The anime movie ‘Your Name.’, the manga ‘Sailor Moon’, and Sega’s ‘Yakuza’ video game series ー these famous works that represent Japan’s modern pop culture are all set in the city of Tokyo. So, how is Tokyo portrayed and what kind of stories set around Tokyo can we enjoy from the various works? The answer can be found at the “MANGA⇔TOKYO” exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo!
Once you enter the exhibition space, you will be overwhelmed! In the middle of it is a huge miniature model of Tokyo. This city model was first exhibited at the ‘Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance’ exhibition held in France in 2018.
Behind the model is an enormous screen that is used to show clips of anime, games, or tokusatsu (special effects) movies set in Tokyo. For each location featured in the work on the screen, the actual area in Tokyo will be spotlighted, making it easy to see where the story actually takes place.
“Tokyo”, a city been destroyed over and over again?
The theme of the first exhibition area is “Repetition of Destruction and Reconstruction”. Historically, Tokyo has been destroyed several times, including the many big fires of the Edo period and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. But each time, the city was reconstructed, growing bigger and bigger.
Even in manga and anime, Tokyo gets damaged by monsters or god-like destroyers who suddenly appear ー just as natural disasters in real life. One example of a work in which Tokyo repeatedly gets destroyed is the famous tokusatsu (special effects) movie series Godzilla. in Godzilla, it is always Tokyo’s latest spots and tourist attractions that tend to get destroyed.
“Tokyo” from the Edo period to the present day
The next exhibition area shows Tokyo portrayed in various manga, anime, and games. Through original drawings and videos, you can trace the city’s history. The theme of the works changes depending on the era they are from and the expression method and style is also different for each work. Seeing all the small differences and the huge variety of creativity is very interesting!
From fiction to the real world
In Tokyo right now, fictional works have come “alive” in the real world. Flooding the streets of Tokyo, they are integrated as apart of our everyday lives. You might see a train that is “hi-jacked” by a manga, anime, or game, with nothing else but ads for this one product inside the train car. Collaborations with convenience stores and shrines are also usual nowadays. The exhibition features some of these example scenes from everyday life in Tokyo.
It was a very exciting exhibition that made me re-realize how much artistic and cultural value lies in Japanese manga and anime. The days when manga and anime were regarded as “content for children only” are long gone. Now, they are mirrors of society and time ー and even influence the real world.
Date: August 12 – November 3, 2020
* To ease congestion, this exhibition requires everyone – including those who already have exhibition tickets – to make an online reservation for a “specified date/time ticket”.
THE NATIONAL ART CENTER, TOKYO
* Body temperature checks will be conducted upon admission. Those with a fever of 37.5 degrees or higher cannot enter. Furthermore, please wear a mask, refrain from talking as much as possible, and cooperate with other visitors to keep a safe distance from each other.