Naoki Urasawa – celebrated manga author, writer of YAWARA!, MONSTER, 20th Century Boys and PLUTO, to name just a few – found success and popularity with every manga he has ever published. From January to March this year, Urasawa enjoyed a full solo exhibition called Kaite kaite kakimakuru (Naoki Urasawa Exhibition: Draw Like Crazy), the success of which has prompted a reprisal of the exhibition in Osaka.
In anticipation of the Osaka exhibition, there was a private viewing on November 25, the day before its public opening, which many die-hard fans who wanted to see the exhibition first flocked to see. The following day, Urasawa himself spoke before his fans.
A Huge Number of Original Drawings
The sheer amount of things on display is impressive. The exhibition includes original manuscripts, concept notes, storyboards and rough drafts, treasured illustrations and sketches, and manga sketchbooks from his youth.
The most interesting part of the show is the section in which full volumes of the manuscripts are on display. The exhibition displays the entire volumes of YAWARA!, MONSTER, and 20th Century Boys. I could have never imagined the amount of work that goes into one volume. If you look closely at the manuscript, you can clearly see Urasawa’s mastery. The size of the manuscript is bigger than I thought, and you can see small details such as fine lines that are lost when the volume is printed. The rain is especially well drawn,; the effect is created by delicately scratching the screentone. Urasawa shows the breadth of his talent both through his powerful, bold strokes, and his subtle, hair-thin lines.
Next were the storyboards. The storyboard is the plan or design of a manga. To see a storyboard is to see inside the manga artist’s head, and that’s why so many artists don’t like making their storyboards public. It’s amazing that this exhibition shows so many storyboards. In the BILLY BAT section, the storyboards are shown parallel to the manuscripts, so you can compare them. You can sense the process of creating and completing a manga, a process that is usually not evident in the final product.
The storyboards of BILLY BAT
Another thing I enjoyed in this exhibition is a manga notebook that was drawn by Urasawa in elementary school. You can glimpse the genius of an artist whose level is above that of a normal elementary school student, from his drawing ability and his points of view to his dialogues.
The manga notebook that was drawn by Urasawa in elementary school.
Urasawa says he is influenced by Osamu Tezuka, who wrote Astro Boy and Phoenix(Hi no Tori), and Katsushiro Otomo of AKIRA and Domu: A Child’s Dream fame. The exhibition also shows private illustrations as well as illustrations of Bob Dylan.
Meet-and-Greet and Live Show
After the exhibition, a meet-and-greet was held for the fans.
Urasawa has a rock-star face. In 20th Century Boys, the character Kenji sings a song called Bob Lennon, which was actually written and composed by the author himself. He released an album, MANNON, in February, 2016.
At the live show portion of the event, Urasawa played acoustic guitar and harmonica, starting the show with the song Boku no nee-san UFO ni sarawarete (My Sister Was Abducted by a UFO) featured in MANNON. Following this, he sang Manben Album ver. which is based on Manben, a manga documentary show hosted by Urasawa.
After the live show, Urasawa held a talk filled with anecdotes and personal stories about the works featured in the exhibition. Especially interesting was the story about the new one-shot manga DAMiYAN! published in October, 2016. Fans commented that a character in DAMiYAN! was similar to the Japanese comedian Himura from the comedy duo Bananaman. The hair and jawline certainly look alike. However, it became clear that Himura was not the inspiration. Urasawa described the DAMiYAN! character as ‘the Japanese representative of a character archetype found all over the world.’ It turned out that they were similar by chance.
The character of DAMiYAN!
After the talk, Urasawa (Bob Dylan’s Girl From the North Country was playing the background), showed the audience drew a beautiful picture live. The image was of a beautiful woman wearing a knit cap in a winter landscape, looking at the viewer.
When the illustration was finished, he sang a Japanese version of Girl From the North Country. Urasawa said, ‘I get nervous with live-drawing each time. I don’t know I’ll be able to pull off.’ However, the drawing was magically finished in just a few minutes. It felt like witnessing something amazing, and in fact, it was incredible.
As the live-drawing continued, the next illustration was of the protagonist of 20th Century Boys, Kenji. Fans watched with stars in their eyes as Urasawa draw . When he completed that illustration, he sang Bob Lennon (Kenji’s Song) and further captivated the audience. In the end, he received an appreciative standing ovation from the audience.
The applause continued long after Urasawa exited the stage, and the audience started calling for an encore. His last song was Half Century Man. The event ended in excitement.
‘I want you to experience the greatness of Manga’
Commenting on the exhibition, Urasawa said that people usually read manga casually, but that he wanted people to experience the greatness of the medium through this exhibition. The exhibition is, of course, a wonderful look into Urasawa’s talent, but it’s also the journey of Urasawa from a boy who loved manga to a famous sensei of the manga world.
It is also exciting for people to have this kind of exhibition in areas other than Tokyo. Especially in Osaka, there are many foreign tourists and international fans can easily find the exhibition place. Starting in 2017, Urasawa will begin publishing a new series. We look forward to seeing what he has in store for us.
Event Name: Naoki Urasawa Exhibition: Draw Like Crazy – Osaka Edition
Dates: Until January 25, 2017 (Wednesday)
*Closed December 26 (Mon) – 31 (Sat) 2016. The New Year starts from January 1.
Location: Osaka Nankou ATC (Asia and Pacific Trade Center), ITM building 2nd floor
Nankoukita 2-1-10, Suminoe-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu
Official website: http://urasawanaoki-ten.jp