This is MANGA – The Art of URASAWA NAOKI at Japan House

This is MANGA – The Art of URASAWA NAOKI at Japan House

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Japan House

Until 28 July 2019

Going to another a Manga exhibition, this time at Japan House on High Street Kensington, so soon after visiting the extensive and incredibly impressive collecton currently on display at the British Museum seemed a bit like overkill. After all, even though I am interested in manga, I’m by no means a die-hard fanatic (unlike some others also visiting the exhibition), and I thought that my thirst for the art form had been pretty much slaked. I was mistaken.

The Art of Urasawa Naoki is the story of one man’s journey to become one of the most prolific and distinctive storytellers, both in Japan and internationally. For any artist, this exhibition demonstates what success looks like, but at a very personal and very human level. When you walk through the gallery the first thing that hits you is the sound; it’s the energetic strumming of an electric guitar but it’s not something you recognise.  When you ask about it you are informed that it’s a recording of Urasawa himself, apparently he is also an accomplished musician with two albums under his belt. As you look through the gallery you realise just how important music into the man and how deeply it has influenced his work. As for the pieces themselves you are faced with whole episodes, not just extracts, of Urasawa’s work from the 1980s to the present day. These span his whole career and include his most popular pieces, from 1994’s ‘Monster’, ‘20th Century Boys’ from 1999, to ‘Billy Bat’ which ran from 2008 to 2016. You find yourself walking through at a snail’s pace, immersing yourself in the English language stories and appreciating each panel for its expressive characters and delicate features. The majority of the work displayed is on sale on the ground floor. If there were more up on display I’d probably still be there. Anyway. Particularly fascinating are the drawings that never made it into print, and it is these that give the exhibition its soul. The crayon drawing of a robot that Urasawa made on his first day of school (he assures you that its somewhat inferior quality was due to the fact that he didn’t want to outperform his new school chums on his first day – completely understandable), the first manga, ‘Top’, that he made when he was only eight, the drawings he’s done on the exhibition walls since he’s been in London… all of these pieces exemplify the talent and effort that have seeped into every panel that Urasawa has drawn over his long and varied career. This display is the perfect accompaniment to anyone who has visited the exhibition at the British Museum and wants a more in-depth look into the life and work of this extraordinary manga artist.

This article was generously submitted by Charlie Fergus

Photograph copyright URASAWA

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