MANGA ⇔ TOKYO
12 August – 3 November 2020
The National Art Center, Tokyo
The present show, produced on the basis of a 2018 Paris exhibition, invites visitors to explore “Tokyo” through images of Japanese manga, animation films and games, as well as movies with special effects.
“MANGA⇔TOKYO” at La Villette
Back in 2018, celebrating 160 years of diplomatic ties with Japan, France hosted a cultural festival entitled « Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance ». As part of the official programme, the exhibition “MANGA⇔TOKYO”, organized by the National Art Center, Tokyo, took place at the Grand Hall of La Villette in Paris 19th arrondissement.
“MANGA⇔TOKYO” in Roppongi, Tokyo
Following the exhibition format at La Villette, the 2020 Tokyo show enshrines in the center of the hall, a large model of Tokyo and a giant screen to project animations.
A passage way leads directly from the hall entrance to this open space, which is surrounded by a large number of panels featuring Japanese comics and animes.
A medley of manga works
The sheer variety of manga presented here is astounding.
Oldies and classics include: Tomorrow’s Joe, Sunset on Third Street, Sally the Witch, Lupin the Third, and Hikara-san.
More recent numbers go from Sailor Moon, Kodoku no Gourmet, Rurouni Kenshin, Love Live! , Jin-Roh, March Comes In like a Lion, to films by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words, and, of course, Your Name.).
But nowhere do you find Miyazaki films, Osamu Tezuka’s best-known masterpieces, Doraemon or Pokemon: the purpose of the show is to explore “Tokyo” as represented in manga.
As such, ukyo-e that depicted the town of Edo is also out of the scope. The pre-modern Tokyo is presented through contemporary works such as Hidamari–no-ki and Sakuran.
Tokyo through the lens of comics
Ordinary or extra-ordinary, realistic or fictional, the depth and significance of Tokyo depicted in each manga just varies.
In some works, Tokyo’s places and landscapes constitute an integral part built into the protagonist’s character and stories. In other cases, it is just a prop that resonates with the collective mood and feeling prevalent at a certain time of the country – the rapid economic growth period since the 50s or the bubble economy in the 80s, for instance.
Making sense of “Tokyo” from these fragmented pieces put together may be a daunting task for visitors.
Between destruction and reconstruction
The most poignant part of the show is the opening section featuring “destruction and reconstruction” of the city.
From Edo period to modern times, Tokyo has been repeatedly destroyed and reconstructed.
A series of large fires devastated the town of Edo, like one depicted in Hinoyojin, 2012 film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and set in the 18th century Edo.
When the shogunate ended, Edo was renamed Tokyo or “the eastern capital” (east, vis-à-vis Kyoto in western Japan). The modernized and westernized town was then destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
In 1945, it was razed by the Tokyo Air Raid and reduced to ashes.
Perhaps, Godzilla’s wholesale destruction of Tokyo is all too familiar. But the annihilation of Tokyo and reconstruction of a new capital in AKIRA or Evangelion may well echo through the past and present, moving between history and fiction.
Even so, in today’s Tokyo, where the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were to take place. Who could imagine a year ago the city – as anywhere else in the world – is plagued by a new Corona virus, like in the flu pandemic 100 years ago, prompting all the citizens to wear the mask?
Characters vs. City
The final chapter is devoted to the characters that became part of the city, like Hatsune Miku on the window pane of convenience store, as well as some sections of town – such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara – intertwined with characters.
page 1 “About” / page 2 “Info”