Manga animates new millennium

The Japan Times Online

Manga animates new millennium
Underground art revealed

Special to The Japan Times

Manga took a giant leap into its future on New Year's Day 1963, when space-age cartoon images from Osamu Tezuka's famed comic book "Tetsuwa Atomu (Astro Boy)" came to life in Japan's first original animated TV series. This was the birth of anime, which has now mushroomed into a multi-billion-dollar global industry.

Cover artwork for Kagayake Daitoua-Kyoueiken by Shintaro Kago; gouache and ink on paper

A year later, however, the same industry coughed up Garo, a 180 yen underground manga magazine, which, in many ways represented everything that Tezuka's loveable "Astro Boy" was not, giving a voice to a generation of largely unknown underground manga artists and writers whose works were often laced with dark, satirical narratives and weird, surrealistic imagery.

When Missouri-born artist and curator Tim Evans first flipped through the dog-eared pages of an old Garo magazine in 1992 during his college years in California, not only was he introduced to the wilder side of Japanese manga culture, but also to a fresh and dynamic medium for visual expression that would profoundly alter his career.

"I always loved Garo because of its ardent commitment to political and aesthetic radicalism, and also because it was renowned for publishing the works of young and emerging cartoonists," 34-year-old Evans says in an e-mail interview from the United States. "In a sense, Garo is a kind of a blueprint for my own artistic endeavors."

Evans has now brought together selected works from more than 30 artists, mostly from Japan and the U.S., in an exhibition titled "Psionic Distortion" running Nov. 11-30 at the SuperDeluxe event space in Roppongi, Tokyo.

The multi-media exhibition -- which incorporates paintings, sculptures and segments from various artists' comic books as well as live music events -- features both the works of cutting-edge Japanese comics artists like Shintaro Kago and Akino Kondoh and artwork by manga-inspired artists from the States like Kenjji and Toby Barnes.

Another highlight will be the numerous video installations produced by popular visual artist Keiji Ito, which will be screened throughout the mostly admission-free 20-day exhibition. Ito, who recently created the poster art for "Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan," will also lend his talents as a guest DJ for the opening party (which is open to all) on Nov. 10, and participate in a panel discussion with fellow artists the following evening (for both of which a small admission fee will be charged).

"Manga has served as a catalyst for self-expression and a powerful springboard in dynamic nihilism in the 21st century, in much the same way that jazz, blues and hip-hop grew out of very specific historical situations and consequently took on vibrant new forms in various parts of the world," says Evans. "Psionic Distortion" aims to demonstrate how Japanese popular culture has been dispersed and transformed throughout the West (particularly in America), and is currently influencing a younger generation of artists.

If "Pikachu" -- from the anime megahit "Pokemon" -- is the new millennium's answer to "Astro Boy," then the eclectic circus of strange and subversive artifacts on display in "Psionic Distortion" is likewise Garo-esque in its aims.

Manga artist Shintaro Kago, who will contribute several illustrations from his manga book covers, certainly knows how to test the limits of what is art (and good taste) with his oftentimes sexually and politically charged manga comics. In one strikingly colorful image, uniformed Japanese schoolgirls wave the Hinomaru flag as Zero fighter planes circle the bright blue sky. One girl has an eyeball falling out of its socket from a gunshot blast to her head. Another hairless girl stands beside a wild-eyed and bloodied schoolmate in a state of purplish radioactive decomposition.

Although perhaps not as bleak as his Japanese counterpart, comic-book sequences taken from Detroit-based Afro-American manga artist Kenjji are no less political in their vision. Kenjji has created his own self-styled brand of kuroi-manga (black comics), and is particularly known for his groundbreaking concoction "Witch Doctor: Protector of the People." Kenjji's protagonist, Jovan, is a sharp-suited black superhero with D'Angelo-style cornrowed hair, who not only fights Zombies and racist stereotypes, but is on a spiritual mission to unearth the hidden riches of Voodoo culture and ancient African history.

"[Japanese] manga culture has shown to my audience that comics, cartoons and illustrative art can deal with a broad range of issues, not just typical superheroes," says Kenjji, whose own initiation to Japanese comics was Katsuhiro Otomo's post-apocalyptic thriller "Akira" in the early '90s. "In America we still struggle to bring out different material from the mainstream, but typically the trite material is always more popular," he says. Works by American painter Toby Barnes project a heavier influence from late '80s and '90s Japanese robot animation classics like "Gundam" and "Evangelion."

"Being Asian-American," says New York-based Barnes, "my family would travel east every several years on vacation and that's when I would bring back toys and comics. Because I didn't have much anime or manga stuff to play with or look at while at home in the U.S., I would have to find a creative way to fill in this void."

As a child, he copied images from old Japanese comic books and creating his own storyboards and scenarios. This childhood escapism fueled his creative drive years later when, as a frustrated art student, he decided to unlearn most of the classical drawing techniques he had absorbed in school. Instead, he began seriously painting the robot doodles that had turned him on in his youth.

However, the cross-cultural exchange at the heart of "Psionic Distortion" also works both ways. Tokyo-born graphic designer and collage artist Keiji Ito, known for his acid-inspired collage art of psychedelic flower gardens and motorways, says he has received no inspiration at all from the manga culture of his own country. The artist, who instead namedrops Americans like the film director Richard Fleischer and cartoonist Robert Crumb as his artistic influences, says he feels quite distanced from the whole global anime and manga boom.

"On the other hand, those glorious American cartoons and animated films I watched on TV as a child have had an enormous impact on me," says Ito. "I think it's that almost ecstatic sense of happiness and optimism I witnessed on the TV screen in my childhood that really messed up my brain today."

