If you are looking for a great new read, but don’t know where to start, the Manga Taisho Aware shortlist has been announced. There are 14 nominations in total, meaning competition will be tight. But what sets this award apart from others is that the voting comes in from bookstore workers, the people who really know what is hot and selling.
Manga Taisho has been awarded every year since 2008 to a new manga. The parameters set are 1: the manga must have been published in the last year or earlier, and 2: it must have eight volumes or less published. Because the winner is chosen by bookstore workers, it allows for a lot more freedom of opinion. Winners are most often the more popular choice, instead of whatever looks artsy for critics. Thus, people are probably going to be happier with the result.
Ballroom e Yousoko by Tomo Takeuchi – With all the popularity of sports anime in recent years, this manga takes on the genre from a new perspective: ballroom dance. The story revolves around a young student ambushed by delinquents, only to be saved by a man who shows his ballroom dance. So it’s like The Karate Kid, but with more dancing, and if that doesn’t sound like a winner, then nothing does.
Blue Giant by Shinichi Ishizuka – This manga centers on the life of a jazz musician. The author previously wrote the mountain-climbing manga “Gaku”, the winner of the very first Manga Taisho Award back in 2008. That alone is enough to make “Blue Giant” a frontunner, and the unique jazzy style only adds to the charm.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi by Kei Sanbe – This suspense manga is running in Young Ace, detailing the life a manga author who, struggling to get by, discovers supernatural forces. As anything supernatural is popular in this day and age, this manga is another one to watch out for.
Dormitory Tomkins by Fumiko Takano – A short, one volume manga. Not much is known about this little slice of life, but it was enough to merit a spot on this list through twelve chapters alone. Clearly there is something here worth reading.
Houseki no Kuni by Haruko Ichikawa – This fantasy tells the story of “jewel people,” people with skin made of jewels. The main character Phosphophyllite has one of the lowest hardness rankings, and the story chronicles his journey to help defend his people. With a unique setup, beautiful artwork, and some geology facts as well, this manga is going places whether it wins the award or not.
Innocent by Shinichi Sakamoto – This manga follows the story of Charles-Henri Sanson, who just so happens to be the Royal Executioner of France during the reign of King Louis XVI. Fans of history know where this story is headed, but that doesn’t make the historical drama any less juicy. Filled with mature content and gorgeous artwork, “Innocent” is an easy contender.
Kakukaku Shikajika by Akiko Higashimura – This uniquely stylized autobiography tells the story of the author’s time spent in an art class with an eccentric teacher. This manga has already ranked highly on several yearly lists, making it solid competition.
Kasane by Daruma Matsuura – This dark drama details the life of a girl who owns a tube of lipstick with special powers. The story is a mesmerizing, psychological dive into the psyche of beauty. If you aren’t intrigued by now, you should be.
Koe no Katachi by Yoshitoki Oima – This short series has already seen its end, Weekly Shonen Magazine publishing the last chapter in November. But even in its short time, this manga about a deaf girl and the boy who used to bully her touched the hearts of everyone who read it. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, there’s no question as to why this manga was nominated.
Kodomo wa Wakatte Agenai by Rettou Tajima – A two volume miniseries run by Morning, this little slice-of-life is as cute as its art style. Although short, it has merit enough to be a contender for the year.
Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun by Izumi Tsukabi – A four panel web comic series shown in several magazines, this manga already has its own anime adaption. Only those living under rocks haven’t heard of this comedy. It shows the escapades of a girl who meets her favourite shoujo author, only to find he isn’t quite what she expected. Wickedly popular, humorous and at times touching, this series could easily be called the year’s frontrunner.
My Hero Academiaby Houhei Horikoshi – If superhero stories interest you, this is the manga to read. It’s about a boy living in a world with superpowered people, who dreams of being a hero – without having any superpowers himself. The kind of story we can all relate to, “My Hero Academia” is a top contender.
Ousama-tachi no Viking by Makoto Fukami and Sadayasu – A cyber action plotline with a wicked cool graphic style, this collaboration project is worth keeping an eye on.
The Ancient Magus’ Brideby Kore Yamazaki – Picked up by Seven Seas, this unpublished manga sets out to tell the story of a young girl bought by a magus – an ancient sorcerer – at a slave auction. Instead of becoming his slave, however, the man announces he plans to make her his apprentice, and his bride. A Beauty and the Beast-styled paranormal romance, this manga plays to the popular genres while still looking beautiful and unique.
There are a lot of good contenders this year, but only one can be the winner of the Manga Taisho Award. Most of these contenders are shown in Manga magazines, such as Big Comic, Shuukan Young Jump, Cocohana and Manga Magazine. Have you read any of these? If so, what are your thoughts?