You read the headline correctly! Japan will be giving its first ever “Nobel Prize of Manga” in July 2007 to comic-book artists living outside its borders.
The country that literally created manga, or graphic-styled novels, in the 1950’s, and based them on post-WWII American newspaper comic strips, will also be the first to recognize the art and its creators as worthy of such an honor. In fact, without manga, there would be no Japanese Anime. It has become one of Japan’s major export industries.
“It’s not Sony anymore, it’s manga,” said Alexandra Munroe, the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art curator. “It’s a very strategic move by the government to kind of sanctify and legitimize an area of Japanese cultural production that has traditionally been â€” although economically a huge portion of Japan’s publishing industry â€” it has been officially a subculture.”
The International Manga Award, likened to a ‘Nobel Prize’ in literature, is designed to acknowledge artist for their contribution to the worldwide spread of the manga art form.
“Official forces within Japanese government are recognizing the leadership that Japan has in the world in this area of cultural production. And they do. No one comes close,” Munroe said. “They realize it’s their Hollywood.”
“There are manga that are full of big-eyed girls and robots, there are manga that tell the story of professional golfers, there are cooking manga, there are manga that are very sort of indie and western in flavor,” said Mike Kiley, the publisher of Tokyopop. “It’s a very broad palate and kind of difficult to generalize.”
Munroe was quick to explain the difference between the standard comic book style and that of Manga — “The stories tend to be much more complex,” Munroe said. “They tend to be psychologically much more bizarre. They tend to have themes that are much more kind of apocalyptic. More extraterrestrial. More truly gruesome and violent.”
June 22 will be the day the Award Committe, comprised of manga artists and publishers, releases their list of final nominees for the award. Japan’s governmental body of ministers will pick the winner and three runner-ups on July 2, 2007. Unlike the actual Nobel Prize, the International Manga Award offers no cash prize (at least not in this innaugural year), but the winner will receive an appropriate trophy and international recognition from the Manga, Comic Book and Anime community, which can’t hurt future sales of the winner’s product.
Fox News contributed to this story. Image courtesy of Kyoto Seika University.