Our second day in London was our only full day in the city and so we headed over towards The British Museum as we had tickets booked for the Manga Exhibition which they were holding there.
We happened to catch the exhibition at the very end of its running with only a week to go before it ended. Most of the regular exhibits in the museum run all year round but as this was limited it ran in a specific area which changes regularly. The exhibition started off the with idea of Alice in Wonderland and going down the rabbit hole of manga which was a strange introduction to the exhibit but I think they were connecting a well known western story with that of manga which many visitors probably knew little about.
It surprised me to see a lot of younger children and families in the exhibition as I just expected that a lot of people wouldn’t be interested but I was extremely wrong with that one. It was nice to see so many people who were curious about the subject and wanted to learn about the wonderful world of manga and hopefully it got more people into the medium.
I was extremely impressed with this exhibit and it far exceeded my expectations. Although I was very excited to see this exhibition I was nervous that the British Museum wouldn’t do the manga industry justice. I’m used to the fact that in the West, things such as manga and anime are often condensed into a small number of series like that such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, Sailor Moon and Pokemon. I’ve seen it before in mainstream stores across the UK where all my beloved favourites don’t even get a look in and only seem to be recognised within the otaku community. The British Museum however, did not do this. The curators of this exhibition did their research and included a rich and in-depth history of manga alongside a wide variety of its genres. They seemed to include most of the genres you could possibly think of including shounen, shoujo, boys love, horror, sports, educational, slice of life and more. The souvenir book even included a section on erotica (obviously not a suitable subject for little ones to see in the actual gallery).
I mean, the exhibition decided to choose the lovely Asirpa from Golden Kamuy to be its poster girl so I don’t know why I was surprised about the quality. Plus, it is the British Museum that I’m talking about so I should have known better. It is also lovely to think that such a respected and well-known museum takes the art of manga so seriously and gives it credit where credit is due.
To start off the exhibition took visitors through the basics of manga such as what it is, the various facial expressions used, how to read it and the tools which mangaka use to create their work. There were also videos playing featuring interviews with those working in the manga industry. This area also included examples of panels of manga in Japanese and then the same panels when translated into English. They even had a Princess Jellyfish one displayed!
After introductory section we went into the first part of the main area of the exhibit. Everything was arranged neatly and the room had a real flow to it but it seemed very overwhelming to begin with. The exhibit brought in the idea that manga isn’t a relatively new medium in terms of Japan’s long running history, but in fact has been around for centuries and has evolved over the years. There was a nice mixture of old classical paintings as well as classic manga series such as Astroboy, Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon
The walls were also decorated with giant paintings from different series which were then accompanied by a small framed page from the manga.
Half way through the exhibit sat a couple of huge bookshelves filled with both English and Japanese manga for people to read and flick through. I though that was a really lovely touch and gave people the opportunity to be interactive with manga explore the medium for themselves.
As I mentioned earlier there was a whole range of genres which we covered throughout the room. Each genre had their own equal sections which covered the idea of the genre and some prime examples of what the genre had to offer readers. Some sections had manga I was familiar with and am a fan of myself whilst others had manga series and authors unknown to me. Many of the works displayed as examples where in fact the original works from the mangaka. For example they had a couple of the original pages from Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan and Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece.
A giant projection screen was also featuring videos about Japan’s famous Comiket conventions which happen biannually. They had snippets of interviews with those attending Comiket as well as videos on cosplay and the Cosplay World Summit. They even had a couple of catalogues and posters from Comiket which was amazing to see.
The exhibit also featured a large sculpture created by Akatsuka Reiko, daughter of the famous manga artist Akatsuka Fujio known for series such as Osomatsu-kun and Tensai Bakabon.
To top it all off the exhibit also had a gigantic life sized head of the Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan. It was crazy to stand up so close to it.
After finishing off in the exhibition room, we were then exited into the shop which was dedicated solely to the exhibit and included a range of exclusive merchandise alongside standard anime merchandise. I wasn’t expecting to see so much merchandise for the exhibit. I expected a little corner of one of the museums shops to feature a few goods but the museum went to town with supplying all kinds of goodies. It was nice to see so many people checking out different manga series in the shop and I saw so many people carrying stacks of manga with them. Having said that I did see a few little kids wandering around with volumes of Death Note and Akira which was a little concerning. Maybe their parents can put the volumes away for them until they’re a little older.
To conclude this very long post, the Manga Exhibition at The British Museum was an absolute treat for me. I’m delighted that I got to see it up close and see some of my favourite works on display and I hope it inspired other visitors to go and check out manga as an art form.
Until next time thanks for reading and I hope you’re having a great day!
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