While in Kōchi, I came across some manga (comic art) on the street, outside a school.  I originally posted them here, and while the meaning may in some cases be self-evident, the cultural differences can sometimes affect the interpretation:


In revisiting this post, I have, after some requests, translated the relevant text which should facilitate a better literal and cultural interpretation.  As my knowledge of Kanji is somewhat limited, I enlisted the aid of a japanese friend to assist.

The basic premise for this series of photos centres around an annual manga high school competition.  Each year, a different theme is chosen, and a winner is selected from the competing schools.  Let’s start with a basic overview by using one of the pictures as an example:

Below each photo, I have included the theme as a caption.  And now, on with the translation:

– 1992 –

Manga Contest

"The Most Important Day"

TV Audio:  “Today the last nuclear weapon in the world has been destroyed – no more nukes!”
The picture on the wall is of her son, who died in the war.

– 1993 –

Manga Contest


Vending Machine – ” Family Alpha”
Image on Side of Vending Machine – “Add hot water, ready in three minutes”
Vending Machine Audio – “Thank you very much”
Concept – Instant Family for a boy without one.

– 1994 –

Manga Contest

New Style Countryside

Sign – “Robot Farm”, “Do Not Enter”
Concept – More Farmers Needed

– 1995 – 

Manga Contest

New Media

Tombstone – Someones family cemetery (name written on top)
Girl’s Caption – “I wanna come and visit you grandmother”
Grandmother – “Oh, you cane come, but when you’re much older”
Concept – She’s calling her grandmother beyond the grave
Cultural Reference – White Kimono and white triangle cloth on her forehead means she has passed.

– 1996 –

Manga Contest


Concept – The kanji and face are morphed in this picture, with his expression mirroring the meaning of the kanji – in this case “to frown on, to be grim-faced, to look sullen”.

– 1997 –

Manga Contest

Carry Something

Upper Square – The dog cathers are saying “A stray dog!  Catch it!”
The dog expresses – “Uh oh!” and quickly brings out a ballon of the owner and blows it up
Dog Catchers – “Oh well, I guess he had an owner after-all”.

– 1998 –  

Manga Contest


Concept – A teacher uses a manual to try and nurture/teach a student (the plant) to grow a certain way, rather than letting it grow naturally.

– 1999 – 

Manga Contest

Power of Seniors

Caption – “Ah, you’re not ripe yet”
Concept – Pickled plums versus fresh plums (umeboshi) – takes a long time to get tasty
Cultural – Blue in Japanese (and Chineses) is also interpreted as green – i.e., immature.

– 2000 –

Manga Contest

17 Years Old

Caption – “Live Longer” – I hope you live longer, or keep on living
Concept – At 17, a dog is near the end of his life whereas for a person, they’re just starting it.

– 2001 –

Manga Contest


Mother – “Let’s stop this tradition”, while crying.
Father – “Ahhh… we have to do it”
Cub – “Papa!”, not really knowing what’s happening.
Concept – Time to grow up.  You need to let your child go, so that they can become stronger.

– 2002 –

Manga Contest

Real Intentions

Captions Left to Right
– “You can count on us, allow us to take responsibility” to retiring politicians,
– “Ah, I actually wanted to continue on”
– “Why do you get to stay, you don’t even have a moustache” – a moustache is a sign of a respected, mature member of society.

– 2003 –

Manga Contest

One of a Kind

Poster – Miss Art Contest
Comment Bubble(s) – “Everyone has good aspects”, “Yes, Yes, I agree”, “It’s natural that you cannot choose just one”
Concept – Judges can’t decide, since all are one of a kind.

– 2004 –

Manga Contest

Bushido - Samurai Way

Sign – Japan Carway (way rhymes – ‘do’, bushido)
Banner (left) – “Be careful speeding, go slow”
Banner (right) – “Safety is most important”.  The yellow/green chevron indicates a “beginner” driver in Japan.
Road Sign – Speed limit is 24

– 2005 –

Manga Contest


At work – While talking with your boss, the smile is fake, forced, a show of respect
Taking a walk – Tired of working, sees a both with his mother with a genuine smile
Thinking to himself – ‘What does it mean to smile?’

– 2006 –

Manga Contest


Concept – The development of man, from Hunter -> Gatherer -> Samurai (Nobleman) -> Warrior -> Businessman -> Otaku (Geek)

– 2007 –

Manga Contest

Generation Change

Concept – Times change, but the people don’t.
On TV – A Japanese Samurai Drama – a popular soap opera that’s been running for 20+ years

– 2008 – 

Manga Contest


Husband – “Delicious!”
Wife – making a homemade boxed lunch out of store bought pre-made lunches (bento box).
Concept – Who cooks anymore?

– end –