More than 10 years ago, the manga magazine Morning and its sister magazine Afternoon worked with artists from all over the world such as Europe and Asia. At that time, I was starting out as a manga editor, struggling to produce great works with German artists. I had a difficult but good time back in my novice days.
Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed commercially in the international project and we had no other choice but to stop. Similar projects have never happened since. Now, however, we are able to have the world’s first full-scale International Manga Competition as part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Morning magazine.
Although it’s not necessarily true that Morning editors have kept trying another international project ever since the first one failed, a few of the editors who were involved in the former project over 10 years ago are still part of the Morning editorial department and have continued to dream of working with creators outside Japan.
The response to the International Manga Competition was stunning. We received greater submissions than we had ever expected both in quality and quantity. When I read all the submissions, I was struck by how much things surrounding manga have dramatically changed in the last 10 years. I felt this even more so when I went to the US this July to meet the very talented Ms. rem who won our first International Manga Competition and some other artists.
When we worked with artists outside Japan ten years ago, we were quite impressed by their great rendering techniques and unique artistic expressions that were quite different from Japanese manga in general. Although the collaboration between these artists and our magazines, Morning and Afternoon, did not necessarily achieve a commercial success, I believe the impact the collaboration had on Japanese artists was larger than it seemed. However, there was always an obstacle to overcome when coordinating with foreign artists to publish them in Japan.
For example, in many cases, the first meeting with these artists began by defining the concept of “manga.” In those days, other than Asian artists, these foreign artists were very talented comic artists, but not necessarily manga artists.
Nevertheless, Ms. rem and all the other artists whom I met in the US this July are without a doubt, not only highly skilled comic artists, but also manga artists. Except for the inevitable language barrier, the meetings with them went just as smoothly as they do with Japanese manga artists. In addition, some of the manga artists I met speak Japanese very fluently! The manga editors I met were great manga editors, and one of them had a great command of Japanese. My trip to the US to meet some manga artists strengthened my impression that manga really is read worldwide.
Having said that, although I actually felt that manga is read worldwide during my visit, I also felt another thing—that manga is not a global medium yet. It may be read worldwide but that does not necessarily mean that it is a global medium. In Japan, manga is believed to be a global medium, but the trip to the US made me realize that manga has yet to become such.
For example, to our surprise, in the US, only manga created in Japan is considered “true manga” even though works of US artists certainly look and feel like manga and utilize manga’s visual grammar.
As a further example, when I visited bookstores in the US, they had manga sections containing a number of manga books. But, their selections were relatively limited to shounen (boys) and shoujo (girls) manga. The latter manga has been growing, but the former titles still dominate in number. Moreover, sports manga were not on the shelves, even though it is one of the most exciting genres of shounen manga. It is a shame that manga readers outside Japan miss one of the greatest parts of manga! Additionally, in the bookstores there was not one masterpiece of seinen (men) manga that Morning has ever produced, which is also a terrible shame.
Even though the US has a big publishing market, there aren’t too many manga publishers that have manga editors committed to discovering and developing new talent and editing original work. It is likely that there is a similar situation in Europe as well.
When I started this Morning International Manga Competition, the purpose was simply to discover new talent overseas, to help them make a debut in Japan, and then to “export” the talents to other countries. The purpose is still the same, but now it has broadened to include making manga a global medium. For that purpose, it is not enough to have Japanese manga read worldwide or non-Japanese manga succeed in Japan. Manga should not be treated as a short-lived fad, but rather, must evolve and become part of that particular culture. I hope this happens not only on in Japan, but in other countries as well.
When I read all the submitted works, what surprised me was that the submissions we received are not as diverse as works for other Japanese manga competitions, even though this is an international competition. Manga includes everything such as superhero comics and European comics etc. Even if the style of the work looks different from manga, it is manga as long as the creator thinks it is manga. Even if the content is unusual for manga, it is manga as long as the readers think it is. In Japan, manga has developed that way.
Our International Manga Competition received a phenomenal number of submissions so that we can have a second one. Submissions for the second competition are now being accepted. Our goal is to find new talent, but we’d like to make a commitment to encourage manga to evolve worldwide through this competition.
In the developmental stage, manga was tremendously influenced by Disney, Hollywood movies, European comics, and literature, including Science Fiction stories from around the world. I think manga itself will continue to be influenced by almost anything. I believe that as more manga is created around the world, they will influence each other, evolve, and expand the possibilities and definition of manga.
Lastly, the grand prize winning work of the first competition will be published in issue #6 of "Morning 2," slated for mid-October. It will be the opening manga of the magazine, with the cover also drawn by the winner. Unfortunately, the magazine is only sold in Japan, but the work and the two second prize winning works will be on our website soon after the magazine is released. Don’t miss them!
Eijiro Shimada Chief Judge
"Kage no Matsuri"
Rem (art) and Bikkuri (story)/ the United States
≪Story≫ An oni (demon) girl lives in a decrepit shrine somewhere in Japan. One day, she meets a young man and invites him to a night-long festival in which monsters have fun dancing.
≪Comment by the Second Prize winner≫ Rem:
Wow, this is truly a dream come true, to be published in Japan is something that I hoped for ever since I was a kid! Being a comic book artist in America or Japan, I feel, is very difficult!
However, being someone who draws in a Japanese style in America is especially difficult for me because I question how well I'm representing myself as a Japanese-style artist. I feel like that's something that anyone who is in love with the art or culture of a country other than their own might struggle with. So, in many ways winning this contest gives me so much confidence to continue to do what I love to do without self-doubt. That is the biggest prize, in my opinion.
