By Meghan Ellis.
Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamui beats stiff competition to be crowned winner of the 9th Manga Taisho at the awards ceremony on the 29th March.
Known as the Cartoon Grand Prize, this award is a prestigious accolade open to only those manga with eight or fewer collected volumes. This year, a surprise contender has beaten out strong competition to come out on top. Back in January, we covered the 11 titles nominated for the award this year, and guessed that Golden Kamui would place somewhere around the middle. But, Satoru Noda’s historical drama of the Russo-Japanese war clearly resonated with the manga-loving bookstore clerks of Japan, beating the likes of veteran writers Akiko Higashimura (Princess Jellyfish) and Kei Sanbe (The Town Where Only I am Missing, A.K.A Erased) to the first place spot.
The full list of winner and runners-up is as follows:
Winner: Golden Kamui by Satoru Noda (91 pts)
- Dungeon Fodder by Ryoko Kui (78 pts)
- Blue Giant by Shinichi Ishizuka (68 pts)
- The Town Where Only I am Missing (AKA: Erased) by Kei Sanbe (55 pts)
- Million Mat Labyrinth by Takamichi (49 pts)
- Waves! Hear Me! by Hiroaki Samura (43 pts)
- Love After the Rain by Jun Mayuzuki (42 pts)
- Machida’s World by Yuki Ando (38 pts)
- Tokyo Codliver-girl by Akiko Higashimura (29 pts)
- Dedicated to Okazaki by Saho Yamamoto (28 pts)
- Pork-cutlet DJ Agetaro by Iipyao & Yujiro Koyama (25 pts)
The Cartoon Grand Prize is somewhat of an unusual award, chosen by the booksellers themselves rather than people claiming to be “in the know”; this gives the nominations a unique authority, chosen as they are by the staff who see what the public are excited by (and buying) when they come into the stores. Does this translate into success? Previous winners of the Manga Taisho have gone on to top both sales charts and receive offers of adaptation into anime and live action.
Would winner Golden Kamui fare well in adapted form? It’s certainly stylish enough, presenting a militarised view of a post-Meiji era juxtaposed with the lives of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. There’s also a good dash of old-fashioned crime drama, with the post-war gold rush that forms the crux of the plot gradually becoming more sinister and criminally-influenced as time goes on.
Fittingly, the two main characters, war veteran Sugimoto and Ainu tribeswoman Asirpa, are from vastly different backgrounds, banding together to survive against both the wilderness and the criminals coming after the supposed gold stash. It’s a classic leader-and-sidekick relationship when each one is in their element: topped off with lavish illustrations of Ainu culture and cuisine (in fact, many of the judges’ comments mention Golden Kamui’s loving attention to food).
Golden Kamui shows both historical accuracy and the lives of people affected by major events in serious detail. And perhaps now unsurprisingly, it’s also been nominated for the 20th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize for its depiction of the Ainu culture and post-Meiji Japan.
Could Satoru Noda be a double winner in 2016? After this surprise victory, it’s definitely possible. Golden Kamui is a manga to keep your eyes on; I could see it being licensed in English before the year is out.
Meghan Ellis writes about Hakuōki, Harvest Moon and everything in-between over at meghanon.co.uk.