“Hana ni Somu” (Dyed with a flower), a long-running manga about Japanese archery by Fusako Kuramochi, has won the Manga Grand Prix at the 21st Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize.

“Because it had been a painstaking work, I feel rewarded with the prize,” Kuramochi said.

Sponsored by The Asahi Shimbun Co., the prize honors "Astro Boy" creator Osamu Tezuka, who left an indelible mark on the nation's manga culture.

Manga titles published or released in 2016 were eligible for the awards. Eight judges each assigned a total of 15 points and no more than five to any one manga based on recommendations by about 200 bookstore staff and manga experts.

Eight titles with the most points advanced to the final round of deliberations. In addition, one title that was ranked first in the recommendations by bookstore staff and many experts also went to the final round.

The Originality Prize, given for fresh talent and novel mode of expression, went to Haruko Kumota for “Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.”

The Short Story Prize was given to Kahoru Fukaya’s “Yomawari Neko” (Night beat cat), while Osamu Akimoto received the Asahi Special Prize for “Kochikame.”

The awards ceremony will be held May 31 at the Hamarikyu Asahi Small Hall in Tokyo. Each winner will be given a bronze statue. The Manga Grand Prix winner will also be awarded 2 million yen ($17,700), while the Originality, Short Story and Asahi Special Prize winners will each receive 1 million yen.

MANGA GRAND PRIX

A sequel to “Eki Kara 5 Fun” (5 minutes from station), an ensemble coming-of-age story set in a town called Hanazome, “Hana ni Somu” wrapped its 10-year run last year.

The story centers around a boy named Haruto, who lost his parents and older brother in a fire, his cousin Su, childhood friends Kano and Rora, who has a crush on Haruto. Themed on how they overcome their painful pasts, it depicts the wavering feelings of the boy and the three girls bonded through Japanese archery.

Told in a stoic manner, the story is charged with quiet tension and intensity like the traditional sport. It is well-presented when Su, Kano and Rora compete in a team match where they stand side by side to shoot. Their actions create a wave-like flow of movement, showing that they are emotionally connected with each other.

“Everything I did was for this scene. It may be hard to understand, but I put an end to the relationships between Haruto and the three girls in my own way,” Kuramochi said. “I want to leave the rest up to my readers.”

After Kuramochi made her professional debut in 1972, she has released many classic works of “shojo” manga (girls’ comics), including “Tennen Kokekko,” which was adapted to a live-action feature film titled “A Gentle Breeze in the Village.”

“I’m currently working on an essay manga series and keenly feel how difficult it is to express things in a short and concise manner. I’ve never stopped learning for the past 45 years,” the author said.

ORIGINALITY PRIZE

The Originality Prize, given for fresh talent and novel mode of expression, went to Kumota’s “Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.”

It won praise from the judges as it vividly tells a love and hate story involving “rakugo,” interwoven with ingenious portrayals of the traditional comic storytelling performed on “koza” stage.

The story begins when Yotaro pleads with rakugo master Yurakutei Yakumo to take the former small-time crook on as an apprentice. The master, who is known for not accepting disciples, agrees seemingly on a whim.

“This is a manga that I owed a lot to classic rakugo titles produced through constant improvements made by rakugoka (rakugo storytellers), so I’d like to express my gratitude to them,” Kumota said.

The author debuted in 2008. Her first long-running series, “Descending Stories” started its run in Kodansha Ltd.’s ITAN comic anthology in 2010 before ending in 2016.

SHORT STORY PRIZE

The Short Story Prize went to Fukaya’s “Yomawari Neko.”

The story focuses on Heizo Endo, a cat that goes out on a nightly beat. He traces the scent of tears and shows up at the doorstep of those who are in distress and in tears.

“I started working on ‘Yomawari Neko’ without any offer (from publishers) because I just wanted to do it. I wasn’t confident enough to bring it to publishers, so I chose to upload it on Twitter,” Fukaya said. “And now I’m a recipient of a Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. Is this real? I still can’t believe 90 percent of it.”

A Fukushima Prefecture native, Fukaya began uploading “Yomawari Neko” episodes on Twitter in October 2015. Her previous works include “The Northeast of Eden,” published by Takeshobo Co.

ASAHI SPECIAL PRIZE

The Asahi Special Prize, which was decided by The Asahi Shimbun based on the panel's recommendations, went to Akimoto whose “Kochikame” finished its 40-year weekly run in 2016.

“It had been 40 turbulent years, feeling discouraged when it didn’t go as planned and feeling relieved when it went beyond my expectations,” he said. “I think it is such a blessing for me, as a manga artist, to be recognized for my work even after it concluded.”

Born in Tokyo in 1952, Akimoto made his debut with “Kochikame,” whose official title is “Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutsujyo” (This is the police box in front of the Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward), in Shueisha Inc.’s Weekly Shonen Jump comic anthology in 1976. He never suspended the series during its 40-year run. The author has been working on four manga series in four comic anthologies since December 2016.