Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Manga at the British Museum – 23 May to 26 August 2019

Exhibition Review: Manga at the British Museum – 23 May to 26 August 2019


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The British Museum presents the largest exhibition of manga ever held outside of Japan. Manga is the generic name for Japanese comic books or graphic novels which are often serialised in magazines and are now read by a global audience. Manga has developed into multi-billion-pound industry that embraces anime, television, film and gaming. Despite its modern visual style, manga’s original style is associated with the great 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai whose drawings of people, animals and nature were published as ‘Hokusai Manga’.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The exhibition begins by exploring the the influences upon manga, whilst some artists have looked way back into Japan’s past for inspiration, it is considered that cartoonists Kitazawa Rakuten and Okamoto Ippei are the first modern manga artists. Their work inspired manga legend Tezuka Osamu who created Astro Boy.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Over the 20th and 21st century, manga has evolved with a wide range of styles and subject matter. This particularly Japanese form of immersive story telling with unique characters and embracing universal issues has now grown to be a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the remarkable Shintomiza Kabuki Theatre Curtain loaned by the Waseda University Theatre Museum, Tokyo. At 17 metres long and 4 metres high, this giant curtain was originally made to be displayed between acts at the Shintomiza kabuki theatre and is displayed along one wall of the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Created in 1880 by the painter Kawanabe Kyōsai, the curtain features painted demons and ghosts which create worlds of reality and fantasy. Due to its fragile nature, this will probably the last time the curtain will travel outside Japan.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Throughout the visually stunning displays are works from a number of internationally famous manga artists; including Tezuka Osamu (Astro Boy and Princess Knight), Akatsuka Fujio (Eel Dog), Toriyama Akira (Dragon Ball), Inoue Takehiko (Vagabond and REAL), Oda Eiichirō (ONE PIECE), Hagio Moto (Poe Clan), Takemiya Keiko (The Poem of Wind and Trees), Kōno Fumiyo (Gigatown) and Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish).

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Visitors can enter a rendering  of the oldest surviving manga bookshop in Tokyo, explore artists drawing and understand some of the processes of producing the incredible range of manga. Although manga is considered for the young, the exhibition provides evidence that there really is something for all ages.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the great success stories in the genre is ONE PIECE written by Oda Eiichirō which broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the most copies sold for the same title by a single author. The story chronicles the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his band of pirates as they travel the seas in search of the world’s greatest treasure, the legendary ‘One Piece’.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Another great success story is Studio Ghibli whose films like Spirited Away has recieved global acclaim, at the end of the exhibition on some large screens you can see the master at work and clips from the films.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This fascinating exhibition tells the remarkable story of how a Japanese visual medium conquered the world. Part of Manga’s appeal is that it can use a variety of sources and produce something original with universal themes. Whilst respecting the past, manga often deals with issues of the present and predicts some future advances.

Tagame Gengoro – © 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

However within these global adventures, traditional themes like being true to yourself and friendship are considered very important. Manga with all its outlandish characters is often more concerned with different types of human identity. Playing with your identity is all part of the genre which allows readers to immerse themselves in characters with various large Cosplay events.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

For more information and tickets, visit the British Museum website here

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