Meghan Ellis on the shortlist for this year’s Cartoon Grand Prize.
Those responsible for adapting manga into anime or live-action must keep a close eye on the Manga Taisho nominations. Known in English as the Cartoon Grand Prize, only manga with 8 or less collected volumes are eligible for release, placing emphasis on quality of work over quantity. If you’re unfamiliar with the world of manga accolades, this prize stands out from the crowd of prestigious titles available – including the Shogakukan Manga Award and Kodansha Manga Award – due to the unusual nature of its executive committee and selection process. Instead of being curated by the publishers themselves, the Manga Taisho nominations are chosen by bookstore clerks from across Japan. This makes it the award chosen by the people with their finger closest to the Japanese public’s manga-reading pulse.
Eleven titles have been nominated for the ninth annual Manga Taisho Award. 2016’s nominated titles are:
- Dedicated to Okazaki by Saho Yamamoto
- Love After the Rain by Jun Mayuzuki
- Golden Kamui by Satoru Noda
- Dungeon Fodder by Ryoko Kui
- Tokyo Codliver-girl by Akiko Higashimura
- Pork-cutlet DJ Agetaro by Iipyao & Yujiro Koyama
- Waves! Hear Me! by Hiroaki Samura
- Million Mat Labyrinth by Takamichi
- Blue Giant by Shinichi Ishizuka
- The Town Where Only I am Missing (AKA: Erased) by Kei Sanbe
- Machida’s World by Yuki Ando
Fans of Princess Jellyfish will no doubt recognise creator Akiko Higashimura in this year’s line-up, while the other nominees are likely to be cautiously hopeful of ousting the six-time nominee, who won in 2015 with her autobiographical Kakukaku Shikajika. But, it’s by no means a sure victory for the legendary creator of girls manga. A strong contender for the winning title is Kei Sanbe’s fantasy thriller Nobody But Me in Town, nominated in 2014, 2015 and now 2016. With an anime adaptation airing this season bound to increase the source work’s popularity even further, this darkly gripping manga could potentially edge out Higashimura’s entry: Tokyo Codliver-girl (above), a tale of marriage, encroaching middle age and the Olympics (a strange melting pot of themes for sure).
Ryoko Kui’s tongue-in-cheek Dungeon Fodder (left), in which a party of adventurers attempt to combine sorcerous adventure with handy recipes for cooking fantasy creatures, seems unfortunately like an outside contender, at least this year. Past winners show that perseverance could be the key to success: March Comes in Like a Lion (2009 & 2011), Umimachi Diary (2008 & 2013), and A Bride’s Story (2013 & 2014) were all nominated more than once before they went on to receive the prize. In the case of Akimi Yoshida’s Umimachi Diary, it was 5 years before the manga received the prize, with live action film adaptation Our Little Sister announced the following year to much fanfare both at home and internationally.
Another front-runner is The Town Where Only I am Missing, a.k.a. Erased, by Kei Sanbe. Also adapted into an anime (just announced as forthcoming from Anime Ltd), it features a manga artist with the power to jump across time, who inadvertently sends himself back to his elementary school days in an effort to prevent the death of his mother.
The Manga Taisho committee famously bases its nominations on interactions with customers, as well as members’ personal preferences and whatever is actually selling in their stores. In other words, they look beyond what’s “artsy” and critic-pleasing to what’s popular with discerning manga fans across the country. And for those hunting for new anime and film ideas, what’s a surer bet for adaptation than a series with an established fan-base? Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan was nominated in 2011, and springs to mind as an example of how popular such manga can become with the right attention.
Not to say that all Manga Taisho nominations are suitable for adaptation, nor do all of the creators want their work to be adapted. Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of Yotsuba&! (nominated in 2008), famously shut down rumours after the Manga Taisho 2008 nominees were announced that he was considering an anime adaptation, stating that it would be impossible to present the idiosyncrasies of his manga on-screen. And surely something of the beauty of the Silk Road romance A Bride’s Story (2014) would be lost in the attempt: the intricate embroidery and traditional carving that Kaoru Mori delights in drawing would be nearly impossible to replicate in animated or live-action form.
Whether or not they’re already being courted for adaptation, this year’s crop of contenders looks like it could be a close call. We’ll just have to wait until the awards ceremony in March to see whether Akiko Higashimura can hold onto her crown and become the first person to win the award twice.