The National Art Center, Tokyo is currently holding the exhibition “Manga City TOKYO: Manga, Anime, Video Games, Tokusatsu 2020” at the National Art Center, Roppongi until November 3rd. This exhibition is the triumphant return of the “MANGA ⇔ TOKYO” exhibition that was held last year in Paris and drew over 30,000 people.
Featuring more than 90 different Japanese manga, anime, game and SFX film titles, the exhibited works portray the changes and characteristics of Tokyo. In an attempt to capture the city of Tokyo from various angles, the venue is crammed with more than 500 exhibits, including rough drawings and other materials related to anime production, as well as images and installations.
The exhibition begins with an Introduction before being divided into three sections. The initial Introduction is provided by original mascot characters, Yoriko and Vippie, who were designed by the director of “Little Witch Academia,” Yoh Yoshinari. Kaichiro Morikawa, Shigeto Koyama, Tsuyoshi Kusano and others also participated in the modelling and design of other characters. Entering the Introduction exhibition room, visitors are met by a huge 1:1000 scale reproduction of urban Tokyo, measuring 17 meters wide and 22 meters long. Surrounding the model are exhibited works set in Tokyo.
Section 1: Repetition of Destruction and Reconstruction
This section features situations often depicted in Japanese manga, anime and tokusatsu, where Tokyo is devastated by an unprecedented natural disaster or attacked by some unknown life form. It backs up Tokyo’s history of the city having been destroyed and rebuilt many times before. This “destruction and reconstruction of the Tokyo capital” is introduced through such works as GODZILLA, AKIRA, and ”EVANGELION”series.
Section 2: Tokyo Daily Life
Section 2 comprises three parts: Pre-Tokyo Edo, From the Dawn of Modernization to a Postmodern City, and From the Turn of the Century to Today. It traces the history of Tokyo through works depicting everyday life. The thematic works are exhibited in line with Tokyo’s history, beginning with the townsfolk culture of the Edo period, and passing through the Great Kanto Earthquake, World War II, and the period of post-war recovery to rapid economic growth, all the way through to present-day Tokyo where there is an intricate blend of many different cultures. It is fascinating to sense the transitioning city by appreciating areas such as Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi, with a focus on the respective townscapes from each era.
Section 3: Character vs City
The final section shines the spotlight on characters that have been summoned into the urban space. Each character is a mascot for a product sales promotion or PR campaign, and is used extensively as a tourism resource. The large-scale exhibition space in Section 3 includes an installation that reproduces the Love Live! campaign on trains on the JR Yamanote Line, and a reproduction of a convenience store created out of a collaboration with Hatsune Miku.
History of manga and anime drives thought towards new fiction
Japanese manga, anime, games and SFX films have constantly reflected the characteristics and changes of Tokyo. By looking back at Tokyo’s history through numerous rough animation drawings, an urban model and other works, visitors to the exhibition can learn how the city of Tokyo itself has continued to influence the world of fiction. At the same time, the exhibition has also been an opportunity to learn how the characters created through fiction have influenced and affected the real city. Tokyo is a privileged city with footings in Japan’s reality and fiction. By the irony of fate, history of the COVID-19 crisis will also be carved out in one city, but perhaps now is just the right time to appreciate such an exhibition while visualizing new fiction for the next generation to come.