All of these manga entries were quite intriguing. It was particularly difficult to select the most successful works from the pool of manga that had already been chosen. I read the prize candidates thinking to myself, "Good art is just plain good!" After I finished reading them, I realized that I have been reading manga continuously for nearly 60 years, and they have never stopped changing. In particular I want to mention Vincent. This work's interplay between the deformed character and van Gogh's paintings was amazing. We cannot overlook the skillfulness in the translation, either. I think that it is largely due to the translator that Van Gogh's pleasures as well as his struggles are both conveyed to the reader, through a very smooth reading. It made me want to visit the museum again so that I could enjoy another viewing of van Gogh paintings. I referred to the way manga are changing, rather than evolving, because there are so many of them that were written 10, 20 and even 50 years ago but remain interesting when read today. Manga from the past normally become obsolete, but some of the earlier works continue to inform those of present-day in terms of story construction, division of frames, the design of their composition, and the shape of their speech balloons. The elements that compose manga have changed in so many ways over the long stretch of years. I particularly sensed changes in setting when I read the current entries for these awards. These works were set in a wide range of settings that transcended time, where its distance couldn't even be measured. Among these works of such diverse settings, I was particularly drawn to those that I could easily relate to, and that pulled me into their worlds. The authors of such works exercised their great ingenuity to draw in the reader. All of the works that made it through the final screening brought the reader into their world through innovative techniques. The differences between the manga that won the Grand Prize and the Excellence Award, or between those that won the Excellence Award and the Jury's Selections, were remarkably minimal; none of the selections was made by unanimous decision. The jury members gave their opinions on each work and their final decisions were made based on consensus among the members. Listening to the opinions of the other members during the jury session, I agreed with some of what they said, and also gained new insight thanks to the views of members whose different perspectives led to contrasting interpretations. The works that I read for this competition all had unique pen strokes and stories. This is natural, and one of the features of manga. Judging works that manga artists put all of their passion into creating was difficult but also very enjoyable. Manga are truly captivating works of art.
Born in Akita City, 1954. KURATA studied under CHIBA Tetsuya after graduating from high school. After working as an assistant for five and a half years, he struck out on his own. He won the 4th Shogakukan New Face Comic Award and made his debut with the prize-winning Moeizuru (Start Sprouting...). KURATA won the 44th Shogakukan Manga Award in 1999 for Aji ichi monme (A Pinch of Seasoning), which he'd begun drawing in 1984. His Aji ichi monme series is currently ongoing. KURATA began teaching at Otemae University in 2009. He presently holds workshops in Japan and throughout the world, including China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Paris, Seattle, Mongolia, and Ukraine. He is a member of Manga Japan, and a director of the Japan Cartoonists Association. He has served as a judge for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan International Manga Award, the Japan Cartoonists Association Manga Award, the Golden Dragon Award in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian New Face Comic Award, and more.
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