Manga Realities: Exploring the Art of Japanese Comics Today

Not long ago, I visited a manga exhibit in Ayala Museum, Greenbelt. Suffice to say, I loved it. However, this post is not about my own experience, as who would want to listen to the report of some anime blogger? Instead, I told a few friends of this exhibit and asked them to write their own report here. We both share the same sentiments anyway.

Here are my friends:

Ivan Karelin is a longtime anime and manga fan, who lives on the other side of the world as a Hero in Sternbild City. The extent of his fan powers should not be underestimated–this guy is literally a walking ad for ANIME™!

Iori Minase is a rising Japanese idol in 765 Pro, part of the idol group Ryuuguu Komachi. She harbors a secret liking for manga (which she has successfully kept hidden from her family or workmates). And has used her substantial wealth to build a sizable library underneath her bedroom.

Ringo Oginome is a deluded normal high school girl who enjoys stories of absolute destinies and apocalypses. She may not be as dedicated a fan compared to the other two, but she’s outspoken with her strong opinions.

Ivan: It was unusually hot on the day we went to the museum. I experienced a chill in my body as I stepped inside, however. The interior was quite cold and I had to wear my jacket again. The receptionist gave our group a knowing smile, and seemed to have guessed what we were here for.

Iori: Isn’t it obvious? What would two young Japanese girls and a weeaboo do in a Philippine museum? Gawk at centuries-old gold artifacts? We paid a nominal fee to gain access to the exhibit.

Ringo: That wasn’t a nominal fee.

Ivan: What’s a weeaboo? Anyways, there was a talk going on in the lobby, which kind of blocked access to the part of the exhibit on the ground floor. But don’t you worry guys, we visited that part later on!

Ringo: Heh. You could tell that it wasn’t really a manga-related talk. The speaker was this yuppie-looking guy who talked about his early life and how it influenced its art, and the audience was made up of middle-aged people who clearly weren’t otaku. After Ivan gawked at the Beck slideshow on the other side of the museum, we went up for the rest of the exhibit.

Iori: The second floor had Philippine artifacts and whatnot. I asked a guard for directions, and he told me that the rest of the manga exhibit was on the third floor.

Ivan: The first thing we saw upon going up was a monitor rigged to display a slideshow of a manga. The speech bubbles were actually translated to English! My western heart is glad.

Ringo: The manga was titled Five Minutes From the Station, by Fusako Kuramochi. Apparently it’s about an ensemble cast whose lives were interconnected in interesting ways. Doesn’t it sound interesting, Iori?

Iori: I suppose so. There was a humongous Taiyo Matsumoto illustration on the wall, opposite some shelves. These shelves housed some manga. There were quite a lot–

Ivan: I KNOW! It’s quite the selection! Schneider has often told me about the lack of manga availability here, but the Japan Foundation sure has some nice copies. Some were original Japanese volumes, while others were the licensed ones. You have popular manga like One Piece and Death Note on one shelf–

Ringo: Don’t forget Bakuman. I love that manga.

Ivan: –right. There’s almost the entirety of Inio Asano’s body of work in another shelf. Even his artbook is there.

Iori: Some Urasawa manga, too, and a variety of manga magazines covering almost all sorts of demographics!

Ringo: We actually spent a lot of time just leafing through the magazines and checking out all the serialized manga in them. Poor Ivan here can’t keep up!

Ivan: Excuse me, I can read a little Japanese. I got a kick out of identifying series from anime I watched, and discovering where they were serialized in. Stuff like Sora no Manimani, Ah! My Goddess (who knew it was still running?), Hyouge Mono (subs where??) and Vinland Saga.

Ringo: Ivan, the self-proclaimed expert here, geeked out on details like paneling, backgrounds, the difference in quality between monthly and weekly release schedules, and how some artists never quite change their style from the time period they started in.

Ivan: No kidding. Shadow Skill still looks like it came from the 90s. It’s surreal.

Iori: I tried to sell Toriko to Ringo but she just wouldn’t buy it.

Ringo: Meh, the proportions weird me out.

Iori: But Gintama has tasteless, commoner humor.

Ivan: *snickers*

Ringo: You shut your mouth.

Iori: Moving on. After exhausting the mini-library’s magazine offerings, we passed by a small corridor that led to two exhibits. The first one we checked out was The World God Only Knows exhibit, which was set up like a small classroom.

Ringo: It wasn’t an authentic Japanese classroom, mind you–the chairs were too small, for one, but we appreciated the effort. There was a big print of Keima and Elsie on the back, and the teacher’s desk had a cardboard robot and a rock with a crude drawing of a manga character on it.

Iori: There was a looping recording that talked about the manga and its themes. Some big words were thrown around on the subject of moe, but they went over my head. Ringo?

Ringo: Don’t ask me, I’m not the expert on that.

Ivan: That was really awesome! I’ve heard of the manga and its anime adaptation, but I never really thought it could present such thought-provoking questions to the reader. The robot and the rock were though experiments on the nature of moe. I enjoyed reading the writings on the board, which were definitions of otaku terms like tsundere, moe, etc.

Ringo: On the side were write-ups of different women with a nice illustration for each. Probably Keima’s harem, so to speak.

Ivan: Seriously, it’s like diving into the author’s head. That’s it. I’m going to pick up the manga once I get back to Sternbild!

Iori: We went to the next exhibit, a very convincing replica of Meiko and Taneda’s room from Solanin. Without exaggeration, this was the best part of the entire exhibit. Outside were Meiko’s introspective quotes from the manga, which helped you tune into the mood of what this manga was about.

