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The Kumamoto International Manga Festival 2019 REPORT

Christopher Tordoff Christopher Tordoff 11/10/2019 11 min read

Kumamoto City is a special place. Situated in Kumamoto Prefecture on the west coast of Kyushu, the city boasts a rich and fascinating history that includes daring sieges and arguably Japan’s most famous city mascot. It’s also home to the SILENT MANGA AUDITION® Kumamoto International Manga Festival (KIMF), where the winners of the SMA-EX5 Round were invited to experience this wonderful Japanese city.

Meeting in Tokyo’s Haneda airport, GP Runner Up winners “youngman” (Vietnam) and SMA MasterClass member Kachisou (Portugal), along with Sojo University award winner Saf Satu (Malaysia) quickly bonded over their shared love of manga, and before we knew it, we were airborne. Destination… KUMAMOTO!

(L-R) Kachisou, Saf Satu and “youngman” receiving a warm welcome from Luffy at Kumamoto airport!

Arriving at Kumamoto Airport, the EX5 award winners are welcomed by a familiar face, Monkey D. Luffy from the best selling manga series One Piece! Created by Kumamoto born Eiichiro Oda, One Piece is a familiar sight around the city and a worthy addition to Kumamoto’s manga heritage.

After a quick freshen up at the Kumamoto Castle Hotel, it was time make our way to the KIMF 2019 Award Ceremony. Taking place in an impressive wedding venue, the event was a celebration of manga and Kumamoto! With speeches from CEO Nobuhiko Horie and SMA Chief Editor Shuichi “Mocchi” Mochida bringing much laughter to the crowd, it was time for the SMA-EX5 award winners to take centre stage, literally!

CEO Horie-san kicks off the ceremony.

First up is Saf Satu, receiving his certificate from a Sojo University representative for his manga Proposal Day, who then went on to surprise the crowd by accepting his award in Japanese! Following Saf was Grand Prix Runner Up award winners “youngman” for his entry FISH and Kachisou for I Want To Reach The No1, who’s nerves were soon alleviated by some warms words from Hojo-sensei.

The SMA-EX5 Award Winners!

With the certificate ceremony over, it was time to eat! A veritable smorgasbord of delicious edibles were on offer, including fresh sashimi, moreish lasagna and Kumamoto’s famous delicacy, horse meat! With bellies full and hearty “congratulations” still ringing in their ears, our international guests took the opportunity for an early night, ready for a day of sightseeing.

The food gets the thumbs up!

Originally built in 1467, Kumamoto Castle (熊本城 Kumamoto-jō) has seen its fair share of action through the centuries. Greatly expanded by the Japanese Lord (大名 Daimyō) Katō Kiyomasa from 1601 to 1607, the castle  has sustained sieges, particularly during the samurai revolt of 1877 (Satsuma Rebellion) and a multitude of earthquakes, with the most recent 2016 earthquake greatly damaging the structure. With repairs nearing an end, the EX5 winners managed to see at least half of this impressive building not covered in scaffold.

Even partially restored, the castle is an imposing presence on the skyline of Kumamoto.

With the imaginary sounds of medieval battles still lingering in the ears of our guests, it was time to visit the main event of the trip, the Kumamoto International Manga Festival! Housed in the Tsuruya dept. store, the festival is a riot of manga. With 76 individual mangas and illustrations on display, including the award winning EX5 works, “memories of Takamori” from the 2018 Manga Camp and the SMA works adapted into the Silent Manga movie Angel Sign, there was something for everyone!

The KIMF 2019!

Brimming with pride at seeing their works on public display for the people of Kumamoto, our guests were quickly ushered into a small auditorium to watch a live talk with the makers of the aforementioned Angel Sign. With Horie-san, general director and SMA judge Tsukasa Hojo and the stars and director of the Kumamoto set “Beginning and Farewell” by Vincent Lang, Naoto Ogata, Momoko Kikuchi and Ken Ochiai respectively, we were given an exclusive insight into this pioneering cinematic event.

The Angel Sign panel discuss how the film made it from page to screen.

The last day for our SMA-EX5 award winners wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the COAMIX Kumamoto Manga LAB work space! With a warm welcome from “Mocchi”, the SMA Chief Editor took some time out of his busy schedule to explain the finer points of manga making, as well as explaining the mission of the Manga LAB. Open to the public, the work space offers a fantastic opportunity for local mangaka to learn manga making and receive editorial feedback. It also offered a great opportunity for our guests to try out the latest hardware available at the LAB!

“Mocchi” and the gang in the Kumamoto Manga LAB!

Alas, all things must come to an end, and with that it was time to catch our flight to Haneda where our wonderful guests would make their way home to their own countries. With memories overflowing with the hospitality of Kumamoto, not to mention bags bursting with manga, our SMA-EX5 award winners felt collectively inspired and focused to push the boundaries of international manga making. So that leaves us with only one response, in the words of Saf Satu… “Arigatōgozaimashita!!”

Congratulations guys and thank you for visiting Japan!

Take the Kumamoto International Manga Festival tour…

Christopher Tordoff

Christopher Tordoff