I think I’m going to make a habit of this feature given this award has actually given me fruitful readings from last year. I personally have no regrets reading some of these titles and the likes of Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil) and I am a Hero have become my favorite reads from last year. Of course, Silver Spoon is always a welcome casual read (but I really prefer Hyakusho Kizoku!) but all in all the Manga Taisho list is always interesting.
I’ve been on standby since last week for any announcements knowing it’s the “season” where the nominees are out. So I’m grateful that I was advised last night that the Manga Taishou list is out and now it’s a good time to figure out who might win it. I do wonder if any of you guys have read some of these. Hopefully, a good number of these titles will get licensed as well.
There will always be repeaters, right? Surprisingly, this repeat nominee was one I wasn’t expecting because it skipped last year and honestly… if it didn’t win the first time, how could it win now? That said, I’m surprised that my favorite, I am a Hero, didn’t make it to the list because of the 8 volume rule. Apparently, the committee has enforced an 8 volume rule for all the nominees. A title is valid as a nominee for the length of 8 volumes. This is based on an idea that in a year, a weekly manga can produce a 4 volumes. During that said time, the critics can gauge whether the series can be interesting and worthy of a nomination. If anything, those 8 volumes can give lead time on the direction of the comic. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule such as those stories that take a lot longer to publish, like Otoyomegatari.
Otoyomegatari by Kaoru Mori.
Somehow, I’m no longer surprised by this. As long as this series is running, it’ll always be nominated for its visuals and for making us give a damn about nomadic Mongolian tribes. That said, given its recent developments, I’m not exactly sure if it’s worth my manga taisho vote. I’ve seen it in previous years and personally, I already know what it has to offer. It should have won during it’s first run but somehow somebody always get the critic’s vote. Hopefully it wins this year though. Hopefully.
The New Blood
Quite a good number of nominees have never been nominated before and started their run only in the last two years. It’s quite interesting, but at the same time, I’m not sure. Some of these titles have made the rounds in the best of manga lists and it ranges from exceptional to so-so. With that, could it be Otoyomegatari’s win?
Oremonogatari by Aruko and Kawahara Kazune.
I did say that this is one of my favorite mangas that came out last year. The shoujo life of a brusque, burly, but exceedingly kind boy has begun and based on the recent volume and chapters, it reeks of pure shoujo awesomeness which is probably the reason why it’s the critic’s darling in the last year. It’s voted as the no. 1 Girl’s title in the Kono Manga ga Sugoi list and is the no. 1 title for Comic Natalie’s. Because of its unusual hero and the title’s firm stand on love and romance, I’m thinking that this is one of the strongest nominees for this year and might give Otoyomegatari the boot. Sorry, Mori.
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu by Matsui Yuusei.
Shounen Jump’s contender is an interesting title but not one I’m particularly hot on. The story of an alien training his class to find a way to kill him before he destroys the world is rather interesting and it delves into a child’s struggle to outwit authority. I find it surprising that it runs in SJ, but at the same time, it reeks of “we need something kick ass and ruthless for our magazine.” And true enough it is, but it’s not one I think children should read with great ease. The title can be visually and conceptually brutal that I’d love to put this title in a seinen or maybe an older boy’s magazine. At the rate that kids are holding guns in this title, I doubt this will ever be licensed in English. I didn’t see this title in the Kono Manga Sugoi list so I’m not sure why this is even here.
High Score Girl by Oshikiri Rensuke. Running in Young Gangan Big, this is probably the title that’ll end all the geek girl debates. Maybe. It’s about a gamer boy who can’t seem to defeat this girl in the arcades. The manga revolves around their friendship and eventually romance and it’s quite a fun title to read if you’re a girl but one that guys most likely will be annoyed with. It reeks of the typical anti-girl gamer philosophy but I love the idea that even the boy becomes convinced that a girl is just as capable in being awesomesauce in games. An enjoyable read and one that critics love perhaps because of the humor and nostalgia that comes with the title.
Ballroom e Youkoso by Takeuchi Tomo. Wow. So you guys still think that Japan doesn’t publish everything right? Well, take the nichest of niche and here’s a critic favorite in the list. I haven’t read this but wiki tells me that it’s a sports manga. And that excites me because I have a guilty leisure of watching Dance Sports when ESPN plays it. I suppose it’s serious ballroom dancing, not the kind where it’s similar to cult classic Shall We Dance, but closer to “if Ballroom was a shounen manga, this would be it.” So expect to have high paced waltzes with this title. If anything, I’m excited to read this one!
