It’s another year for Manga Taisho (Manga Award) where some of manga’s most influential critics select a number of titles to choose the best of manga released last year. It’s been a yearly tradition of sorts for me to check this award out since I’m a lazy fart and I really don’t have the time (or money) to take risks on titles I’m not exactly sure I’m ready to read. So looking at these lists always leave an impression that they’re good since they’ve been listed by judges of this award. And they compose of critics, manga artists, and editors who have the experience and the knowledge on what makes an amazing manga. And that’s always a good, isn’t it?
This year didn’t have as much nominations as the previous year but it’s a good list nonetheless. Here’s a little rundown on these manga nominated for the award.
Otoyomegatari by Kaoru Mori
This title gets nominated every year and it just never gets it, doesn’t it? I’m quite worried because I believe a lot of us know how visually spectacular this story is! Just what is missing? I’m starting to think that maybe they get unlucky that there are just other titles out there that are unfortunately better to the committee but I wish this title gets the win this year.
7 Deadly Sins by Nakaba Suzuki
I chose this in one of my favourite reads for last year and I think it too merits this shortlist. It has a good blend of humour and shonen action laced with complex social and war politics all guised under a fantasy. To some, that might be bad. It’s one of those arguments where why you should make things appear simple. To me, I think it’s a good start for readers to understand the complexities of war and politics. I am excited for this series and thankfully I can read it in Crunchyroll. I’d like to see where this series is headed and a part of me wonders if it’s going to be as profound and endearing as Magi. A smart series. I think we need more of this.
One Punch Man by One and Murata Yusuke
This comic an interesting concept for a superhero and I have to give One some credit for devising the comedic brilliance of this story and managing to push the story forward without being too repetitive of the comedy. It also helps that Murata Yusuke is a fantastic artist who is maximising the manga page. His art is brilliant and it lifts One’s comedy (which is brilliant as it is) making this a masterpiece. That said, it doesn’t match the poignant matters of the previous titles but it is truly an entertaining piece and an artistic masterpiece. I suppose tumblr’s love of making gifs of One Punch Man is an indicator of how alive this series is for a manga.
Sakamoto Desu Ga by Nami Sato
There’s a premise that comedies often have these fugly leads, leaving little room for the handsome man as a lead (except if he’s exceptionally dumb). You can give (the dude in Cromartie) some credit, however Sakamoto takes the lead for being the most perfect man who actually has a funny bone. Sakamoto’s a nice boy, the smartest in class, and possibly has 9000++ charm for a life stat. He’s amazing and this comedy centres around people stealing people’s hearts with his awesome or how people have lost their sanity over him. One of my favourite titles although how far can Sakamoto’s awesomeness go? The rest of the characters in the series are rather forgettable characters and I wonder if Sakamoto can keep our attention.
Hikidashi ni Terarrium by Kui Ryoko
Kui Ryoko’s not a newbie for the Manga Taisho. She’s been nominated before and I think, given this girl’s fantastic imagination that always merges with reality, she will keep the attention of her critics and her readers. Hikidashi ni Terarium was a web comic that was published into a manga. Similar to her other works, it’s a short story collection and one that deserves some English attention.
Ajin by Miura Tsuina and Sakurai Gamon
In this manga, the earth’s population have been infiltrated by Ajin (monsters? aliens? no one really knows) who are known to be immortal. Whatever these things are, they take the shape of men but they are not considered human and are often caught for experiments. However, a human boy gets caught in an accident and realises that he has transformed into an Ajin when he resurrected. Japan suddenly focuses on his capture and he tries to learn more about his body and his new identity. To a degree, it reminds me of Parasyte. It’s interesting but I’ve only read as far as volume. I don’t necessarily see something phenomenal after the first volume, but perhaps there’s still some secrets that Ajin has yet to reveal.
Ashizuri Suizokukan by Papanya
While I haven’t read this title, this work has been garnering attention. Not only has it been shortlisted for a Manga Taisho but it was also selected as the Best Newcomer for the Kono Manga ga Sugoi list of 2014. The artist, Papanya, has been going around the dojin circles and this is a compilation of all of Papanya’s work. Website summarises it as a work involving the writer’s reflections on her travels, illustrating what she sees and observes. When I checked the website, it seems that a lot of it involves aquariums. I can’t say much apart from the wonderful illustrations that reminds me of Kyo Machiko’s Makiko-san.
Sayonara Tama-chan by Takeda Kazuyoshi
This seems to be the story of the author as he narrates his life as a manga assistant and his experience in getting testicular cancer. You can read the first chapter in Evening’s website and it’s quite funny for something quite tragic. The other patients in the hospital are hilarious, poking fun at Tama-chan and his lovely wife. Unlike the author who is still gripping the idea of his sickness, the people around him are looking up. This gives him motivation to do something with his life. I can see why this title is nominated, not because I’m thinking the committee might be mostly male and would have their own worries on testicular cancer, but I think the story has a good premise on starting your life again when you’re at the end of it.
Juuhan Shuttai by Matsuda Naoko
I initially thought that this was some OL romance kind of title, kind of like the “obachan in love” titles that I’ve been enjoying last year. Instead it seems to be a story about a girl entering the world of publishing. I’m not exactly sure on the details of the department but based on their sample chapter, it seems that it has a good grasp on the process involved in publishing a book. I suppose it touches the heart of folks in the manga industry and in the awards because that’s the world they live in.
Boku dake ga Inai Machi by Sanbei Kei
Another manga that centres around a struggling mangaka, but this time, he too is a guy who seems to be forced to help people because of his special talent. Based on summaries, it appears that the guy has an ability to review a fragment of a day prior to something bad happening. It’s his duty to figure out what was particular wrong with that fragment of time in order to save people from any casualty. Quite interesting but not one talent I’d like to own for fear of having the ability to respond quickly.
If Otoyomegatari doesn’t get it this year, I am curious to see what Otoyomegatari lacks that the winners have. Last year’s Umimachi Diary was a fantastic read, filled with small town spirit and reflections on life. Prior years also had stories with strong feelings and identities as a manga, whether they’re philosophical or just crack. So… I don’t really know why Otoyomegatari has been missing the mark.
Of the lot, if they’re not giving it to Otoyomegatari, then I can see them giving it to Sakamoto Desu Ga (another critic’s favourite) or One Punch Man which is quite an exceptional title for a seinen manga. But One Punch Man is such a ‘normal’ manga. But Silver Spoon was quite ‘normal’ too? I… really can’t read these judges.
Who would you think will bag the Manga Taisho this year? Do we need to summon Osamu Tezuka to make Otoyomegatari win? Regardless of who the winner is, these titles will be good reads so if you’re looking for titles to read, the Manga Taishou’s a good place to start.