Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday Magazine DNA, July 18 to Sept. 13

Here's another exhibit that neither the Japan Times nor the Metropolis seem to think is worthy of including in their art exhibit listings. It was advertised heavily in the Akihabara JR train station when it first opened, and fliers for it are included in the "also showing at other museums" section of other museums (I saw this at the Hachioji Yumebi museum a couple of weeks ago during the Gundam mecha drawings exhibit).

Both Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine (the weekly manga magazines for boys) were launched in 1959. They have been rivals during that time, running specific types of manga in order to attract larger audiences away from each other, such that they've developed reputations for either being romance- or story-driven publications. Sunday established an early lead by succeeding in signing on Osamu Tezuka and some of his fellow artists at the Tokiwa-so House, while Magazine attracted Chiba Tetsuya (girl's manga artist) and Mizuki Shigeru ("Gegege no Kitaro"). For reference, Shonen Jump started in 1968 and Shonen Champion in 1969.

To commemorate their anniversaries, Sunday and Magazine banded together to help put on the "DNA" exhibit, supplying 100 unique works of art from some of their titles. There were a couple of live appearances, including one by Saito, creator of "Golgo 13", which I missed because I was working that day), and a film schedule of a mix of live-action and anime movies based on some of the manga.

To begin with, the Kawasaki Museum is in Todoroki, about half way between Noborito and the coast line, 10 kilometers south of Noborito (about a 20 minute bike ride). It's 3-4 blocks west of the Tamagawa river in a big open complex of parks and sports centers (tennis, swimming, track, etc.) To get there, you can take the Nambu line to Musashi Shinjou station and then ride the bus in. The Museum is a large airy building that runs several art exhibits at a time, plus a permanent standing "history of Japan" display with statues and carvings. Along with the big theater, there's a smaller theater on the second floor and the main lobby can be treated as an amphitheater, and there's a restaurant, gift shop and a small library open to the public.

While there are coin lockers next to the Special Exhibit 1 area showing "DNA", I was allowed to carry my backpack in with me. Photos aren't allowed, though. 600 yen entrance fee for adults, which is pretty cheap compared to other exhibits of the same size elsewhere in Tokyo. The ticket attendant made a special effort to give me a large 11" x 14" 8-page handout that had all of the Japanese display boards translated into English. There's a huge amount of useful information on the history of the two magazines and short descriptions of the various manga on exhibit and is well worth the price to get it.

Essentially, the exhibit consists of glass cases containing the original artwork used for producing each of the 100 manga titles on display, generally one piece per title. Most pieces are large, 16" to 24", hand-drawn and colored, with the pencil lines still showing. They're very useful if you're a manga collector or would-be artist. In with the artwork are sealed copies of both Sunday and Magazine magazines, and display cases showing toys, small robots, collectors items, video games from some of the manga and a diorama of Tezuka's Tokiwa-so house. The entire display takes up 2 large rooms and can be seen in about 1 hour (longer if you take your time).

The featured titles include: Tezuka's "Zero Man" and "Dororo"; Reiji Matsumoto's "Otoko Oidon"; Rumiko Takahashi's "Urusei Yatsura", "Ranma 1/2" and "Inuyasha"; Hirai and Kuwata's "8 Man"; Mizuki's "Gegege no Kitaro"; and Go Nagai's "Devilman". (I'm not going to list all 100 titles, although maybe half are well-known to manga fans.)

(The "DNA" exhibit is up the far white staircase and around to the left.)

The films are only shown on the weekends, and I arrived on a Thursday, so I wasn't able to see what the theater is like. Generally, there are 2 films per day, 80-100 minutes each), and are about half live dramas and half anime, all based on some given manga. Titles include: "Mister Giants", "Star of the Giants", "Crazy Gold Fight", "Gegege no Kitaro", "Ninpu Kamui Gaiden", "Shonen Jidai", "Our Manga House Tokiwa-so" (a documentary about the artists that lived in Tokiwa-so), "Touch" and "Meitantei Conan" (Case Closed).

"DNA" will run another 4 weeks or so. If you're in the Kawasaki area, I definitely recommend seeing it. Otherwise, it may not be worth your time visiting as it isn't all that large of a display. On the other hand, if you study manga history, or are an art student, this is the exhibit for you.

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