Manga “Sinking Japan”

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Volume 15, “Without a place to die the bee restlessly buzzes through the winter …” “Yes … that’s how it is …” © Tokihito Ishiki

Vienna, MAK: For a Western mind is almost impossible to comprehend the scale of manga popularity in Japan. What is every European author’s dream – to have, let’s say, a couple of thousand people buying (or reading) their stuff: that’s peanuts for manga-ka (cartoonist) Tokihiko Ishiki who is a true star in his country. With the exhibition “Japan sinks. A manga.” the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts – MAK is presenting Ishiki’s popular comic which was sold (from 2006-2009) one million copies every week. Multiply that by 15 volumes and you will understand why drawing manga is a prestigious job in Japan. Because of a devilish tempo and enormous concurrence, stopping to make a break is not something that most of the manga authors will even consider!

Tokihiko Ishiki has personally come to Vienna to attend the press conference and the opening He will also give lectures on “Making a Manga” on Saturday 19th January at 4 p.m. MAK has prepared a supporting programme consisting of Anime cinema, Manga workshops and a special evening “MAK goes Manga” (Saturday, 23rd March) with a Cosplay performance & Cosplay makeup workshop, manga portraitists and a workshop for children.

“Japan sinks” or in original – Nippon Chinbotsu is based on the best-selling science fiction novel of the same title (1973) by the Japanese writer Sakyou Komatsu (1931–2011) who described a scary fictive scenario of Japan’s last 322 days of existence. “I’ve written a comic dealing with big natural catastrophes; also involving nuclear plants and Tsunami. You can imagine my shock after the latest unfortunate chain of events that hit Japan in March 2011. My comic is about Japanese people’s reaction in extreme situations and the way in which they deal with the inevitable. The story is actually about hope, about how to stay composed and optimistic in impossible times, which suddenly became reality. I didn’t know what to write anymore because so much of it became too palpable, explained Ishiki to the journalists gathered at the press preview in MAK. The comic based on Komatsu’s book sees the end of Japan after multiple disastrous earthquakes which culminate in the country sinking.. There is no happy end – the country goes under!

The first complete volume of the “Japan sinks” manga is displayed unusually, the sketches and original drawings for the comic being accentuated by the means of specially designed inner architecture: billowy walls (which the exhibition curator Johannes Wieninger compares to “brain parenchyma”) on both sides of the room present a selection of blown-up graphic prints and sequences from the comic-strip. Additionally, a slide show of Tokihiko Ishiki’s drawings reveals artist’s working process, his meticulousness in building the graphic storyline and his attention to detail. Another video screen illustrates the creative process – with the viewer following artist’s cursor moving over the computer screen.

This is not the place where you can sit and read through a comic book, although you might want to have a look at the drawings, as only parts of the storyline are translated to English and German. The exhibition focuses on the graphic side of the comic and on the genesis of Ishiki’s famous manga: showcasing original drawings, sketches and the development of the graphic storyline. Visitors can also have a look at some of the original weekly comic-strip sequels which are not fully translated to other languages. Instead, there’s a short synopsis in German and English.

The curator Johannes Wieninger reminds us that the MAK Asia department has worked for a long time on building its own manga collection and that Nippon Chinbotsu is actually the second exhibition on manga phenomena. In 2005, MAK has shown an exhibition on “The Aestetics of a Trash Culture; Uaaaaa!!! Manga!”

Through April 21