“SUGOI” Titles Representing Present Day Japan Have Been Chosen!
The SUGOI JAPAN Award 2017 Ceremony was held on March 16, 2017. This year, a total of 68,411 votes were cast, surpassing last year’s result. “I feel the hype and power of the fans every time,” said Executive Chairman Yozo Matsuda at The Yomiuri Shimbun Tokyo Headquarters).
The host for the event was Nippon Broadcasting System Announcer Hisanori Yoshida, who also served as the host last year and was involved in the nominations for the Anime category. Staff and creators of winning titles from each category were invited on stage and had the chance to share their comments.

The winners of each category are the following:
“My Hero Academia”
“Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-”
Ranobe (Light novel):
“Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-”
“your name.: A Novel”

“Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-” won in both the anime and light novel category. “My Hero Academia” was also a title that gained popularity due to its anime adaptation, and “your name.: A Novel” was the novelized version of the animated feature film “Your Name.” which created a great sensation in 2016. The results showed the power of media mix franchises that incorporate anime and other genres.

Manga category

Naoki Yoshida

Author Kohei Horikoshi thought that it was all a joke when he received the news of winning the award. “I’m happy that my readers voted for my work,” he stated nervously. As Yoshida - an avid manga reader who goes through a few hundred volumes a year - pointed out, this series has a powerful American comic-like style. Horikoshi stated that he intended to draw in a general style resembling that of Shonen Jump at the beginning of his career, but he didn’t get the reaction he wanted and decided to draw according to his own interests. The lines he used grew thicker as he drew more hero mangas.
Horikoshi looks up to strong people with bright personalities who are successful the general society. When asked by Yoshida about whether or not looking up to such people enabled him to draw characters who want to but just can’t take a step forward, Horikoshi answered with a nod. “Yes, I wanted to create characters who side with the weak,” said Horikoshi.

General comments from the jury
“My Hero Academia” became instantaneously popular after its serialization began in 2014, and attracted plenty of attention by earning an anime adaptation with exceptional speed. I can feel the strong support that fans are offering the original manga, which helped the title win. It may be accurate to say that the result is a product of the title’s successful buildup of excitement in every episode of the long series, and also of the strength that the manga genre has. The title captured and held onto the hearts of its fans. Still, on the topic of manga, every one of the titles that made it into the top five is filled with incredibly unique perspectives and imagination. “GOLDEN CAMUY” is a series featuring historical romance set in Hokkaido which thoroughly depicts the culture and customs of the area. ”10 count” is a boy's love series featuring counseling for OCD. “Dagashi Kashi” is a comedy manga focused strictly on snacks. “The Ancient Magus' Bride” is a mix of deep fantasy and a delicate story of love. You can tell with just a glance that all of these titles are unique in their own ways. One of the strengths the manga genre has is the ability to allow bold and fresh ideas to expand with more freedom than other mediums. You’ll be amazed by every volume you pick up and be mesmerized like one of the many fans that support the series.

Manga category jury Sayawaka (Writer/Story Critic)

Anime category

Sho Tanaka

Yoshida described “Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-” as the “Cinderella Story of 2016”. The series did not have many viewers at the beginning of its airing, but gradually gained popularity episode by episode and was strongly supported by the end with its abbreviated name “Re:Zero” taking root among the public. It is a series that was truly “made with its fans.”
Sho Tanaka, the producer of the anime from KADOKAWA, told a surprising episode from pre-production when he had a chat with the editor of the original series about how an anime adaptation would be “interesting” and began planning without formal approval from their company. Tanaka had flipped the usual process, but believed in the potential of the original series and pushed forward. “The original series is still continuing, and the anime won’t end here. Please look forward to what we have to offer in the future,” he said.
Animation producer Tsunaki Yoshikawa of anime studio WHITE FOX showed his determination to fulfill expectations by adding that “The entire staff made a solid effort in producing the series, and we will keep working hard for our fans.”

General comments from the jury
If you take a walk in Akihabara today, you will see Rem, one of the heroines of “Re:Zero” on posters, cardboard cutouts and screens in all kinds of shops. There were also countless Rem figures at the latest Wonder Festival, a festival which features figures and models. The most prominent reason why this title was able to win in both the anime and light novel category is probably the charm of Rem, and I believe that she should be the one receiving the praise. Using a character as a backbone to judge attractive series rather than the script or filmography is often regarded to be shallow. However, characters have played an important role in Japanese anime, manga and light novels, and are a crucial factor that holds media mix structures together. These characters not only traverse various forms of media but also are mediums where the script, filmography and the acting of voice actors come together. They are also vessels for fans to love and sympathize with. This victory in the animation category allows us to confirm that the above is true. The runners-up are also filled with fascinating characters. Congratulations to all the winners.