Terra Formars by Sagusa Yu and Tachibana Kenichi.
So in Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai), they’ve been training astronauts to go to Mars. In Terra Formars, they finally did. Sadly, they were eaten by giant roaches -A-). I remember Ed Chavez mentioning that he liked this title. Well why wouldn’t he? The mission to kill giant roaches and recolonize Mars is a fantastic read not even Kafka could ever imagine. It’s also been voted as the best male title for the Kono Manga ga Sugoi list and I’m assuming that unless they haven’t been convinced by the sparkles of Oremonogatari, the critics might have to turn the tables for Terra Formars. BUT MY GOD, HIGHLY EVOLVED ROACHES. SERIOUSLY, GAIZ.
Seven Little Sons of Dragons by Kui Ryoko. I’ve read Kui Ryoko’s centaur manga thanks to my best friend whose sister is a big fan of Kui Ryoko’s work. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read this one but I did give my friend a call and asked her what makes this title worth a Taisho nomination. See, Kui Ryoko generally writes short stories, so this second collection strengthens her grasp of the fantasy genre and what my friend finds interesting is how Kui makes something fantastic real. And I must agree. Her transition in putting the fantastic in our world is flawless, unobtrusive, and entertaining. My friend adds that her style even makes it more believable. In this volume she employed a manga documentary style to speak of a mother’s situation in taking care of her child who’s becoming a wolf. Her approach to fantasy is unique against the legions of manga that seem to have made a point to separate our reality from our fantasy. And I think that’s nice but since she’s not hot with a critics, I’m not sure if she’ll bag this award. Still, I do hope she gets a new following.
Sanzoku Diary by Okamoto Kentarou. What wiki tells me of this title is a funny disclaimer that says “Okamoto’s life in this title is fiction, nonetheless, the hunting and the food in this series is real.” I’m assuming that this is one of those crazy country tales but now I’m greatly curious on what this story is all about. I do love my agricultural tales so this is in my to read list, at the very least.
Ningen Karimenchu by Uzuki Taeko. The oddest of the lot and yet just as critically acclaimed by others. I haven’t heard of this title except for one blog entry who looks at the title in depth. It seems that Uzuki’s a known actress in the AV circuit and this is a collection of her comics and essays about her life. This is the second title she’s written and according to the blog review, one could only wonder where this biography is a fantasy or fiction. Until later on you realize that it’s actually a case of the author’s schizophrenia. Uzuki’s tale appears to be a hilarious take on the disease. The blog writer calls this a masterpiece that only comes in ten years. If you checked the link, you’d find the art to be far from most manga aesthetic but I suppose it’s one of those stories that’s executed well. While I may not be eagerly buying this title, should the opportunity come, I’d like to see for myself why that writer sang so much praises for this title.
Umimachi Diary by Yoshida Akimi. My enthusiasm for this title is not the same for her other works. Bananafish and Yasha are different monsters compared to this quiet and lighthearted tale about sisters welcoming the daughter of their biological father whom they never gave a damn about. It’s a comforting story in a way that it’s best read on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is not particularly fantastic or exceptional but because it has the ability to stir emotions, I suppose it’s a worthy nomination.
Bokura no Funkasai by Shinzou Keigo. Another title I haven’t heard until now. I did see it in the usual best of lists but strangely, since I didn’t see much ruckus for it online, I honestly didn’t bother. But after some blog hunting the story has been compared to Taiyo Matsumoto’s youthful stories which is always something to look forward to.
This year’s list is a lot fewer as compared to last year. That said, the list is not as diverse or eclectic. Nor are many of them as license worthy as last year. If anything, it feels a little safe. Apart from a few titles, the rest are meh. This makes me question my previous doubts that the Manga Taishou is probably an advertising poll for publishers but given this eclectic set, I’m starting to feel the critics’ hands in the selection. Perhaps there’s not much excitement in manga last year. Or maybe because they can no longer embrace titles past the 8 volume mark, a lot were omitted this year. That said, it’s an interesting lot. I’ll keep watch of the stories I’m still reading and keep track of those I haven’t.
If I were a critic for this year, I’d give my vote to Oremonogatari. It’s truly a refreshing read, perhaps in the same breath of how Kimi ni Todoke (Reaching You) was a wonderful read when it first came out. Although… I think it’s a lot better than that. In fact it’s been a while since I’m this excited over a shoujo title.