then this romantic comedy is something worth looking at.
Nobunaga Kyousoukyoku by Ayumi Ishii
When a teenage boy timeslips and becomes Oda Nobunaga and becomes aware of what he should do to keep history yet is conflicted by what he should be doing as a person makes a great alternate historical story for me. I haven’t read this, but I’d love to get my hands on this. It’s one of those “What If?” moments where will we change history or will we change our destiny stories. Brilliant story and I want this in my life right now.
I will confess that I hardly know a good percent of these stories and I am more drawn by the covers of those that may look interesting such as Dai Tokyo Toy Box, Hibi Rock, and 25ji no Vacance.
15 titles out of 216 is quite a feat and thank god I’m not in the screening committee of the Manga Taishou because if I had to choose one out of all of these, I might break my heart. That said, I wouldn’t mind reading 216 titles to cross 15 great mangas like this.