Finalists for the 5th Morning International Comic Competition

In its 5th installment, Morning's International Comics Competition was truly global. In terms of quality and quantity it exceeded the previous one. Furthermore, within this group of submissions there were many professionals among them. Given its works and readers, Japan is included within the comics' market, but we have now come to consider and realize that this is the case globally, through the affection of so many people.

As members of the manga industry, we are very pleased with this situation and wish to express our appreciation. As those who have shown interest in this contest have known, Japan's comic market extends to men and women, young and old, and is filled with a range of genres. And within that world, we as publishers of Morning and Morning 2 are a seinen manga magazine for men. While the majority of our readers tend to be white-collar males, a unique characteristic we have is a sizable female readership. Within our editorial department there are several editors who have experience from the shonen and shojo manga realms, as well as novels and journalism. So basically, Morning has an editorial staff that can position itself in many ways within comics for adults.

For this competition the idea of seinen comics for marketing purposes was entirely excluded as we decided to seek out and value budding-talent and ability. Meanwhile, we are too accustomed to marketing genres, and it is sometimes very difficult for us to exclude genre when we read comics. Therefore, we want the public to understand that this competition doesn't represent the entire "Japanese manga market.”

In this installment the main impressions I took from it were, first, the wide range of nations that participated, and then, the polarity of genre. Up to this point it was clear that East Asian cultures such as Korea, China and Taiwan had an established manga culture. Meanwhile, North America has a fertile source for superhero comics; in contrast, we can apply the artistic prowess found in bandes dessinees to France and Italy. In this edition, more than previous ones, we are able to see an increasing number of works from rarely seen locales such as Russia, Eastern Europe, South America, and the Middle East and that greatly influenced our initial judging.

While we have had the competition five times, it has now come to be known to many areas in the world. It has been a privilege to receive submissions from many places where Japanese comics are not widely available. The splendid Second Prize winning Over the Rainbow by Manguinha hails from Brazil, and it is a full-color work with an impressive “pop” palette. Set in a not too distant future dystopian world it is packed with science-fiction, it also holds an anime and video game style, with character designs and modeling that exudes a fresh feel.

Then there is the problem of polarity. From the start, this competition has repeatedly pointed out that from a global perspective Japan's “manga” has consistently been viewed in people's minds as an image of shonen (boys) comics. (Incidentally, it is also often said that adults and females also read shonen works in large numbers.) This year was not an exception, as there was yet another increase in submissions that imitated a shonen style. For example, we received titles that were full of martial arts or where super-humans would fight battle after battle.

As many shonen manga admirers might feel they would also like to draw such works, it turns out that such tales lack originality with characters that act like robots and their reactions are predictable. But, (it is almost a chicken and egg question,isn’t it) the true essence of shonen manga is to show subtle elements of human nature, such as pride and ego, self-sacrifice, ethics and so on, through action and battles . To realize such, it is critical to bring life to every individual character. We ask participants to understand that it is more difficult to do so within a world of fantasy, often seen in shonen manga, than in a realistic world that can be seen around ourselves.

In addition, we are able to see many submissions which strikingly contrast with shonen manga style. These are the works where an individual's nightmares and suffering are drawn in an abstract literary style. The artists have flowing and beautiful artistic styles and it seems that some of them are already active as pros. We assume that these artists turned in their works because the Japanese manga market has the diversity in style. But, their submissions are very self-sufficient and don't communicate their messages well while the artists might think they can. As many have said, Japan's comics can be fiendishly popular works that bring pleasure, but they are not art collections for sale. It is a business that has come to exist where tens of thousands of people buy books for $5 to $10.

Among those submissions, the winner of this year's competition Demi-Human Symbiosis which a work fits a Japanese magazine. Demons and human co-exist in this fantastic work. Its creators worked with great effort to surprise readers and pose them such profound questions as what it means to be human. So as written, this work clearly from the start appears to aim to create what many readers may enjoy; a key factor in this winning award.

However, that is not the case. Instead, in this case, we the judges highly valued Ya Shen's ability to maintain composition and line-work, through their adept sense of characterization. Whether works come from the imitation of existing works or the self-serving vanguard, they were not valued as long as the works try to fit into existing genres too much. Instead of from genre, a creator's artistic technique is where we seek originality. It is worth a challenge to fascinate readers with ordinary characters in everyday life.

