TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A Chinese woman took home the top prize for Japanese-style comics, or manga, for her story of a university student and a boy from the future, at Japan's fourth annual International Manga Awards.
The awards, which also honored winners from Spain, France and Thailand, were established in 2007 by then-Foreign Minister Taro Aso, a noted manga devotee, who said there should be a "Nobel Prize" of Japanese animation.
In an awards ceremony held late Wednesday, Chinese artist Xiao Bai received the Gold Award for "Si loin et si proche," or "So Far, So Close," her tale of university student Xiao Tian, who suddenly meets a boy who turns out to be her son from the future.
"Making manga is like a long journey, one that is hard and never goes as planned. The only thing to help make the story is the scenery of the trip and what's in the heart of the traveler," said Xiao Bai on claiming her award.
"This award is an amazing sight for tired eyes in the middle of the journey that has helped me get the conviction to continue to pursue my dreams."
France's Olivier Martin and Sylvain Runberg won for "Face cachee," about a financial analyst and the people around him, while Enrique Fernandez from Spain claimed a prize for "La Isla sin Sonrisa," about the visit of a scientist to a remote island.
The final award was taken by Verachai Duangpla from Thailand for "The Story Begins With...," a humouhumorousrous story about a boy and his family.
In a sign of how popular manga have become, the winners were chosen from 189 entries received from 39 countries, said Japan's Foreign Ministry, which sponsors the awards.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said he hoped the award would lead to closer relations between Japan and other countries as well as sparking broader interest in manga overseas.
"I hope those who received awards today will convey to others in their home countries what is interesting about manga, and will also look to expand the circle of friendship," he said.
Reporting by Chris Meyers; editing by Elaine Lies