Date: 2019 June 03 21:21
Posted by Joe
The British Museum have just opened the largest Manga Exhibition outside of Japan. Naturally being keen manga fans we were curious. What was it all about? Was it any good? We were invited by The British Museum to check out the new exhibition and find out for ourselves.
London based manga fans are really spoilt for choice for things to do at the moment. The Japan-UK Season of Culture has kicked off with the British Museum hosting the largest manga exhibition outside of Japan. Japan House in London have also been playing host with various top manga artists. Plus the Japanese Embassy have been holding interesting talks with various manga artists and experts. It's impressive and almost overwhelming how many manga events there are in London over the months of May to July 2019.
One big headliner is the Manga Exhibition at the British Museum. 10 years in the making, the exhibition brings together a collection of different manga from around Japan. It is being held in the The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, a first for a Japanese exhibition.
When you walk into the exhibition, you're greeted by Lewis Carroll's Alice alongside CLAMP's re-interpretation. You're invited on a journey down the rabbit hole! You then drift around in the main exhibition area which introduces you to the world of manga in Japan. Panel layout, expressions, action / emotion lines and other manga drawing conventions are explained for the uninitiated. Then you're free to explore different genres of manga.
They've got a lot of original work on display. What will surprise many is how many corrections have been done, there's lots of manga with tip-ex (white-out) on to make minor corrections. You'll also see many details that won't make it into print. With some art you'll see the pencil lines used to trace over before inking, with others you'll be able to see an extra level of detail that just won't make it into print as the artwork is reduced down to fit on a page. Individual brush and pen strokes can be seen close up. The finished image is displayed alongside the original artwork so you can compare the differences.
The exhibition spans a variety genres demonstrating that manga is more than just the stereotype of school girls, big eyes and shonen. Each section is divided by genre along with some original artwork from a well known artist from that genre. Highlights for us included Junji Ito's panels and Gengoroh Tagame's panels, along with artwork from Dragon Ball, One Piece and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure!
Along one wall there's an absolutely huge stage curtain from the Shintomi Theatre by Kawanabe Kyōsai, which is being displayed as an example of the traditional Japanese art whose influence makes manga so uniquely Japanese. At 17 metres (55 feet ) long and 4 metres (13 feet) high the curtain displays an image of yokai re-enacting stage plays once the theatre is closed for the night. We're also told that this will be the last time it's going on display.
There are a few other interesting things on display (we won't list them all, that's for you to discover) including the head of the Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan. If you're a manga fan you're bound to find something that you know and love.
The exhibition is ticketed and costs up to £19.50 (members of the Museum get in free, National Art passes are discounted, along with other concessions too). It is well worth the money. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into this exhibition (as you'd expect from The British Museum), we believe that effort has paid off. It's such a rare treat to see manga of this quality on display. As a manga fan if you go you'll learn something and have some fun, while if you're not into manga, but are curious about the culture it forms an excellent introduction to the world of Japanese art. It's not every day you get an opportunity to see an exhibition of this scale and calibre so we suggest you catch it while you can.
A word to the wise. Manga fans visiting the exhibition should also budget for the excellently curated gift shop. They have some items that are hard to find outside of Japan for sale there. You can also buy the exhibition's catalogue. It's a beast at 352 pages and is certainly worth the £29 price as it goes into further detail. The book includes a lot of great interviews with some of the manga creators involved in the exhibition, along with introductions and essays into various aspects of manga.
The Manga Exhibition is set to run from Thursday 23rd May to Monday 26th August 2019 at The British Museum in London. We suggest you book a timeslot to visit in advance.