As mentioned above, we feel there is a limitation for our seinen manga magazine to discover a variety of talents that exist all over the world. Now in its 5th installment, we can deeply feel the international comic culture widen. So even as sponsors of the award, to further broaden our talent pool and grow our network, we have to consider plans to diversify our own policies.

Demi-human Symbiosis will be published in Japanese in the April 24th edition of Morning Two magazine. And both Demi-human Symbiosis and OVER THE RAINBOW will be published online in their original languages, English and Japanese beginning May 22, 2012. Please look forward to them. Finally, I would like to thank the many participants from the bottom of my heart.

M.I.C.C. Selection Committee, Koji Tabuchi

"Demi-Human Symbiosis"

雅紳 / Taiwan

≪Story≫ The world has been split in two areas: one where humans live and another where demons reside. And by the border of these two regions is a place where man and demon coexist. This place is called the “Symbiosis Zone”. One day, the commander of a rescue squad within the Symbiosis Zone came to discover a young babe. To save this child from certain death, the commander would eventually negotiate with the demons. Years later, a rescue squad member named Taesee would head out towards the Symbiosis Zone with hopes of helping the people living in the region. In the process, Taesee would come to make contact a youth who was not befitting of the region. And at that moment demons would appear ready to attack the pair. And before the demons stands an unfazed boy laughing. What is his purpose...

≪Comment from the Grand Prize winner≫ 雅:It is so great that this work won the grand prize. As this was unexpected, I’m a little self-conscious, but my, is this great! I would like to express my gratitude towards the judges who selected this piece. Personally, I love this story. It holds a number of themes of great interest such as the concept of what it means to be human and the depths of the human heart. I would also like to thank my partner who was able to render this story perfectly. It took a great deal of effort to properly express this story visually, so I feel I have a lot of work ahead of me in the future. Especially since I believe we as a combo have plenty more stories to share. Finally, I’d like to thank my family. The words and support from my family were able to fill me with the utmost strength.
紳:To my parents, my brother who was my first “judge”, the friends who have supported me, my partner’s family and to the judges...I would like to extend my thanks. As this was completely unexpected, knowing that this work has taken the award has me very thrilled! With that in mind, I must thank Professor Lee from my college days for giving me the idea for this story. Lee taught me that while other beings have organs that pump blood through their bodies called “hearts”, the human heart in reality is a much more mysterious thing. That led me to consider the reasoning of “the union between man and demons”. Finally, I want to thank my partner. It has been a fantastic journey, and I would like to continue with it together.

≪Judge’s Comment≫ We are introduced to a world where man and demons co-exist, through a story where fate has brought together a woman and a demon youth. The facial expressions were abundant. We enjoyed the lead character, the young demon, in particular, with his “sense of fear” and “charm”. He had us wondering, “where will this child go from here?” This was very consistent, from a story perspective, and we felt as if the author purposely wanted to surprise their readers. While there were a few places that warranted some work, such as some difficult to understand composition and paneling, amongst this year’s entrants it was on level of perfection and thus selected as the grand prize winner.

"Over the Rainbow"

Manguinha / Brazil

≪Story≫ In the walled metropolis of Orom live the following peoples… The ruling class of “Greens” lord over the populous along with the“Indigos” and “Blues” immediately beneath them hoping to one day ascend to such heights. Meanwhile outside of the city live the savage and oppressed “Reds”. In a pastry factory works a young lass named Otelia. As her mother delivered her naturally when the people usually buy babies, she was often discriminated against because she was born like animals. One day, Otelia would come to the rescue of a pathetic kitten who was being abused by the police, and in the process would eventually lose an arm, which would eventually be replaced with a prosthetic. Having lost all faith in Orom the girl would then be witness to a masked man known as the "Red Terrorist", who with unimaginable swordplay was ready to bring chaos to the police force and the city.

≪Comment by the Second Prize winner≫ To be one of the two finalists for the grand prize for such a grand contest such as Kodansha's MICC and for Westerner at that, this really is an honor. I want to thank all my friends that cheered me on, my family, my rivals in this contest and also Morning for giving us foreigners a chance. Knowing there was a deadline to make was coming on, I made great effort to complete the entry on time. And to know that everyone enjoyed it makes me quite glad. I tried to present a strong societal message with a dramatic twist with the plot. At the same time, I understood not to be heavy handed with my readers, so I made sure to make it entertaining for them. I believe that living in Brazil a nation where culture and comics are very different than in Japan, I am privileged with an original perspective. I am thrilled that from here I will have a chance to create a popular, grand and excellent work with Morning! My next will be a grand opus, so please look out for it. Thank you, everyone!

