Tamagura: Manga not by “mangaka”

“If you draw manga, then you’re a mangaka.” For manga fans, there’s nothing strange about this statement.

Manga is not just “manga.” We’re now living in an age where animators and illustrators and all manner of artists will also use manga as a means to express themselves. The “Tamagura Anime and Manga Expo” exhibition, now running at 3331 Arts Chiyoda until March 9th, offers some glimpses into this.

By putting the manga works into this space, a former school building, the event gives visitors a whole different impression to seeing comics in a bookstore. You end up questioning just what is a manga in the first place.

tamagura01 The exhibition is decorated like a school festival.

“Tamagura” means the Tama Art University’s Department of Graphic Design. It is famous for being the breeding ground for many artists who have gone on to create highly distinctive short animations. This exhibition showcases the work of six multi-generational artists who have graduated from the department and who make both animation and manga. In the next room you can also see the animations by the same artists and compare their manga and anime expression.

tamagura02 There are also screenings of animation works by the same participants.

The venue is a former classroom. The first thing you see when you go inside are six manga printed in huge sizes over the entire walls. All the comics were drawn especially for this exhibition and inside the space there are also three-dimensional models of the characters featured in the manga. Since 3331 Arts Chiyoda is a former school building it feels a bit like you have stumbled into an incredibly high-quality school festival.

tamagura03 You can read manga in the former classrooms.

tamagura04 And you can actually read manga by graduates from Tamagura (Tama Art University Department of Graphic Design).

Each of the six artists’ work is different in terms of both theme and style.

tamagura05 It was new and fun to read manga on a wall.

Takashi Kurihara’s “Summer Monster” is surely going to be accessible for manga devotees. Drawn in svelte lines, this is a most surreal story. Takashi Sugisaki’s “Turtle” is a comedic work populated by déformer characters evocative of Shigeru Sugiura and Osamu Tezuka. Sugisaki apparently grew up reading Tezuka’s work as well as Shigeru Mizuki’s.

tamagura06 Takashi Kurihara’s “Summer Monster”

Akino Kondoh is active as an artist and here her manga “Sayonara”

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is themed around male-female relations. The fine lines fiercely convey the gender conflicts.

tamagura07 Akino Kondoh’s “Sayonara”

However, it can be a touch bewildering to come face-to-face with the original manga exhibited like an artwork when you are used to reading them in a magazine or in book form.

For example, the flow of time in the cells in Yoko Kuno’s “Brother of God” is highly distinctive, and by shuttling between the cells you could finally confirm the flow of time.

Or take “Tomodachi”, drawn using a mechanical pencil and ink by Kunio Kato, who created the Oscar-winning animated short “La Maison en Petits Cubes”. Each of the pictures is like a picture book, every frame excising a moment so you can really sense the changes in time and place.

You are free to look and enjoy at the manga in any order you want. What does “manga” mean to these six artists? Well, one answer came from “Tooth Cushion Galaxy” by nuQ.

tamagura08“Tooth Cushion Galaxy” by nuQ

NuQ is well-known for dabbling in anime, illustration and manga. He has said that manga is “better for concisely summarizing stories where the dialogue is interesting.” And it’s true that nuQ’s manga here would not work as an illustration or if it was animated. The dialogue would lose its edge.

On the other hand, Kato said that “it’s fun to make things move with animation but with manga you can see what is special about frozen moments.”

tamagura09 Many visitors flocked to the gallery on the opening.

Manga is not just for mangaka. Only the maladroit would limit themselves and their worlds to a single form of expression. The six featured artists in this exhibition are each working with their own styles.

tamagura10 Outside the venue there was a blackboard where you could write your impressions.

tamagura11 There were also exhibits outside the venue.

Once it has become totally normal for “non-mangaka” to draw and create manga, we can look forward to new

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kinds of expression that challenge the static definitions of “manga” as well as the birth of all manner of original works.

tamagura12 The venue is actually Akibatamabi21, which is specifically for graduates from the college.

“Tamagura Anime and Manga Expo” Exhibition
February 1st to March 9th (closed on Tuesdays)
12:00-19:00 (until 20:00 on Fridays/Saturdays)
Venue: 3331 Arts Chiyoda