British Museum announces major Manga exhibition, tie-in MANGA book

Citi Manga Exhibition - British Museum 2019The British Museum is to host a major exhibition dedicated to the history of Manga in the New Year, opening in May, along with a tie-in book titled, simply, MANGA.

The exhibition, which will run until August, will explore the phenomenon of manga and will be “the largest exhibition of the art ever to take place outside of Japan.”

The show will include bestselling books such as Moto Hagio‘s Po no Ichizoku (The Poe Clan), a series from the 1970s about a family of vampanellas, or vampires, whose main characters are Edgar and Allan.

Allan and Edgar, the main characters from the Poe Clan series by Moto Hagio, which focuses on a family of vampires.

Allan and Edgar, the main characters from the Poe Clan series by Moto Hagio, which focuses on a family of vampires.

Many of the objects in the exhibition will be loans coming to the UK for the first time. Among the original manga pieces to be put on display is the late Osamu Tezuka‘s Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy), Eiichiro Oda‘s One Piece, and Akiko Higashimura‘s Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish).

The Japan Cartoonists Association Chairman Tetsuya Chiba is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony.

The Guardian reported Nicole Rousmaniere, the show’s curator, says there was a manga out there for everyone, including “boys’ love”, “a very important part of Japanese manga”.

“It is fantastic, it is romantic, it is heart-wrenching,” she continued. “… These vampanellas are outcasts … when they are uncovered they are killed, so it resonates with people feeling isolated or alienated.”

The director the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, said manga had forged a new international visual language and the museum was the perfect place for the show, given it cares for one of the finest collections of Japanese graphic art in the world.

A page from Chi’s Sweet Home (2004-2015) by Komani Kanata

A page from Chi’s Sweet Home (2004-2015) by Komani Kanata

Translated literally as ‘pictures run riot’, manga refers to a form of Japanese narrative art that has grown over the centuries to become a global phenomenon. Initially referring to graphic prints, novels and comics, manga has expanded beyond its original forms to include animation, art, fashion and new media such as film and gaming, and has international reach. Immensely popular with people of all ages, manga is big business, with a turnover of £3 billion in Japan in 2016.

A visual narrative art that tells stories with pictures in real or imagined worlds, today, the medium is revered across the globe and has influenced the styles and stories of comics, anime and cosplay, as well as graphic novels, fashion and even gaming in recent decades.

As a medium, Manga has greatly developed since World War Two, however, says the British Museum, its “artistic roots can be traced back to narrative hand scrolls from the 12th century.”

The family-friendly  exhibition itself has grown out of a vastly growing collection of manga while British Museum curators continue to collect works in a genre that’s cross cultural impact has been enormous in recent history. (For example, the British Museum holds original copies of Seinto Oniisan (Saint Young Man) by Hikaru Nakamura).

Some of today’s biggest brands can trace their conception back to the manga genre, including numerous anime – the likes of Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop or Yo Kai Watch and more.

The British Museum are also publishing, with Thames & Hudson, MANGA, a 256-page £25 hardback book by curators Nicole Rousmaniere and Matsuba Ryoko, to accompany the exhibition.

Arranged into six broadly chronological, thematic chapters, the book traces the origins of manga, from its beginnings to the present day.

The History of Art in Japan

The History of Art in JapanIn related news, later this month, University of Tokyo Press will publish The History of Art in Japan, the first translation into English of Japan’s most updated, reliable, and comprehensive book on the history of Japanese art, co-authored by Nicole Rousmaniere and Nobuo Tsuji, the leading authority on Japanese art history, from earthenware figurines in 13,000 BC to manga and modern subcultures.

The book is regarded as an invaluable resource for all those interested in Japan’s multi-faceted art history. Running to 560 pages and available in hardback and paperback, it tells the story of how the country has nurtured unique aesthetics, prominent artists, and distinctive movements.

Discussing Japanese art in various contexts, including interactions with the outside world, Tsuji Nobuo sheds light on works ranging from the Jomon period to modern and contemporary art. Tsuji’s perspective, using newly discovered facts, depicts critical aspects of paintings, ukiyo-e, ceramics, sculpture, armour, gardens, and architecture, covering thousands of years.

 The Citi exhibition: Manga, 23rd May – 26th August 2019 | For more information and to book tickets, visit the British Museum web site

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With thanks to Paul Gravett

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. 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 "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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2 replies

  1. As a genre, Manga has greatly developed since World War Two, however, says the British Museum, its “artistic roots can be traced back to narrative hand scrolls from the 12th century.” Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it a medium, not a genre.

    • Hmm, I suppose that all depends on whether we consider manga as a genre of the comics medium? Or is manga a medium in itself? Certainly, there are lists of various genre of manga online. So on that basis, you’re right and I have updated the copy.

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