The ‘Kono Manga ga Sugoi!‘ (‘This Manga Is Amazing!’) guidebook announced its 7th Grand Prix Award winner this week. And what can we say? It really is amazing that this one has been chosen. The first prize went to Ayumi’s ECHOES, a manga exploring themes of transgenderism, after being unanimously selected by judges. Its first volume is now due to be published in Japan tomorrow, December 10th.
In the story, partially based on the author’s own experiences, the members of a female basketball team each struggle with their own confusions. Some will be relatable to pretty much all of us to varying extents, such as captain Asuka’s misanthropy due to past relationships, and Kaneko’s guilty feelings about her mental weakness. But the protagonist, Sei, is distressed by the fact that she doesn’t feel right in her own body, knowing her mind is male though she’s seen by everyone else as female.
Through telling her own stories in this format, the 28-year-old author wanted to deliver a particular message to readers: her belief that many types of people can and should co-exist in one community, and her hope that the world will become a place where trans people are no longer seen as strange. What a perfect message to send through manga, a medium with such a tangled history in ‘body-swapping’ narratives and queer representation.
Takarajimasha have been publishing the ‘Kono Manga ha Sugoi!’ handbook every year since its inauguration in 2005. The Grand Prix Award itself was established in 2010. Its goal was to contribute to the discovery and development of young manga artists with the potential to join the ranks of the professional names the awards have recognised, such as Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED) author Kei Sanbe, and Tanaka-kun is Always Listless‘ Nozomi Uda in the 2015 rankings.
We’re hoping that ECHOES will be picked up for western readers at some point in the near future. We need more stories like this to become internationally acclaimed. Only then do we have a hope of making Ayumi’s wish a reality, as well as creating a world that accepts all people from all facets of the gender and sexuality spectrums.