Gengaten Visit…

Finally, a spare minute to write a little bit about the Otomo Katsuhiro exhibit I visited a few weeks back.
Otomo needs no introduction if you are familiar with his epic manga Akira, and his exhibition delivers, ten fold, almost too much, every painstakingly hand drawn frame from the original multi-volume manga.

“Genga” is Japanese for original, and spread across about 4 rooms on the bottom floor of 3331 Chiyoda, you can analyze every single frame of every page of Akira, warts and all – with annotation notes, corrections, text layouts and hand numbering. The pages, separated and laid across wire frame tiers in large glass boxes, are arranged in chronological order with the exception of featured pages which are placed at the top for closer observation. The sheer amount of work, spanning several years, would have been impossible to show on the wall, so that considered, I think the grid layout, though necessary for making viewing easier, was just like the work, suitably meticulous.

The rest of the exhibition was pretty retrospective and featured hand coloured cells, original cover illustrations and character development sketches from different points in Otomo’s career – including early manga like “Short Piece”, “Highway Star” and “Sayonara Nippon” to more familiar concept art and sketches from “Memories” and “Steam Boy”. Pieces that really caught my eye were made with Pantone color and featured various people smashing things in Otomo’s signature style – dramatically. They could have been promotional, I’m not sure, but the bold colour and frozen explosions were a winner with me- like Roy Lichtenstein if he was dropping TV’s instead of blowing up fighter planes.

The last room in the exhibit was kind of a play room – photography, doodling on the wall and posing on replica motorcycles was all permitted. There was also a large sculpture recreation of a  frame from “Doumu” too – for those geeky enough to pose in front of it.

Overall, the exhibition was really enjoyable – having read the comics, seen the films and always been awestruck at Otomo’s vision and technical ability, seeing how Akira was pieced together and witnessing his talent raw and up close was inspirational. (Getting to ride Kaneda’s bike wasn’t bad either, and all in one afternoon!)

Gengaten runs until the end of May, so if you are in Tokyo it’s highly recommended you pop in for you a visit. More info about access and gallery times visit 3331 Chiyoda.