Editors from Kodansha's Morning magazine announced the winners of their fourth annual Morning International Comic Competition this weekend, and they seem to be happier than they were last year. The judges in the 2009 competition complained that "many of the current entries have focused on bishojo, giant robots, ninja and the like, leaving a very narrow impression of 'manga' style." They expressed overall dissatisfaction with the entries and asked prospective creators to think about some different types of stories, and to emphasize this, they changed the name of the contest from Morning International Manga Competition to Morning International Comic Competition.
It worked. In this year's press release, they say
This time, we saw an immediate change resulting from the contest's revised name, as we received many submissions that could be classified as "seinen manga," the genre that our magazine Morning primarily publishes. Not only that, we also received many highly exciting works with stories and visual designs that we could not imagine ever seeing from creators within the Japanese industry.
And indeed, the winners are interesting and eclectic. The first prize went to Kim DaeJin of Korea for "The Unreberating Echo," a story about a college student who suddenly can't read, hear, or say consonants. The judges loved this, saying
This entry is in the Korean "web manga style," and uses paneling that is different from Japanese manga. Still the story is strong enough to surpass that fact. The very idea of "losing consonants" and the resulting frustration due to an inability to be understood is drawn in a very natural way. Despite the main character not wanting to become alienated by society, he is misunderstood by others, and any struggles he makes only further hastens his own ruin. The empathetic depiction of this sense of tension makes it very easy to feel the author's talents.