Winner of the “Next Comic Award”! The creator of “The Medalist” tells the inside story of its production
In September, “Medalist,” serialized in “Monthly Afternoon,” won the Grand Prize in the Comics Division of the “Next Comic Award 2022,” which seeks to discover the next breakthrough manga artist.
The story is about a figure skater, Tsukasa Akeuraji, a young man who has failed as a skater, who meets a girl, Inori Yutsuka. Inori’s talent makes Tsukasa fall in love with her and he becomes Inori’s coach, and the story follows the two as they work together to capture their dreams.
The author is Tsukuru Maikada, who makes his debut with this work. Since the “Next Coming Manga Grand Prize” is limited to five volumes or less, this year was the last year for this work, the sixth volume of which was published in July. Tsuruma, who had one last chance to win the award, said of his current feelings: “There are many manga awards out there.
There are many awards for manga, but this was the last one I could win as a new author, so I was really happy to hear that I had won. The theme of the work “The Medalist” is that winning medals and prizes is about the expectations of the people around you and how you turn those expectations into strength.
Medalist” was nominated for the “Next Coming Manga Award” last year, but ended up placing 16th.
To be honest, last year I thought there was no way I could win. When I looked at the other nominated works, I saw that they were all works that I had read and loved, and I thought that the lineup was eminent. But when I found out the result, I felt ashamed of myself for giving up from the beginning, and I was really frustrated. As the character Tsukasa says in the story, there was no way that the first place that everyone wanted would come to someone who was just hoping to get it, so I went into the contest thinking that I would definitely win first place this year. But from that moment on, my heart was racing, and I realized how hard it is to believe in your own strength.
Perhaps it was this strong feeling that led Tsuruma to receive the award this time. Incidentally, it was at an ice show he was visiting for an interview that he received the e-mail informing him of his award. He was waiting for the show to start with a hot dog in his hand when he received the e-mail, and he and his editor, who was also present at the show, burst out in joy, saying, “Wow!
I will never forget the taste of the hot dog I had then (laughs). It is really difficult to draw figure skating cartoons. I think there are a lot of people who have seen figure skating on TV, but I don’t think many people understand the rules. So I have to explain the rules. But manga is entertainment, so it shouldn’t be like a textbook. It is really difficult to find the right balance between the two, and I really can’t draw a name every time (laughs).
(Laughs.) It has been more than two years since the series started, but I don’t have a “guidebook,” and the solution is different every time. I have prioritized development over the feelings of the characters, or I have overlooked elements that I have drawn in the past.
The reason why Tsuruma chose such a difficult subject matter is because he is from Aichi Prefecture, the kingdom of figure skating. He had been watching the skaters on TV since he was a child, and was curious to know what kind of effort they had put in to get to this point.
When it came time to draw, I didn’t even know what to draw, so I thought I had to experience it myself, so I went to figure skating school. I thought I had to experience it, so I went to figure skating school. Then, I broke a complicated bone during practice. I was in bed in the hospital when I heard the news that I would be featured in the series. At that time, I was in a situation where I couldn’t be happy but couldn’t rejoice (laughs).
If he had not been able to cover the story before the decision was made to serialize it, he would have ended up with a broken bone rather than a wasted opportunity, but Tsuruma says with a laugh, “Knowing a new world is a great asset in one’s life.
One of the main attractions of “Medalist” is the positive attitude of characters like Tsuruma, who, at the age of 11, wants to enter the figure skating world, where it is said that if you did not start at the age of 5, it is too late, and is almost crushed by the voices of those around her, but she fights them off. But she overcame the voices. Inori’s feelings and how she overcomes them are depicted in great detail.
I have always wanted to be a manga artist who can depict the subtleties of the human heart, so I want to carefully follow the characters’ emotions, such as where Tsukasa and Inori’s desire to win came from. So when I see that kind of feedback, it makes me very happy to know that the manga is reaching the right audience.
Also, I’ve started to hear that figure skaters of Inori’s generation are reading my book, which makes me soar as if wings had sprouted on my back. I feel that all the interviews I have done have been worth it. My life is usually all about “Medalist,” but the only time I can take a break is when I switch from drawing to writing the next episode. At that time, I am happy to read the readers’ questionnaires that are sent to me via the editorial department. I always restrict access to my phone so that it doesn’t interfere with my work, but for that one moment, I also unbind my phone (laughs). LOL.”
Mr. Tsuruma says he hopes “Medalist” will be an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to challenge themselves. The challenge of the main characters, Tsukasa and Inori, finally reaches the big stage of the All-Japan Championships in volume 7. In closing, Tsuruma spoke of the future highlights of “The Medalists.
In the next volume, after the block competition, Inori will compete in the All-Japan Championship for the first time. There, she will finally face off with her old rival, Hikaru, who has been attracting attention as a genius girl in the figure skating world. The outcome of the showdown will of course reveal Hikari’s true character, which has not been revealed until now, so I hope you are looking forward to it.
The seventh volume of “Medalist” is scheduled for release in late December, right in the middle of the figure skating season. We look forward to seeing Tsukasa and Inori in action along with the passionate performances of the athletes.
The first episode of "Medalist" is now available for free!
Interview and text by： Ajidouen