License request day: Takemitsu Zamurai

You all know I can’t resist an awards program as fodder for a license request, so I’ve greeted the announcement of the Tezuka Cultural Prize (written up by Asahi Shimbun) with predictable eagerness. Unfortunately, I’ve already requested that someone publish the winning title (Motoka Murakami’s Jin). Fortunately, this year resulted in a not-uncommon tie for first place. (Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Fumi Yoshinaga tied in 2009.) Even more fortunately, Taiyo Matsumoto is involved.

The gifted Matsumoto, of TekkonKinkreet and GoGo Monster fame, has done illustration duties on the other winning title, Takemitsu Zamurai, which was written by Issei Eifuku. The esteemed panel of judges noted that the book was “the most advanced work in terms of the level of illustration techniques.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s looked at Matsumoto’s pages.

It’s about an out-of-work samurai who retires to teach in one of the tenements of Edo-era Japan. Apparently, it’s not a peaceful retirement for a swordsman-turned-educator. In spite of his efforts to leave violence behind, he’s a suspect in a murder, and an investigator starts digging into his past. His presence brings unwelcome visitors to the neighborhood, along with a number of other complications. It sounds like a more muscular House of Five Leaves, and anything that I can favorably compare to House of Five Leaves piques my interest about as much as anything with Matsumoto’s name on the cover.

The eight volume-series was originally published in Shogakukan’s Big Comic Spirits. As you might expect, it’s being published in French (by Kana, in this case). While I’m inclined to take the word of judges like Keiko Takemiya and Go Nagai, I’m drooling to see some of the interior pages, because the covers are sickeningly gorgeous.

Seriously, Viz, you have like one month to announce this title. It’s only eight volumes long, it’s finished, it won the most prestigious manga prize Japan has to offer, and it was practically minted for your Signature imprint. Do your part to liven up San Diego for manga fans.