The Future in Retrospect

Katsuhiro Otomo returns to Neo-Tokyo

poster for

"Katsuhiro Otomo: Genga (Original Drawings)" Exhibition

at 3331 Arts Chiyoda
in the Chiyoda area
This event has ended - (2012-04-09 - 2012-05-30)

In Reviews by Paul Heaton 2012-04-16

The impact of Katsuhiro Otomo’s work is always described in powerful terms; talk of booms, explosions, and cultural shifts. The manga and anime boom of the early Nineties would not have been possible without ‘Akira’, the breakthrough title which, to this today, remains the pinnacle of both cell animation and illustration in Japan. And while the prospect of a live-action Hollywood remake looms in 2012, fans in Tokyo can finally enjoy “Genga”, Otomo’s first major exhibition in many years at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, until the end of May.

'Katsuhiro Otomo: Genga' exhibition

Plans for the release of Otomo’s second artbook “Kaba 2” and its accompanying exhibition have long been in the works. But this year’s exhibition is a much bigger and more comprehensive show as a result of the Tohoku earthquake. The disaster resonated particularly deep with Otomo — who originally hails from Miyagi prefecture — convincing him to dig deep into his vaults in order to raise as much money as possible for Tohoku residents through the exhibition.

Highlights of the show include many pieces from his original ‘Kaba’ artbook, unpublished works, and all 2,182 pages of the ‘Akira’ manga. It’s a lot to take in, even for his contemporaries. “It’s just amazing,” ‘Tekkonkinkreet’ director Michael Arias tells me. “The amount of detail in some of these pages, it’s staggering. You don’t usually see a comic book laid out, all in one room like this. It’s really amazing, and kind of mind-numbing.”

There have been many semi-official and fan-made versions of Kaneda’s power bike over the years. “Genga” shows off arguably the best version to date, with visitors able to don the iconic red jacket and live out all their ‘Akira’ cosplay fantasies.

For a small donation of ¥500, visitors can try on Akira's red jacket or 'ride' his iconic motorbike.

For fans of ‘Domu’ there’s a recreation in the exhibition space of the famous battle scene between Etsuko and Old Cho. And if that wasn’t enough, Otomo will soon start work on an epic new wall piece inside the main room, using the full two-months of the exhibition’s run to complete it.

All in all 2012 has seen a flurry of Otomo activity, at least by recent standards. And although a new animated short ‘Night Flames’ (Hinoyoujin) was previewed at the exhibition launch, fans will have to wait for another large-scale animated feature in the vein of ‘Akira’ or ‘Steamboy’.

'Katsuhiro Otomo: Genga' exhibition

“I don’t think the Japanese anime industry is in a particularly good state now,” Otomo tells me. “You have to take last year’s earthquake into consideration. The proper budgets needed to bring animation to cinemas just aren’t available at the moment. More time needs to pass, or perhaps collaboration with animation houses overseas is the answer. I can’t see it happening yet. I think we need some more time.”

“Genga” will bring another chapter of Otomo’s career to a close, and will also mark another change in direction. His next step: a return to his first love, manga, for a new serialized title — his first in twenty-two years.

'Katsuhiro Otomo: Genga' exhibition

Paul Heaton

Paul Heaton. Paul is a graphic designer and writer from Central England. Having cut his teeth at design studios in Birmingham he skipped the obvious career move to London, choosing the bright neon lights of Tokyo instead. These days he spends his time working on various creative projects, looking after his son and exploring the different art spaces around the capital. » See other writings


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