It's not often us British people go for story telling art, comics and graphic novels are a niche market in this country. The Japanese though have a much larger affiliation to picture stories in their national identity. Maybe with the writing having a basis in representational images has helped join the dots for them. We'd have to ask an expert on the history of Japanese culture. Never-the-less, what has now become a world-wide phenomenon, synonymous with cutesy teenagers and down to earth over-reactional adults with wide eyed enthusiasm and bewilderment, is the Manga iconography. No longer just about the comic books, most of us are more familiar with the films and TV series' that keep us entertained often late at night.
Because the Manga culture is so important, not just to the Japanese but to all of us, the British Museum are making it a key feature this May to August. The Citi Exhibition Manga is made of six individual rooms each with its own Manga inspired theme. By looking at a spectrum of perspectives, visitors can really get to know this subject to rich standards. With over 70 Manga releases created by over 50 artists, the whole breadth of the culture is demonstrated and explained. This is the first time ever that the British Museum has honoured an element of Japanese culture in its world-famous Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries. There is a first time for everything, after-all.
The event coincides with the Rugby World Cup, which is in Japan this year as fans around the world will know. The Paralympics are also due, with their Japanese event taking place next year. To top off the occasion, this event is the first in a whole run of Japan-UK cultural bridge building exercises over what's been named the UK-Japan Year Of Culture. Extraordinary things await us all, no doubt! The two distant countries, unified by their Island nation status and our love of Manga of course, can enjoy a whole host of themed celebrations of each other.
In order to leave visitors with a true education in the entire Manga system, the six rooms aim to showcase just one part of the bigger whole. First is The Art Of Manga. This room explains the theory of Manga art, and what the key features are which artists must adhere to. We all know when something looks like Manga. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing, do we know why it looks like Manga? This will help us to find out for ourselves.
The second room in the exhibition is Drawing On The Past. Now it's time for a quick lesson in the history of the culture and brand. Visual storytelling as a mode of communication has a rich history in Japan, it's not so much of a niche thing like it is in the UK. Because of this, the medium in deeply ingrained in the long and vibrant history of Japanese life. In this room we see how all of this resulted in one firm with a catchy logo who conquered the world.
A Manga For Everyone is next, and it highlights the accessibility of the media. With genre after genre listed for visitors to browse, everyone can find an animation that suits their taste. You'll be amazed at what is out there, and when we consider how long it takes to produce just a few minutes of film, we can see how in depth and dedicated the teams at Manga must be. In the forth room is The Power Of Manga, and it examines the cultural influence the brand has had over the years. Ideas and imagery from the Manga worktop have found themselves in all manner of situations. Here we'll learn about a few.
The Power Of Line comes after, this room shows us some abstract timelines of how the art has matured and evolved since its beginnings. There's even a nineteenth century scroll, or theatre curtain which spans over 17 meters in length! It depicts demons and ghosts and is quite a shocking piece of classical art. It has to be seen in person to get a true scope of its size and power. In the final room we find Manga No Limits. This last section shows how the Manga theme has grown beyond the original publishing house into something much more vague and abstract. Building on the Power Of Manga section from earlier, from a more artistic point of view, it explains how the culture has defined an entire global art-form which can be adapted and utilised for all manner of creative activities.
Want Manga now? Here's a cool film and book shop. Purchases support Alternative Fruit.