The Akiko Higashimura license pool

You know what seems kind of weird to me? That nobody has licensed any manga from Akiko Higashimura yet. She’s been nominated for the Manga Taisho Award three times for three different titles. She was nominated for the Tezuka Cultural Prize in 2010, and she won the Kodansha Award in 2010. Of course, the admiration of one’s peers and critics doesn’t necessarily translate into something marketable.

And yet, there’s evidence that her highly regarded artistic sensibility yields commercially successful product. Kuragehime, which won the Kodansha, has been adapted into an animated series, which is available in the United States through Funimation as Princess Jellyfish. While it’s not unheard of for a josei series like Kuragehime (which ran in Kodansha’s Kiss) to be made into an anime, it’s still unusual enough to be impressive.

The manga also has the advantage of falling into the “Nerds, yay!” genre. It’s about an apartment building filled with female otaku. They describe themselves as “nuns,” and each has her own religion. The lead, who’s loved jellyfish since memorable trips to an aquarium with her mother, wants to be an illustrator and has moved to Tokyo to achieve that, but she’s cripplingly shy. She makes an outgoing new friend, though, who becomes her roommate. The friend turns out to be a cross-dresser from a well-connected political family who’d rather work in fashion.

So there are geeks, secret-identity shenanigans, big dreams, romance, and, if I’m correctly informed, the pernicious influence of gentrification. What’s the hold up? Based on existing enthusiasm, I’d imagine that Kodansha is waiting for the best offer, or to establish their outpost well enough to publish it themselves. It’s up to six volumes.

And if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I’d rather read her Himawari: Kenichi Legend, which is running in Kodansha’s Morning. It’s about another aspiring artist, this time a would be mangaka who toils at an office lady for the same company that employs her eccentric father. There are 13 volumes available so far, and I just get a good vibe off of it, particularly because it’s supposed to be loosely autobiographical.

Her current series is Omo ni Naitemasu, which I’ve seen translated as Mainly Crying, running in Morning and up to three volumes. As near as I can determine, it’s about an extraordinarily beautiful woman who lives a rather isolated life. It also has really striking covers, which is always a plus.

So what are your thoughts on Higashimura’s license prospects? She’s clearly talented and prolific, neither of which ever hurt a mangaka. Which of her titles tickle your fancy? Do you think any of them will be announced by the end of the year?

My official guess: Kodansha will announce Kuragehime at this year’s Comic-Con International.