From The Mainichi: Every year since 1881, the Japanese government recognizes citizens who have made significant contributions in the fields of art/culture, science, public service, and academia with the Medal of Honor.
This year, manga creator Moto Hagio (A, A', A Drunken Dream, and the upcoming release, Heart of Thomas from Fantagraphics) was announced as one of 25 honorees who received the Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor, which is awarded to individuals or groups in the arts and academia. Hagio is the 14th manga creator and the first female manga-ka to receive this award.
In total, 674 recipients, including 171 women were singled out for the Medal of Honor this week in six categories, which are distinguished by the various colors of the ribbons for the medals. For example, red ribbon medals are awarded to individuals who have risked their lives to save others, while blue ribbon medals are awarded to people or organizations for distinguished public service. The Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1955.
Medal of Honor recipients are announced by the Japanese government twice a year: on April 29 (the birthday of the Showa Emperor, a.k.a. Emperor Hirohito) and November 3 (the birthday of the Meiji Emperor, a.k.a. Emperor Mutsuhito).
Past manga-ka recipients of the Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor include several creators that may be familiar to Western comics fans, including Shigeru Mizuki (Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths, NonNonBa) and Takao Saito (Golgo 13).
Here's the short list of manga creators who have received the Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor to date:
- 1980 - Yukio Sugiura, creator of Hanako-san, an early humor comic strip about a young woman living in pre-WWII Japan that was later adapted as a feature film in 1943.
- 1981 - Taizo Yokoyama, creator of Shakai Gihyo (Sarcastic Social Criticism), a comic strip that was featured in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper for over 38 years.
- 1986 - Yoshihiro Katoh, creator of Mappira-kun (Mr. No Way), a comic strip that was serialized in the Mainichi Shimbun between 1954-2001.
- 1991 - Shigeru Mizuki, creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro, as well as Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, a semi-autobiographical manga about WWII, and NonNonBa, a story about Mizuki's childhood and his first encounters with yokai (Japanese spirits/demons) folklore. (Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa are available in English from Drawn & Quarterly).
- 1996 - Yoshiji Suzuki, creator of Sanwari-kun, a humorous comic strip about a hapless everyman who is known for being "only 30% reliable." Sanwari-kun was featured in the Daily Yoimuri newspaper between 1966 - 2004.
- 1998 - Fujio Akatsuka, creator of Tensai Bakabon (Genius Bakabon), a absurd humor series about a dim-witted boy and his even goofier dad who rarely lets anything discourage him. Tensai Bakabon was first featured in Weekly Shonen magazine in 1967, and has been adapted as an anime series.
- 2001 - Leiji Matsumoto, creator of sci-fi-adventure series Galaxy Express 999 and Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and the current anime series Ozma, which is currently featured on Crunchyroll
- 2002 - Tetsuya Chiba, creator of Ashita no Jo (Tomorrow's Joe), a dramatic series about a young boxer who goes from a promising amateur to becoming a world-class fighter.
- 2003 - Takao Saito, creator of Golgo 13 and numerous other action/adventure series for shonen and seinen manga magazines. VIZ Media published a 13-volume "best of" collection of Golgo 13 adventures. JManga.com has several Takao Saito series available online in English.
- 2004 - Hiroshi Kurogane, creator of historical manga, including Shinsengumi and Sakamoto Ryoma.
- 2005 - Shinji Mizushima, creator of several beloved baseball manga series, including Yakyu-kyo no Uta, Dokaben and Abu-san. Mizushima's baseball stories are highly regarded as some of the most beloved sports manga ever published in Japan.
- 2007 - Kenshi Hirokane, creator of Kosaku Shima, the white-collar hero of salarymen in Japan. The various Kosaku Shima series follow his globe-trotting adventures as he moves up from Section Chief to eventually becoming President of his company.Kodanasha published three volumes of Kosaku Shima as Japanese-English bilingual editions (which are now out of print)
- 2010 - Ryohei Saigan, creator of Kamakura Monogatari (Kamakura Tales), a whimsical slice of life series about a mystery author who lives in a resort town with his young wife. The series is available in English on JManga.com.
- 2012 - Moto Hagio, creator of shojo, shonen ai, and science fiction stories, including A, A' (published by VIZ Media), A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, and Heart of Thomas (published by Fantagraphics).
Interestingly, while there are many notable names on this list of Medal of Honor recipients, Osamu Tezuka, one of Japan's most beloved manga creators never received this honor from the Japanese government. It's also striking to note that manga creators do not make the cut every year, and that Hagio is the first female comics creator to receive this award since it was first established in 1955.
Dates and venue for the Medal of Honor award presentation have not been announced as of yet. Thanks to translator / manga scholar Matt Thorn for passing on this info via his Twitter feed, and sharing background info about the Japanese Medal of Honor!
Thorn is also the translator for Fantagraphics' editions of Hagio's A Drunken Dream, and their upcoming English edition Heart of Thomas, an early shonen ai (boys' love) drama series which has been pushed out for release in October 2012, a change from its originally scheduled August 2012 publication date. It is however, available for pre-order, so make plans to pick up this book when it comes out this Fall.
In the meantime, you can check out my gallery of photos from Moto Hagio's visit to San Diego Comic-Con 2010, which also includes pages from A Drunken Dream, and sneak peeks at work from throughout her 40+ year career as a professional manga artist.
Image credits: Courtesy of Moto Hagio, © Moto Hagio / SHOGAKUKAN