The Japanese government has unveiled the names of 21 people who will receive this year’s Person of Cultural Merit honor, and two of them are beloved by otaku.
First up is none other than Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. Tomino got his start working under Osamu Tezuka at Mushi Production. After working on Astro Boy he eventually got off on his own, creating and directing 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam.
He went on to direct multiple anime, such as Zeta Gundam, Gundam ZZ, Gundam F91, Victory Gundam, Turn A Gundam, Char’s Counterattack, Muteki Kōjin Daitarn 3, Space Runaway Ideon, Gundam: Reconguista in G and Aura Battler Dunbine. He plans to retire within the next few years, but has also said, “Giant robot shows are for kids, but while I’m alive and can make new works, I’ll crush Demon Slayer and Evangelion. If I didn’t think that ambitiously, I wouldn’t be making TV anime past the age of 80.”
Mangaka Yumiko Ōshima is also receiving a Person of Cultural Merit Honor. The Agency of Cultural Affairs called her up to tell her the good news, but at first she assumed someone was trying to trick her. Now that she realizes this is real, she has expressed her surprise and gratitude.
Her first manga, the Kodansha Manga Award-winner Wata no Kuni Hoshi, came out in 1978, and she worked on it for the next nine years. She is also the mangaka behind Banana Bread no Pudding, CatNiP, Diesel Car, and Gou-Gou Datte Neko De Aru. In 2018, she took home the 12th Annual Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize.
This is not the first time people beloved in the otaku community have gotten the Person of Cultural Merit honor. Other honorees include Hayao Miyazaki, Leiji Matsumoto, Shigeru Mizuki, Moto Hagio, Shigeru Miyamoto and Gundam composer Shigeaki Saegusa.
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.