The entertainment world is full of industry awards, whether these are assigned by the public or by specialized critics: we think of cinema and its famous Oscar Awards, television with the Emmy Awards, the Eisner Award for American (and international) comics, and many other examples of an endless list. Manga are no exception: just like for anime, light novels, films and in general any type of product from the world of entertainment, in Japan there are numerous awards dedicated to comics.
In addition to those assigned by individual publishers (think for example of Kodansha and Shogakukan), one of the most prestigious and long-lived in this sector is the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Award. Another more recent example, even if it is not a real prize, is the ranking Kono Manga ga Sugoi! by Takarajimasha: since 2006, the publisher annually publishes a mook, a type of volume halfway between book and magazine intended for the book circuit, with the title translatable as "This manga is cool!" (also wanting in the plural), where they are indicated the best manga in recent months for both male and female audiences.
In the past decade another Japanese comic book award is gaining more and more consideration: we are talking about the Manga Taisho. Let's find out the origins and importance of this prestigious award.
A prize for promising beginnings
Established in 2008, the Manga Taisho (the second term in original means "first prize") is an annual recognition of the Japanese comics market, awarded by experts in the sector. A commission formed by booksellers and managers of Japanese comics selects, through a first vote, a variable number of titles for the nomination, usually just over ten, and subsequently, with a second vote, the winner is elected. The date of the award ceremony is also variable but is almost always held in the second half of March. The peculiarity of this award is that the candidates are selected from all the manga published in the current year with a maximum of eight volumes to its assets, once this threshold is crossed, a work no longer becomes eligible.
The Manga Taisho it is therefore an acknowledgment established for promote relatively recent manga: where it is undeniable that this choice has its contraindications (we know very well the drift that took some serial comics after the first, promising numbers), it is also true that it is a great way to give visibility to worthy works that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Affirmation that takes on additional meaning if we look the list of all the winning manga so far. For each vintage, we report the title of the work in Italian or English, if the official translation exists, the author and (where present) the Italian publisher:
2008 – Gaku: Minna no Yama – Shinichi Ishizuka
2009 – Chihayafuru – Yuki Suetsugu
2010 – Thermae Romae – Mari Yamazaki (Star Comics)
2011 – A lion's march – Chika Umino (Panini Comics)
2012 – Silver Spoon – Hiromu Arakawa (Panini Comics)
2013 – Our Little Sister – Akimi Yoshida (Star Comics)
2014 – The days of the bride – Kaoru Mori (J-Pop)
2015 – Draw! – Akiko Higashimura (J-Pop)
2016 – Golden Kamui – Satoru Noda (J-Pop)
2017 – Hibiki: Shosetsuka ni Naru Hoho – Mitsuharu Yanamoto
2018 – Beastars – Paru Itagaki (Panini Comics)
2019 – Astra Lost in Space – Kenta Shinohara (Star Comics)
2020 – Blue Period – Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Considerations and influences
Among the winners of the Manga Taisho some of the gods appear most beautiful and successful manga released in recent years, like the splendid historical slice of life The days of the bride, the valuable March as a lion is Our Little Sister, the adrenaline-pumping Golden Kamui and the surprising Beastars, the protagonist of an excellent animated adaptation that recently arrived on Netflix. Another interesting consideration that emerges from this list is the prevalence of mangaka women, a nice sign if we consider the centrality of the male figure also in this branch of the entertainment world. In the same way we can find a large variety of genres and target audience, from the shonen (Astra Lost in Space) al josei (Chihayafuru, Draw!), not only among the winners but also among the other manga nominated during the various editions of the prize.
As for the importance of Manga Taisho in our country's manga publishing, the first thing that stands out is that more than half of the winners are published in Italy: the latest in order of arrival is Astra Lost in Space, announced by Star Comics a year ago shortly after the victory of the prize, in time for its animated adaptation aired during the summer of 2019. But not only that, also among the others nominated there are many works that enjoy or will enjoy an Italian edition.
This is the case, for example, of Chainsaw Man, Tatsuki Fujimoto's manga serialized on Weekly Shonen Jump and candidate for the 2020 edition of the award, which will arrive in our country this year thanks to Panini Comics. It is therefore undeniable how the prestigious recognition represents for publishers an excellent reason for acquiring a new license, both in terms of quality and advertising, and we are ready to bet that the winner of the Manga Taisho 2020 Blue Period will soon be announced for the Italian market. We hope that it will also be shared by the famous Spy x Family, one of the main favorites for the victory of the last edition.