Have you always dreamed of being a professional manga artist? Do you doodle manga all day? Here's your chance to bring your work to international attention: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has just announced its 5th International Manga Award.
The 2009 winner, Jakraphan Huaypetch's Super Dunker
The award was created in 2007 by then-foreign minister Taro Aso, whose otaku credentials are in good order (even if his political career isn't): He is a lifelong manga fan who had his parents send him manga magazines when he was a student in the U.S. and was spotted reading Rozen Maiden in Tokyo International Airport not that long ago.
Madeline Rosca's Hollow Fields took a Bronze Award the first year
Guidelines for the award have not been posted yet, but they will be at this site, which also offers a look at the work of previous winners. The award is truly international: Last year it received 189 entries from 39 countries, and the winners have come from the U.S., Belgium, Spain, France, Thailand, Korea, China, and Australia.
A page from last year's winner, Xiao Bai's Si loin et si proche
It's worth clicking through to look at the previous years' winners; as you can see from the examples here, there is quite a variety of different styles and subjects. The good news is that if there are only 200 entries, you might have a fighting chance of getting one of the five awards, if you bring your best game. Need some advice? There are lots of manga how-to books out there, and most of them are about character design. That's important, but it's also important to plan your story and how you are going to tell it. For that, I recommend Tokyopop's How to Draw Shoujo Manga book; it's still available on Amazon, and you may be lucky enough to pick it up in your library or get a used copy. What I like about this book is that it goes beyond how to draw sparkly eyes into the real nuts and bolts of telling a story in manga form, from the correct way to draw borders to composing panels to tips on screentones. And it's by the editors of Hakusensha's manga magazines, so you are getting your advice straight from the source.
So if you have a manga story sitting in a drawer or your hard drive, now is the time to pull it out, polish it up, and send it in. After all, you can't win if you don't enter...