Comic books are no laughing matter in Japan, whose diplomats have announced an international award to promote the art — and with it, they hope, the country.
Japan said it was creating the International Manga Award for one foreign artist and three runners-up to be conferred in July.
Comics and cartoons, referred to as "manga" in Japan, are hugely popular among both adults and children.
"With this award, it is hoped that the understanding of Japanese culture among foreign comic artists will be further enhanced," a foreign ministry statement said.
The award will be annual and entail a visit to Japan but will not include prize money, a foreign ministry official said.
The award is the brainchild of Foreign Minister Taro Aso, a gruff 66-year-old former businessman known to be an avid manga reader.
In a speech last year, Aso called for "the equivalent of a Nobel prize in manga" and hoped recipients would feel a bond with Japan.
"Manga, as a genre originating in Japan, is truly unique in its form of presentation and expression. In manga, it is possible to depict the realities of life or convey to the reader a person's innermost thoughts," Aso said at the time.
"With all due respect to Mickey and Donald, if you look at J-pop, J-anime, or J-fashion, the competitiveness of any of these is much stronger than you might imagine."
Sarah: I think I'm going to try to enter that new manga competition that the Japanese government is launching.
Sally: That's a brilliant idea. I really think that your drawings are top notch.
Sarah: Thank you!
Sally: Well, it's true.
Sarah: It's very sweet of you to say so.
top notch 一流的
You can say that something is top notch if you think that it is one of the best examples of something. For example: "I love the food at that restaurant — and their service is top notch too."