Southport Goes Shojo (Shojo Manga, that is)

Uryudo Yumebanashi (Uryudo Dream Tales). Art by and © Akiko Hatsu

Uryudo Yumebanashi (Uryudo Dream Tales). Art by and © Akiko Hatsu

A stunning shojo exhibition hits Southport, Lancashire on Saturday, offering an amazing display of art. It’s the first major exhibition of Japanese girls’ manga to tour the UK, presented in association with the Kyoto International Manga Museum, some of it seen at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last year.

This exhibition at The Atkinson – a venue also hosting a permanent display of Dan Dare art in the town where the 1950s character was ‘born’ – introduces the world of Japanese “shojo” (girls’) manga through elaborate replica “Genga” (Dash) prints developed jointly by Kyoto Seika University’s International Manga Research Centre and the manga artist Keiko Takemiya, Principle of Kyoto Seika University. “Genga” prints are copies of original artworks that have been faithfully reproduced aiming to conserve original manga artwork which is easily damaged and worn and the works presented are a veritable feast on the eye.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a Shojo Manga Talk on Monday 25th January by journalist, curator, writer and broadcaster Paul Gravett, who has worked in comic publishing and promoting for over 20 years.

Japan’s shojo manga culture dates back to the post-war years but only evolved into its broad-ranging and hugely-popular form of today as a result of the innovative work of a small group of artists in the 1970s. This exhibition features the work of three of these artists – Akiko Hatsu, Keiko Takemiya and Yukiko Kai. It will be accompanied by examples of work by a further 17 artists who have helped shape the world of shojo manga since it began.

Yukiko Kai - Kikka no Tayori (The Chrysanthemum Letter). Art by and © Keiko Takemiya

Yukiko Kai – Kikka no Tayori (The Chrysanthemum Letter). Art by and © Keiko Takemiya

The 1970s were known as a turning point in the history of shojo manga, when artists such as Takemiya emerged on the scene turning what had previously been seen as a “low” form of manga into a cultural genre to rival literature. She published many shojo manga exploring new themes such as young homosexual love (“The Poem of Wind and Trees”) and science fiction (“To Terra”).

Art by and © Yukiko Kai

Art by and © Yukiko Kai

Yukiko Kai was part of the wave of innovative manga artists working in Japan in the 1970s as well as one of the driving forces behind that wave. Her work covers a range of themes from science fiction fantasy through to romantic tales set outside of Japan as well as strongly Japanese creations themed around Noh theatre. Her drawing skills make her a noted artist and she was appreciated particularly by other manga artists. Tragically she died at the age of 26 and as a result only short story versions of her work remain. Their beauty, however, is truly worth being communicated outside of Japan.

Akiko Hatsu is the younger sister of Yukiko Kai and currently works full time as a manga artist. She is deeply steeped in Japanese tradition, having worked on comic versions of work by authors such as Kyoka Izumi, and nowadays working on serialisations such as “Dreams of Uryudo” which expand on her unique worldview. Her stories are set not only in beautiful Japan but also in the UK and her work, drawing on both East and West, has the potential to be widely appreciated here. Ms Keiko Takemiya published many shojo manga exploring new themes such as young homosexual love (“The Poem of Wind and Trees“) and science fiction (“To Terra”).

Akiko Hatsu made her first trip outside of Japan to appear at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last year.

Find out more about the wonderful world of shojo manga – not just for girls nor just by girls….

The exhibition will transfer to London’s House of Illustration from 5th March to 11th June 2016.

• Shojo Manga: The World of Japanese Girls’ Comics Saturday 9th January 2016 – Sunday 14th February 2016 The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport PR8 1DB | Free Admission | Opening Times: Monday – Saturday: 10.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday 11.00am – 4.00pm | Full information here online 

• There will be two events to accompany the exhibition at The Atkinson: a Shojo Manga Talk on Monday 25th January at 1.00pm (free, but booking required) with  journalist, curator, writer and broadcaster Paul Gravett, who has worked in comic publishing and promoting for over 20 years; and a screening of Spirited Away  (PG) on Sunday 7th February at 2.30pm (Tickets: £3).

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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