≪Judge’s Comment≫ The story revolves around an authoritative society where everyone believes in "happiness", and a lead character that comes to a realization by chance, and calls for a revolt against it. This is a dystopian fantasy, although the world the author depicts has neither virulent darkness nor pessimism. The drawing feel and color are so “pop” that one of the author's messages “what is happiness”can directly get across to the readers. Also, the author has a great sense of what should appeal to the masses with sci-fi gadgetry, such as the swordplay utilized by the masked man or lead's artificial arm. Again, the author's sense and drawing feel can attract men and women, young and old. This person has real skills, and yet some panels are very roughly drawn. There are some fans out there for wobbly monsters, but the number of such fans is limited. So for the next stage, he must grasp on to the details to really breakthrough.

"LITTLE BUT big"

e-ka / Indonesia

≪Judge’s Comment≫ We can compare the artistic touch in this comic to SHURA NO MON (Gates of Carnage by Masatoshi Kawahara) and other martial arts manga masterpieces, however the story left what was a below average impression. The protagonist lost his battle because he didn't eat breakfast. When he realized that a healthy diet was important, we don't know whether it was a moral lesson or a punchline of joke. If it was a moral lesson, it should have drawn in a different way. If it was a punchline, the joke and its punchline are poised to be an utter failure. We felt it was a shame that this comic could not have revealed a new “discovery”.

"Close"

肖設 / China

≪Judge’s Comment≫ The use of color and the drawings present had a peculiar style to them that made the comic a feast for the eyes. However, it was quite regrettable that the story was presented in such a dull way as it consisted of brief moments the main character saw in restaurant, rendered simply in chronological order. The establishment that the main character is hearing-impaired was not applied very well, as well. He was just a bystander, but by the end of the story we wanted to see him having changed a bit.

"What once was a dove…"

dee juusan / Jordan

≪Judge’s Comment≫ A sad fate awaits this dove main character, and a boy grows from childhood to adolescence. Their remarks which overflowed with affection and their cruel conclusions were expressed in a very lyrical way. We wondered whether or not the world was beautiful from the eyes of the innocent flying in the sky. Next time, I would like to challenge the artist to create a more story-based comic, instead.

"梦中人"

甘木 / China

≪Judge’s Comment≫ While the art is drawn with a simple touch, the subjects depicted evoke the feel of something more profound. With that in mind, whether the reader will fully understand the context upon a casual reading may impact how they will respond to this work. We would like to see some hooks, such as giving the main character more unique elements or inserting gags everywhere, applied to get people reading.

"Four"

Yap ZhouYong / Malaysia

≪Judge’s Comment≫ This is a story that from the onset is very impactful. From the very shocking start to the scene where the main character is lead to a burning library-like place there is a defined level that is felt in this work. Like a riddle within a riddle the story develops creating a profound sense of intrigue. Ultimately there is also a sense of not knowing where the story is going, which is extremely unfortunate. While we can understand that the author's original vision is quite important, we feel that considering the reader’s perspective might have made for a more enjoyable comic.

"Nothing"

Lydia / Malaysia

≪Judge’s Comment≫ This is a bombastic work presented with a careful and uncompromised touch, where life and emptiness face-off. The main character murmurs hopelessly, “neither Heaven nor Hell want my soul.” And as the story progresses the art gradually breaks down eventually emulating a cubist style before it reconstructs visually. It is quite impressive that the repeated images of destruction and rebirth appeared to express a cycle of life and death. What awaited the lead beyond the gates of Hell was another hopeless world called life. Such gruesome expressions may not be appreciated by the masses, but this an original example of rendering the depths of one's psyche.

"Curse & The City"

Bayu Harditama / Indonesia

≪Judge’s Comment≫ We are under the impression that this comic was created with the goal to make people laugh as the author wants his readers to think he's funny. But we have a feeling the author was off the mark. The author filled this work with his own inside jokes without ever considering his readers' thoughts. The only scene where the selection committee laughed was when the main character suddenly transformed, as it was void of all logic. Why did that character randomly battle some monster? These points were never explained, and it was clear that readers were to be left in the dark. Comic works are successful when their readers understand themm.

Selections of second screening