As evident in the lineup of award-winning works and the Jury's Selections, the submissions covered many genres this year. To select from among them a winner was as excruciating a task as deciding the best among top athletes in different sports, like marathon running, swimming the breaststroke, tennis, and the triathlon. None of the submissions had unanimous votes from the jury for any given award, be it the Grand Prize or New Face Award, so we narrowed down entries in the selection process by listening to the other jury members' opinions about nominations for each award. Evaluating the submissions reminded me of my first year of high school, when I first took up an ink pen to draw manga onto paper. Fifty years later, I'm still drawing with pen and ink. More artists are using styluses, tablets, and computers to illustrate manga of late. We call these methods digital and the old-fashioned method analog. Among the submissions reviewed this year were many digitally illustrated manga. Some were instantly recognizable as such, while others that appeared analog were actually digital. Whether of digital or analog works by newcomer or veteran artists, however, the judging process is what it is. Only the manga before you, right then and there, can be judged. In the end, I think it's the artist's passion for manga that determines which submissions will make it to the final round. Younger artists are direct with their passions, while veterans reveal their own particular leanings built over a long period of time. This passion the artist has poured into the manga is what moves readers. Be it a manga with breakneck action or a quiet, relaxing piece, each is illustrated with passion. How well this passion makes it across on the page is what moves the evaluation. I want readers to pick up these award-winning works once again. I hope readers can experience the great individuality of each artist and feel the intensity and passion of their thoughts anew.
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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