License request day: Umimachi Diary

It’s award season, and while I should theoretically devote the next few license requests to some of the current honorees and nominees, I find myself distracted by the first set of nominees for the Manga Taisho Awards. I’m not distracted because of the bounty of titles yet to be licensed; it’s the volume of nominees we already have at our fingertips, and what fine comics they are.

Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Flower of Life, Moyasimon, Yotsuba&! … We can go into a store and buy all of these, and they’re terrific, terrific books. I’ve already mentioned another of the nominees in this feature (Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, and how fabulous is an awards program that nominates Yoshinaga three times in one year?), but I felt I had to dig deeper into the other contenders.

Oh, geez, you guys, the creator of Banana Fish is doing a josei series.

It’s called Umimachi (Sea Town) Diary, written and illustrated by Akimi Yoshida, and it’s running in Shogakukan’s Monthly Flowers. It’s about three sisters who learn of the death of their long-absent father and the existence of a fourth sister. From what I can determine, the publisher describes it as “ardent” and “raw,” and I have no resistance to those adjectives. Or those covers. It basically sounds like an observant drama about complicated women dealing with stressful new circumstances and old family issues. And it’s set in a town by the sea.


Sorry. I lost the thread there for a minute. I’m better now.

It was nominated for the 2008 Taisho (losing to Shinichi Ichizuka’s Gaku, which I’ll get to later) and the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize twice, losing to Moyasimon in 2008 and Ôoku in 2009, which is perfectly respectable, and it received an Excellence Prize in the 2007 Japan Media Arts Festival. Three volumes have been released so far.

Beyond the fact that it sounds like a lovely series, there’s the not inconsiderable fondness for Yoshida’s Banana Fish to factor into the equation. For starters, the inimitable Shaenon Garrity featured it in her Overlooked Manga Festival, which is definitely a badge of honor. Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi has assembled a murderer’s row of manga critics to break down the series volume by volume. And Banana Fish is over 30 years old. Can you imagine what Yoshida is capable of now?

Yes, this has been a great week for license announcements. Yes, one should occasionally take a moment to bask in what they have or will soon have rather than what’s not yet within their grasp. Neither of those things alters the fact that I want Umimachi Diaries, and I want it soon. Viz… Fantagraphics… it’s in your court.