I really got off easy, writing a story with no dialogue! I didn't think about it at the time, but in an international competition, it works out really well! I can't pretend that I wanted to say something like "manga is universal! We don't need words to express ourselves!", but I think the message presents itself all the same. My goal as a creator is to touch as many people as possible with my work, so I'm very excited that something I wrote is being published internationally. I hope that people all over the world can understand the feelings that I've put into this story.
≪Judge’s Comment≫ This is a silent manga that depicts a Japanesque world with a sensitive and expressive art style. The work surprised everyone who read this work, including manga artists and manga editors, by its quality.
The backgrounds drawn with a very unique style, that is reminiscent of Japanese paper cutout, have a big presence. A decrepit shrine, stone steps, and fresh green mountains evoke the humidity and scents of the mountain air.
The artists show their talent in using 360 degree “camera work” with which they can draw objects from any angle. Switching angles so often frame by frame usually confuses readers, but this work does not, because the frames are meticulously organized. Also, it is more difficult than people think for readers to understand a story without textual information such as dialogues. The artists, however, do not lose the reader in the middle as the story proceeds. Even though the story is simple, this is the creators’ great technique to organize frames. The frames are constructed so well that the readers can read from the first frame to the last without referring back to the previous pages or frames to check what is going on. This technique is rare to find even in manga competitions in Japan that receive many quality works.
The designs of the two main characters are very endearing and attractive. Their facial expressions are vital and lively. The Japanese sound effects drawn by the artists are surprisingly perfect.
Nevertheless, it seems that the artists do not show their own distinctive style in both the story and the character designs. It is hoped that they will show their own unique styles in future works. Having said that, this work surprised us in many ways. The pleasant surprises won the work the grand prize.
LIOU MING LAW / England
≪Story≫ A story about a sushi superhero who brings justice and peace to Gohan city. In a world where one travels by conveyer belt trains, takes miso soup baths, and survives on vinegar lives a population of sushi in Gohan city. One day, Unagi, an animator sushi of the Wasabi animation company and an obsessed fanatic of superhero stories, witnesses the adventure of a real life superhero, Ebi.
≪Comment by the Second Prize winner≫ During my childhood, I was influenced heavily by Japanese animation in Hong Kong. My favourite comics were, Dragon Ball, Dr.Slump, Doraemon, Crayon Shinchan, Kindaichi. And I also love many of Hayao Miyazaki 's animation.
It has always been a dream to own a comic studio one day and I still believe that one day it will come true. My work is not only inspired by comic books, but also by many computer games, graphic designers, movies, clouds, textures on the wall. I love putting a bizarre humour in my work, because this is how I want people to remember me by.
My style is purely self developed, I don't want people to categorize my work as what already exists in the market. I want to steer away from cliche, I want people to enjoy my drawings for what they are. I would like to thank two people who has always given me motivation and support, my girlfriend Karen who has always believed in me and my mum who never thought my doodle was worthless. Finally I am sincerely grateful and honoured that Kondansha has given me this opportunity to expose my work.
≪Judge’s Comment≫ Although the work is more like a sequence of illustrations in frames than manga, it is quite fun to read. Its nonsense is very funny and perhaps something that a Japanese imagination would not have created. The heroine is tako (octopus), the evil heroine is ikura (salmon caviar), the main character is sake (salmon), and his alter ego, the superhero, is ebi (shrimp). These settings are very unique and slightly different from Japanese meme. (In Japan, fatty tuna is considered most tasty and expensive. If the creator is Japanese, he/she would choose tuna as a superhero. Also, unagi (eel) is not usually used for sushi.) However, the uniqueness is one of the great points of this work.
It seems that this work is just an epilogue of a long story. I hope that the creator will develop ideas and submit the next one to our competition again.
HWEI LIM / Malaysia
≪Story≫ In a forest of dreams, a “traveler” tells stories to a “little fox.” Stories are told in stories and overlap each other. The works explores what a story means to human beings.
≪Comment by the Second Prize winner≫ I have always loved reading books and manga (Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal is my favourite) and have always wanted to draw and write my own story to share with other people. Although I found out about the contest very late, I'm glad I decided to take part after all. I participated to have the challenge of finishing a short story within a short time, not expecting to win anything, so I'm really surprised and happy to be informed that Vefurrin was placed second. I'm glad that this means many more people may have the chance to read my story, and hopefully develop a love for stories of their own, too. Thank you Kodansha! :x
≪Judge’s Comment≫ The drawings and compositions of frames look like European comics. The work has dream-like background, art styles show flowing and wet pen touches, and the masks that the characters wear are elaborately designed. All those things match the story very well and make the work more impressive. While, normally, a new artist does not understand his/her quality and tends to draw stories that do not match the quality, it seems that the creator of this work knows her quality well.
The theme is very challenging and interesting, but it is not very accessible. Although there is nothing wrong with having such a theme, manga should be drawn in a manner readers can easily understand, even if it is difficult. It seems that the creator may have given up on making the work as accessible as possible because of its philosophical theme. We feel the creator’s effort to produce great manga, and therefore we hope she will work a little harder to get across her message to as many people as possible. Of course, all of this is quite subjective. It is impossible to produce works that appeal to every body. We, however, believe that manga creators do their own best to produce their works that the readers can follow easily. We think this creator of “Vefurrin” will improve in creating manga if she understands what is mentioned above.