Ringo: It really felt like a real apartment shared by real lovers. You could see Meiko and Taneda’s personal effects interspersed together–at first glance you’d think they just belonged to one person!

Iori: Right. Their shoes were neatly parked in some corner of the room, which does tip you off. I liked the cute-looking TV, which was actually a monitor (again). There was a collection of CDs on a part of the wall, and they tell you a lot about the couple’s musical tastes. Ivan?

Ringo: He’s crying. Again.

Ivan: *sniff* I couldn’t come inside the room. I just couldn’t. It felt like intruding into someone’s home. I’d feel like a filthy burglar. So I just read Meiko’s lines around the outside of the room, stood by the doorway, and cried like a baby.

Iori: You were embarrassing! And you completely missed leafing through the photobook on the table. Some fan you are!

Ringo: It was full of photographs of actual locations Asano Inio shot for Solanin. It’s essentially Meiko and Taneda’s story told in pictures.

Ivan: *still crying*

Iori: After that, we returned to the first floor to see the exhibits previously blocked to us. The talk had ended and we were free to check out… Nodame Cantabile!

Ringo: Iori ran off like a little girl to squee on the Nodame exhibit. They were different illustrations of characters from the manga, and the gold framing made them look like real paintings.

Iori: So elegant~

Ivan: Indeed, they were well-made. There were some penciled manga pages that looked as if they were actually made by the author. Just beside that was the Beck exhibit, which had a band set. I’m not sure if those were the actual instruments used by the characters, but they were still nice to see. High above the wall were a couple of monitors featuring animated panels from the manga.

Ringo: Quite eyecatching, but those were just moving SFX balloons and stuff. But hey, it wasn’t an anime museum exhibit.

Iori: I pulled myself away from the Nodame “paintings” and joined Ivan and Ringo on the Taiyo Matsumoto exhibit. Now, I admit that I don’t know much about the person.

Ivan: His art is rather… different.

Ringo: Grotesque, even.

Ivan: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that! He illustrated the cover for my Haikasoru copy of Brave Story, which I rather liked. Here, the work featured is No. 5. The art differs from the page samples we’ve seen, and sometimes we wondered if Matsumoto was even drawing on the same work.

Ringo: It certainly has that feel to it.

Iori: Next is the Sugar Sugar Rune exhibit, which had a delicious write-up of Moyoco Anno. Her work on Sugar Sugar Rune is credited to be a revitalization of the magical girl genre for young girls!

Ringo: Creepy male otaku shouldn’t have a monopoly on magical girls, I say. Have you read it, Ivan?

Ivan: Errr, no.

Ringo: Fu fu fu~ What’s the matter? Too girly for you?

Ivan: If you put it that way, then yes.

Iori: Stop it, you two! Close nearby is the Sennen Gaho exhibit, which we all liked. Apparently it’s the work of a woman who keeps a doodle blog. Her illustrations have this watery, dreamlike feel to them. The exhibit itself was just a sample of a dozen comic prints, with some marker pen drawings on the wall, but it was still great.

Ivan: It gives off the feeling of a light, whimsical romance.

Ringo: They don’t really mean much, but you’re inclined to make your own interpretation. I’d call it lazy if I wasn’t so in love with the drawings!

Ivan: What interested me was the strange and eerie Children of the Sea exhibit. None of us really know what Children of the Sea was about, but the art we saw evoked an endangered ocean.

Iori: The characters look unflattering and drawn specifically to draw any attraction away from themselves.

Ringo: I adore the attention to detail on marine life, but I think such a manga might be too heavy for me. And as for the “gimmick” the exhibit has… There’s a huge cloth hanging that’s made to look like the sea (fish swimming on top near the ceiling), and there are ocean sounds being played on a hidden speaker, like a song of dolphins.

Ivan: And that’s pretty much the entire exhibit. Thoughts, guys?

Iori: Did you check the log book comments on the third floor? They’re very funny. Some people signed in as their favorite anime character, like, say, Haruhi Suzumiya or Monkey D. Luffy.

Ringo: I was snickering at how some of them wrote in broken, incorrect Japanese and compose odes to their favorite Bleach characters! Some people. And Hitsugaya is annoying.

Ivan: I was surprised myself at the number of Koreans. It seems that they like Japanese manga a lot!

Ringo: Or maybe this was just some homework given to them by their teacher.

Ivan: I don’t doubt that most of them enjoyed it anyway. Manga for everyone! As for me, I appreciate the work put into this exhibit. They really went all-out, and there’s something for everybody.

Iori: No matter what kind of manga fan you are, whether you’re the serious lot or just someone who likes reading manga, please check out this exhibit.

Ringo: The Philippines is its last stop, and the exhibit will close up on October 2. So get on it!

* * *

Related links:

  • Otaku Champloo does a solemn and well-written writeup here.
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5 Responses to Manga Realities: Exploring the Art of Japanese Comics Today

  1. This is the most bizarre fanfic that I haven’t read.

    • schneider says:

      I wrote it to mirror my actual experiences! And no, I didn’t cry at the Solanin room, but I didn’t go inside. Not with my gaijin shoes on. I guess I could have removed them but that would be too weeaboo even for me :v

  2. Martel says:

    I really enjoyed this post and how you switched speakers every couple sentences. I really want to visit the exhibit, especially The World God Only Knows, bad sadly I live no wherenear the Philippines and I don’t have the time or mobey to travel D: A very enjoyable read nonetheless.

    • schneider says:

      Thanks! It took me the better part of last week to write this up, and I wasn’t very confident with what I wrote. I just thought to write in the voice of anime characters I like, and it came out better than my insecurities would have told me.

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