Exploring Shojo Manga, the World of Japanese Girls’ Comics

LICAF Shojo Manga Exhibition Coming up in October is a great exhibition that’s part of this year’s  Lakes International Comic Art Festival – the first major exhibition of Japanese shojo (girls’) manga in the UK in association with Japan’s Kyoto International Manga Museum.

The exhibition’s aim is to  introduce 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. These prints are copies of original artworks that have been faithfully reproduced aiming to conserve original manga artwork which is easily damaged and worn.

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, who is making her first trip outside of Japan to appear at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, 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.

The 1970s were known as a turning point in the history of shojo manga, when artists such as Keiko Takemiya (Japanese site) 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”).

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.

Self Portrait: Akiko Hatsu

Self Portrait: Akiko Hatsu

Akiko Hatsu (Japanese site link) 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”).

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

• Shojo Manga – The World of Japanese Girls’ Comics The Sugar Store Gallery and Intro Bar, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal – 2nd October – 1st November 2015 | More information here | Usual Opening Hours at Brewery (www.breweryarts.co.uk)

Book tickets for Akiko’s event on Saturday 17th October at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and find out about other manga related events

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