Friday, March 13 to Sunday, June 14, 2009
333 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10010
Gallery hours: Tu-Th: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm, Fri: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm, Sat-Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays, major holidays.
Guest reviewers and manga/anime/video game writers Evan Minto (Editor-in-Chief of Ani-Gamers) and Scott VonSchilling (Editor and Founder, Anime Almanac) checked out KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games at the Japan Society in New York City, and came back with their tag-team impressions of this major exhibit of Japanese pop culture.
Manga, Anime and Video Games Go From Fandom to Fine Art
Evan Minto: The typical anime or manga convention may be populated mostly by squeeing fanboys and fangirls, but outside of the world of "traditional" fandom, there are mainstream establishments that are examining manga and anime in a very different way.
Two of those groups - the Vancouver Gallery of Art and New York City's Japan Society - recently teamed up to bring Japanese pop culture to the people of New York City with KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games. KRAZY! is an exhibit curated by the Vancouver Gallery of Art, and it's on display at the Japan Society in New York City from March 13 to June 14, 2009. KRAZY! offers an in-depth, scholarly look at the art and evolution of these three influential Japanese pop culture phenomena.
Scott VonSchilling: Evan and I had the privilege of attending a preview reception two days prior to the opening of the exhibit. So we'll go over the three different sections of the show and talk about what pieces were most memorable for both of us.
Evan: The first part of the exhibit featured the works of seven very different manga creators. These fascinating manga ranged in style and stories; from mecha (Five Star Stories by Mamoru Nagano) to comedy (Stop!! Hibari-kun! by Hisashi Eguchi) to action (Afro Samurai by Takashi Okazaki), and unconventional works like Yuichi Yokoyama's New Engineering and Hitoshi Odajima's Mu: For Sale. Also on display were Junko Mizuno's Pure Trance, Moyoco Anno's Sakuran, and Taiyo Matsumoto's Tekkon Kinkreet.
In addition to wall-mounted, full-size manga spreads, the exhibit also featured display cases with concept art, and a circular wooden bookshelf called the "manga pod." The manga pod contains hundreds of volumes of manga and manga magazines (in both English and Japanese), ranging from Hot Gimmick to Akira, that visitors could flip through and read. It's a really great way for manga newbies to pick up and peruse actual manga, since the rest of the exhibit only had mounted, glass-enclosed displays of the artwork.
Scott: I was very happy to see the works of Junko Mizuno on display. Her work has enjoyed a cult following in the US for some time now, and it's for good reason. Her mash-up of the ultra-cute with dirty and grotesque imagery catches your eye and hooks you in. It initially looks like family-friendly kiddie-fare, but viewers quickly realize that it's some of the most adult material on display. Mizuno's distinctive style is her brand, and much like the works of Keith Haring, you recognize her artwork the moment you first see it.
Evan: Mu: For Sale was one of my favorites, as it used a super-simplistic style to comment on capitalism through the daily life of a businessman.
The exhibit also included an entire wall of early sketches and panel layouts from manga-ka and graphic designer Hitoshi Odajima, the creator of Mu: For Sale. Some of the drawings were on crumpled old pieces of paper, so I was really amazed that the exhibit was able to get a hold of all of these seemingly-throwaway works of art.
Scott: My winner in the manga section was the artwork of Moyoco Anno and her seinen manga series, Sakuran. Prior to the exhibit, I was familiar with Anno only as the wife of Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno and the creator of the josei manga series Happy Mania, which was released by Tokyopop years ago.
Sakuran, which has not yet been released in the U.S., is the story of an oiran, a type of courtesan in Edo-era Japan. Anno's full-color glossy images of the main character in costume were gorgeous, showing the beauty and attractiveness of the red kimonos of the period. I felt that these works truly deserved to be hanging in a museum setting like this, as it truly showed the visual appeal of traditional Japanese culture. These images could have been presented as fine art paintings or woodblock prints, and no one would have realized these drawings actually came from a modern day comic book.
Evan: The main focus of the room's various placards was to explain the evolution of the "manga-style" that is now so synonymous with the medium. Yokoyama's New Engineering was highlighted for "challenging manga conventions," Mizuno's Pure Trance was included for its creation of "hybrid forms" based on traditional manga style, Lolita fashions, and even pornography. Eguchi's Stop!! Hibari-kun! was praised for its introduction of the "sketch-performance style" and pop sensibility into mainstream manga.
Scott: The displays showed the entire creative process of manga, from early sketches to rough drafts to the final product.
I thought that the most interesting display was that of Stop!! Hibari-kun!, a series that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump in the early 1980's. The exhibit presented several final draft pages of manga. But even though these sketches were the ones that would be reprinted in the magazine, you could see the construction of printed page, complete with pasted lines of text and white out - plenty of white out - splashed all over the place. While the paper of the drafts have colored brown with age after these past two decades, the white out hasn't, which exposes a new level of the artist's creative process.
But what's great is that these dirty and messy looking drafts are displayed next to a clean copy of the final book. Yes, artists do make mistakes, but the final result of their hard work is the book that you see on the store shelf.