Anime category jury Kaichiro Morikawa (Design/Associate Professor at Meiji University)

Ranobe (Light novel) category

Tappei Nagatsuki

This novel started out as a web series and was found by editors and published. After the announcement of the anime category, the author of the series Tappei Nagatsuki introduced himself as the “Cinderella of 2016” and drew laughter from the audience. He explained that he grew up being “pummeled” by various titles, and that “Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-” was a result of this. He began his speech by stating that he was “thankful for being able to win both categories by gaining a broad audience with the synergy created by anime.” He went on to thank the anime staff and showed his determination saying that he would also like to create titles that shake and “pummel” the heart of its readers.

Illustrations are also an essential part of a light novel. Illustrator Shinichiro Otsuka laughed and deeply thanked the relevant staff and his fans, stating that this was the only prize he won since his perfect attendance reward in junior high school. Nagatsuki explained that he was blown away seeing Otsuka’s artwork before the first volume was published and that the illustrations are embodiments of his work that played a part in encouraging his motivation and added depth to the series. We will look forward to stories written by Nagatsuki, who wants to respond to our expectations but defy our predictions.

General comments from the jury
Titles that started out as web series have gained popularity as of last year. The grand prize went to “Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-” which features a male protagonist who tries to change fate despite having only the power to turn back time when he dies. Even though he was reborn in another world, he hardly gets to play an active role and yearns for a stable life, which shares similarities to “KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!” which came in second place. Both titles add their own unique twists to the other/different world genre and have gained originality. It is part of the fun exclusive to light novels when twists are added and parodies are created right after popular genres are born. Other titles that entered the top five are “Half or yes or No”, the first boys love novel, the “Qualidea Code” series which was written by numerous authors and “GODS' WISHGRANTER”, a novel in between the light novel genre and literature also known as “chara-novels/light novel literature”. This contest is an opportunity to learn the range and diversity which lie in light novels.

Ranobe (Light novel) category jury Satoshi Maejima (Writer/critic)

Novel category

Mr. Yoshida(left) / Mr. Shinkai(right)

Makoto Shinkai

“Your Name.” is an animated film that has earned over 24.7 billion yen as of March 20th, 2017. It is currently the fourth highest grossing film in Japan, under “Spirited Away”, “Titanic” and “Frozen”. Unfortunately, the film was released in August of 2016, while the SUGOI Japan Award 2017 only counts titles that were released approximately one year up until July 31st, 2016. However, its novelized counterpart was written by director Makoto Shinkai himself while simultaneously creating the film.
Stepping onto the podium not as the representative of his staff as a director of the film but as an author must have been a refreshing experience for Shinkai. “There were over 400 thousand copies sold even before the film took off, and it became the first step to gather popularity. I’m glad that there were people who also read my book,” he stated as he reflected on his progress. The novel has sold over 1.5 million copies and managed to become the best-selling paperback of 2016, and took the hearts of its audience with its film.

In fact, Shinkai hesitated at first when he was creating the film and writing the novel at the same time. He admitted that he felt a rivalry between Mamoru Hosoda, who was both a film director and writer, but in the end managed to deepen the film with his writing experience*. He has already begun working on his next animated film and has created a writing schedule for it too.

*Read a behind-the-scenes interview here:

General comments from the jury
SUGOI JAPAN’s screening methods are unique since they are not simple rankings based on revenue. The results of the novel category truly show the diversity of “entertainment,” with novels from very different genres. There were titles that greatly surpassed Naoki Matayoshi’s runaway bestseller “Hibana” in the second awards last year, and by reflecting the age demographics, trends, and not only sales but pure passion from “votes” created an eventful contest. These trends have appeared on this year’s winners too, with easily accessible light novels, Akutagawa Prize-winning masterpieces, and Japan Book Seller award earning titles being side by side on the top five. Despite this, the novel version of the hit film of 2016 “Your Name.” has won first place in the novel category, showing Shinkai’s abilities to create a film and a novel at the same time, as well as the broad supporting fanbase. As seen in last year’s “The Empire of Corpses”, when content and advertisement are made with films, television shows and books (and the, of course, the internet), they produce synergy and become media mixed titles capable of causing social phenomenon which truly depicts modern day 2016 “JAPAN”. And these structures may be the most “SUGOI” thing Japan can boast to the world.

Novel category jury Makoto Ichikawa (Critic/Associate Professor at Waseda University)

(Written/Interviewed By Momo Tachibana/Yomiuri Otemachi Hall)
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