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Extract: Manga

Posted on 23 May 2019

'Manga マンガ', the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan is now open at the British Museum. Dive into the world of Manga with this extract from the official accompanying book.

Noda Satoru, Golden Kamuy, 2014 onwards ©Satoru Noda / SHUEISHA

This book accompanies the Citi exhibition Manga マンガ(23 May to 26 August 2019) held in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery at the British Museum, linking contemporary examples of manga and digital forms of anime to their historical roots. Incorporating both domestic Japanese and related international forms, comprising some 50 manga artists, 70 titles and 162 works from historical art
 to digital experiments, it brings together the most important examples of manga both past and present, while pointing to the future of this exciting and accessible medium. It is hoped that visitors to this exhibition and readers of this catalogue will gain a new and readily deployable skill: they will become fluent in manga.
The six sections in this volume mirror the six thematic zones of the exhibition. Before visitors enter the exhibition space, they encounter a small digital print display of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, juxtaposed with a copy of an original work 
by Lewis Carroll and selected Japanese manga versions, which are explored here
. This demonstrates how a universally known story can be adapted through the medium of manga in engaging and even startling ways. The reader, like the exhibition-goer, then enters a conceptual rabbit hole and journeys through the six thematic sections, accompanied by the exhibition’s bespoke mascot avatar, a plucky white rabbit named Mimi-chan (created by the manga artist Ko ̄ no Fumiyo) who appears throughout this book.

Hoshino Yukinobu (b. 1954) Alice, 1985 © YUKINOBU HOSHINO/SHOGAKUKAN.INC

Section 1, ‘Understanding Manga’ gives the reader the basic tools to read manga, focusing on reading, drawing and producing manga. As in the exhibition, Ko ̄ no Fumiyo’s characters from Giga Town (pp. 58–75) introduce symbols (manpu) employed in manga that form its grammar, and demonstrate how to read manga panels in the correct order, which differs from the left–right and clockwise layouts that Western readers instinctively expect. Section 1, like the first exhibition zone, explores the act of drawing manga through artist interviews, select manga genga (original drawings), and a look at the role
 of the editor and publisher in producing manga.
Section 2, ‘The Power of Storytelling’, explores the art of visual storytelling 
in manga, examining its historical roots and present reality, and introducing the work of early 20th-century manga pioneers such as Kitazawa Rakuten, Okamoto Ippei and Tezuka Osamu. We conclude this section of the book with a different focus, challenging the assumption that manga storytelling is solely for a male audience with Yamada Tomoko’s essay on the many different expressions of sho ̄jo (girls’) manga and
 Hagio Moto’s ‘The Willow Tree’.

The Poe Clan, Hagio Moto (b. 1949), 1972-1976 © MOTO HAGIO/SHOGAKUKA INC.

In Section 3, ‘The Power of Seen and Unseen Worlds’, readers are encouraged to explore different manga genres and to find their favourites. Like the corresponding exhibition zone, this section of the book focuses on both the seen worlds of sports, adventure, science fiction, transformation, love and eros, and the unseen worlds of belief, spirit worlds and horror-themed manga.
The fourth zone of the exhibition shifts to manga and its role in society, starting with manga’s basic fan groups, grassroots manga and fan creation. Comiket events and cosplay are emphasized. The exhibition then moves to manga around us: in society, education, museums and an uncertain 21st-century world. Section 4 of the book, ‘Manga and Society’, further explores Comiket, manga in museum collections (including the British Museum), Takemiya Keiko’s Genga’ (Dash) project to archive original manga drawings, and the unique contractual and copyright issues shaping manga’s role in modern society.

Higashimura Akiko (b.1975), Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime), 2008-2017 © Akiko Higashimura / Kodansha Ltd.

Section 5, ‘Motion Through Line’, corresponds to the fifth exhibition zone, which displays a selection of major historical and modern manga artists’ works in original drawings and blowup versions of their iconic characters. A highlight is the majestic 17-metre kabuki curtain for the Shintomiza theatre in Tokyo painted by Kawanabe Kyo ̄ sai in 1880. In this section of the book, essays explore in greater depth the relationships between the work of Hokusai, Kyo ̄ sai, 19th- century Western and Japanese political cartoonists and modern manga artists.

Hoshino Yukinobu, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, 2011 © YUKINOBU HOSHINO/SHOGAKUKAN INC.

The sixth zone of the exhibition examines avant-garde expression, media crossover, gaming (with a focus on Pokémon) and manga’s growing international reach and cultural influence. In Section 6 of the book, ‘Expanding Manga’s Boundaries’, Akatsuka Rieko discusses the influence of her father Akatsuka Fujio’s manga on her own installation artworks (which also appear in the exhibition); Hugo Frey traces manga’s evolution into the genre of the graphic novel; and Rayna Denison outlines its transition into anime. The book concludes with an interview with Inoue Takehiko and an essay by Ito ̄ Go ̄ , exploring the complex identity and history of manga and celebrating ‘the power that resides in these drawings’.


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