For exhibition-goers not yet exposed to the darker side of Japanese manga, though, "Psionic Distortion" may also prove to be a heavy visual experience that's both disturbing and enlightening.

"The term 'Psionic' refers to the superhuman powers many anime and manga characters possess, like the power exhibited by a monk or yoga master who is deep into his/her practice," Evans explains when asked about the show's title. "They sometimes claim that their third eye has awakened, and that quasi-mystical experience is what 'Psionic' is all about -- a deep and profound insight into the human condition."

Don't say you haven't been warned.

"Psionic Distortion" runs Nov. 10-30 at SuperDeluxe (tel: [03] 5412-0515), a 5-minute walk from Roppongi Station on the Hibiya Line. For more information on the artists and related events, call SuperDeluxe or visit

The Japan Times: Nov. 10, 2004
(C) All rights reserved

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ITOCHU and Ishimori Group to Establish Media Joint Venture

ITOCHU and Ishimori Group to Establish Media Joint Venture: "ITOCHU and Ishimori Group to Establish Media Joint Venture

Tokyo (JCNN) - ITOCHU Corporation (TSE: 8001), Ishimori Shotaro Pro Inc., one of the major Manga productions in Japan, and Ishimori Pro Inc. have signed an agreement to establish Ishimori Entertainment Inc., a joint venture company that will introduces the 'Ishimori World' to its fans.

The new company, Ishimori Entertainment Inc., is planning to produce movies, TV programming, publications, and to develop merchandising business based on the titles of Shotaro Ishinomori. Ishimori Entertainment aims to achieve a turnover of 1.5-2.0 billion Yen every year.

Shotaro Ishinomori's works consist of more than 300 titles, including his most important works such as'MASKED RIDER', 'Cyborg009', 'HOTEL', 'KIKAIDER', and 'GORENGER'. In particular, MASKED RIDER is one of the most popular heroes among the children in Japan.

ITOCHU will hold 49% of its shares, Ishimori Pro and Ishimori Shotaro Pro will own 41% and 10%, respectively."

Politicians block comic over 'fake' Nanjing Massacre tale

The Japan Times Online: "Politicians block comic over 'fake' Nanjing Massacre tale

Shueisha Inc. said Wednesday it will halt publication of a 'manga' comic featuring the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 in response to complaints by Japanese politicians who claim the slaughter never happened.

The comic series 'Kuni ga Moeru' ('The Country is Burning'), authored by popular comic writer Hiroshi Motomiya, is a fictional tale about a bureaucrat in the turbulent times of the early Showa Era (1926-1989).

Publication of the series, which has been carried in Weekly Young Jump magazine since November 2002, will be temporarily suspended from the Oct. 28 edition. Weekly Young Jump is popular among Japanese men.

In the magazine's Sept. 16 and Sept. 22 editions, the comic described Japanese soldiers massacring civilians in Nanjing, China.

Thirty-seven members of local assemblies protested to the publisher on Oct. 5, saying the massacre was presented as if it really happened. They say the story deliberately distorted history by using a photo whose authenticity they claim cannot be confirmed.

According to the assembly members, there is strong evidence that the massacre never happened and that there is no proof that it did.

A Shueisha representative said: 'Some people say the photo used for reference in the drawing cannot be authenticated. It was inappropriate to use such material.'

'The parts related to the use of the photo as pointed out will be edited or deleted when the comic book is published,' Shueisha said in reply to the complaint.

The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal concluded that more than 140,000 people were killed. Some Chinese historians put the death toll at 300,000 in Nanjing alone. Japanese accounts vary from several thousand to 200,000 dead.

The Japan Times: Oct. 14, 2004"

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Assembly members protest manga portrayal of Nanjing Massacre as distortion

Japan Today - News - Assembly members protest manga portrayal of Nanjing Massacre as distortion - Japan's Leading International News Network

Sunday, October 10, 2004 at 07:36 JST
TOKYO — A group of local assembly members has protested to the author and publisher of a manga weekly over a cartoon strip that depicted the Nanjing Massacre in a way they consider distorts history, group members and the publisher said Friday.

The group issued the protest to Shueisha Inc, a major publisher, and Hiroshi Motomiya who wrote the manga, "Kuni Ga Moeru" which is carried in Weekly Young Jump as a fictionalized serial, saying that the manga presents the Nanjing Massacre "as if it was the truth." The group sent a protest letter to Shueisha on Tuesday, claiming there is strong evidence that the Nanjing Massacre did not happen and no proof that it did. (Kyodo News)

5 arrested for auctioning pirated anime online

Mainichi Interactive - Top News: "
5 arrested for auctioning pirated anime online

TOYAMA -- Five people have been arrested for selling pirated editions of popular animated movies on the Internet in two separate incidents, prefectural police said.

Arrested for violating the Copyright Law were Masao Takahashi, 50, his son, 28-year-old Miyabi, Okutaro Kojima, 38, his 36-year-old wife, Mie, and his 34-year-old brother, Chotaro.

Takahashi conspired with Miyabi to sell some 4,500 pirated DVDs of a popular animated film, 'Doraemon,' on an Internet auction site, netting approximately 6.2 million yen, according to investigators.

The elder Takahashi has admitted to the allegations during questioning. 'I did it because my family business faced financial crisis,' he was quoted as telling investigators.

Kojima conspired with his wife and brother to sell pirated DVD copies of an animated film, 'Dragon Ball,' on the Internet, netting about 20 million yen, prefectural police said. (Compiled from wire reports, Japan, Oct. 9, 2004)"

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