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  • 執筆者の写真Takumi Furusato

A city with characters : report from the exhibition “MANGA ⇔ TOKYO”


Tokyo must be one of the most suffered cities by devastating attacks and destructions on the globe: I'm not talking about earthquakes or Tsunami, but about psychics, aliens and Kaiju monsters.

From August 12th to November 3rd, an exhibition “Manga 都市 TOKYO” which focuses on the relationship between Tokyo and various Japanese modern culture is held in the national art center Tokyo. This exhibition is shown by 3 different sections, “Repetition of destruction and reconstruction” “Daily life in Tokyo” and “Character versus City”.

(Photo by TF)

On the first section, the exhibition shows how Tokyo has been destroyed and rebuilt in subcultural context. Since Godzilla appeared in 1954 from Tokyo bay, lots of buildings, towers and bridges in the city have been torn down under the battle between heroes and villains. While numbers of iconic architectures such as Tokyo tower, metropolitan office and rainbow bridge have been constructed in the real world, those landmarks have been destroyed in Manga, Anime and Tokusatsu movies. This section points out that the continuous destruction and regeneration in fiction is related with modern Tokyo history. For example, in time of WWII, the city had many air-raids and millions of residents died. It was only 10 years after this catastrophic massacre when the first Godzilla movie was released. In addition, many old buildings and streets were replaced into new futuristic ones in the time of rapid economic growth in 1960s and bubble economy in 1980s for urban regeneration. Therefore, Neo-Tokyo 2020 which had many construction sites in AKIRA in 80s was so realistic for both manga readers and anime viewers at that time.

Alternatively, it should be noted that many contents creators have been trying to describe the daily life of ordinal people in Tokyo. You can see some works of them in the second section of this exhibition. In 1960s, manga artists such as Yu Takita and Shinji Nagashima showed the people in backstreets in romantic way. This “micro” point of view became much popular specially after bubble economic era ended in 1990s. In 2000's, the detailed expression with advanced digital technologies allowed Japanese creators to put personality even on the city-scape. In this exhibition, the visitors who are standing at the movie of 5 centimeters per second would have a emotional feeling not only from the conversations of Takaki and Akari but also from beautiful picture of Odakyu line crossing.

Today, the relationship between characters and the city is so mutual. In the third section of the exhibition, the new relationship of fictional contents and Tokyo is shown. It is almost impossible to live in this metropolis without engaging characters. Shops, schools, and even temples… you may find characters everywhere. Now people in Tokyo are consuming characters without consciousness. Installations of mock convenience store and train would help you to understand how Tokyo accepts numbers of Characters in 2020.

(Photo by TF)

(Photo by TF)

This exhibition is based on Japonismes 2018: les ames en resonance in Paris which attracted 30,000 visitors. Recently, Japanese government is highly interested in subcultural contents as a method for attracting tourists from overseas. “MANGA都市 TOKYO” will give you a clue for better understanding for the relationship between contents and the city in 21st century



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