Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fujio Akatsuka Exhibit

As mentioned in the previous post, I visited two exhibits on Thursday. This was the second one.

Fujio Akatsuka started out working in a chemical factory, while dabbling as a manga artist. He was accepted to work at Tezuka's Tokiwa-so collective, then later struck out on his own. Originally, he was a shojo artist, but his title "Nama-chan" became a hit in 1958, so he switched to boy's gag stories. His influences included Mad magazine and Buster Keaton. His "Osomatsu-kun" won the Shogaku-kan Manga Award in 1964. Two of the phrases he coined went on to enter the general Japanese lexicon, including "kore de ii noda" ("this is all right", and is the URL for his official website) and "shee!" (pronounced "shay", an interjection of astonishment, accompanied by a specific pose). He died in 2008 from pneumonia, at age 72.

"Osomatsu-kun" was one of the manga included in the Shonen Sunday-Shonen Magajin DNA exhibit. "Tensai Bakabon" is probably one of his most well-known popular works, and can be found on youtube. "Himitsu no Akko-chan" was a pioneering magical girl manga, with the young Akko being able to use a special compact to turn into anything she wants. "Akko-chan" was the first popular magical girl manga, but "Mahoutsukai Sunny" (which started running a couple of years later) was the first to be turned into a TV anime, making "Akko" the second magical girl anime to appear on TV.

The exhibit is in the Matsuya Ginza department store, a short walk from the JR Yurakucho station on the Yamanote line. It's placed in a chain of short rooms that snake around one end of the store. The rooms progress through Fujio's works chronologically, and include a fair amount of personal information and family photos. There are a lot of pages from the various manga, showing entire story lines, and some copies of the original manga in glass cases. At one point, instead of sheets of original artwork on the walls, the gallery printed the manga on white hanging banners, one page per banner. There are fun house mirrors at certain points, and next to a key set of panels where the father from "Tensai Bakabon" decides to kill himself and the manga fades off into a series of panels with "nashi" (nothing) written on them, a corner booth that would otherwise be holding a mirror is turned into a plain corridor with "nashi" written on a piece of paper on the floor.

It's obvious that the exhibit director was having fun here. Fujio himself was a king of the cornball gag, and he'd often dress up as the father from Tensai Bakabon (he looked just like that character), or do other silly stuff. One photo had him dragging a giant 3' tall geta (wooden Japanese sandal) on a leash, another had him doing a Milton Berle imitation, dressed up as various middle-aged women. And so on. And the exhibit director got into the act, from the mirrors and cloth banners, to a theater showing the TV anime, and a hallway lined with wooden cutouts of the various manga characters. Another wall consisted of nothing but photos of various TV celebrities doing the "Shee!" pose, interspersed with tribute drawings from many manga artists of their own characters doing the same pose (including Son Goku from Toriyama's "Dragon Ball", Michael from "What's Michael", Kindaichi from "Kindaichi's Case Files", and Monkey Punch's "Lupin III"). A speaker above the wall played "Shee!" on a 60-second loop.

At 2 PM on a Thursday afternoon, the exhibit was packed and people were definitely getting their 1000 yen's worth ($10 admission). It took close to an hour to go through the entire thing (not including the stop to watch the TV anime), and then there was the huge gift shop set up at the end with people lining up to buy a few hundred dollars worth of t-shirts, books, DVDs, snack crackers and toys, each.

Compared to the Amano exhibit, Fujio's won hands-down. Highly recommended. Runs until Sept. 7. Other activities also taking place, so check out the above flier.

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