Gekiga: Alternative Manga from Japan

Matsumoto detail

 
23 September 2014 - 31 January 2015
 

(Please Note: The Gekiga exhibition is displayed on the first floor of the museum. We regret that there is no lift to the first floor - there are 17 steps with handrails on either side.)

Over the last twenty-five years, manga and anime have been one of Japan’s greatest cultural exports, attracting fans and followers around the world. One significant and sometimes overlooked chapter in the history of how manga conquered the world is revealed in this new exhibition on alternative manga or ‘gekiga’. 

 

In the 1950s Japan was emerging from US occupation and embarking on the economic resurgence which was to make it an economic powerhouse in the 1980s. After the horrors of the war, entertainment of all kinds – novels, films, TV and manga were in great demand. The works of Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) and Machiko Hasegawa (Sazae-San) became hugely successful and inspired millions of children to draw their own comics. But by and large manga was seen as a juvenile phenomenon.  

 

Gekiga was the spark which, between 1956 and the early 1970s, transformed manga from being the preserve of the young into a vast industry now read by millions of children and adults around the world. This exhibition shows how a small group of young artists, initially working in the Kansai area in and around Osaka, created a new style of powerful and dramatic narratives. Drawn in a more realistic and atmospheric style with grittier story lines, gegika attracted older teenagers, university students and eventually adult readers. The exhibition includes material never before displayed in Europe, including over 50 pieces of original artwork and reproductions from rare manga. 

 

 

What is Gekiga?

 

 

In the mid-1950s manga were humorous and fantastical stories drawn in a rounded and cheerful style for a children’s market. However, childhood had not been a sunny experience for the generation born between 1935 and 1940 who had experienced bombings and nuclear war and seen parents and family members killed or suffer lasting physical and psychological damage. After the war many had to leave school early to help their families get by. By their late teens and early 20s they wanted to create something different: in the words of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, ‘manga that was not manga’.  In 1956 Tatsumi and his friends Masahiko Matsumoto, Takao Saito and others began creating longer stories featuring not magical heroes but everyday adult characters in action-packed  stories aimed at teenagers.  Many of the artists were strongly influenced by film noir and Japanese film makers such as Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story). The term gekiga – ‘dramatic pictures’ ? was coined by Tatsumi in 1957 in an attempt to differentiate the genre from children’s manga. By combining a more realistic drawing style with striking imagery and perspectives, dramatic sound effects and limited dialogue, the gekiga artists conjured up a dark and exciting alternative world of those living on the margins or with underworld connections.  

 

Published for the rental book market, the detective, mystery and ghost stories were printed in new collections with evocative titles such as Kage (Shadow), 1956, Machi (City), 1957, Meiro (Labryinth), 1958 and Mantenr? (Skyscraper), 1959. Because the concept of ‘different manga’ was still so new they were shelved beside the children’s manga. The violence and more adult themes of some of the stories led to protests from groups such as local PTAs, and in August 1959 Masaaki Sato was blacklisted by the Yamanashi Book Renters’ Association in response to parental concerns about depictions of juvenile delinquency and the corrupting character of this new type of comic. Kage and Machi proved very popular with teenagers, prompting Tokyo publishers to start their own titles. In 1959 Tatsumi, Matsumoto, Takao Saito and five others now living in Tokyo, formed Gekiga Workshop (Gekiga Kobo) to strengthen their hand with publishers. Though the Workshop was short lived, its influence was long lasting.  

 

By the late 1950s the Japanese economy was gathering pace. Japanese television only started in 1953 but by 1957 more than 50% of people already had a television. Manga publishers, fearing that they would be wiped out by this new form of entertainment, quickly moved from monthly to weekly publication. Many magazines followed the gekiga artists in targeting stories at an older market and some artists such as Takao Saito helped develop a production team system to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for more stories. By the 1960s America’s continued use of air bases in Japan to launch bombing raids on Vietnam, the spectre of nuclear war and the questioning of bureaucratic and consumerist Japanese norms found expression in Japanese counter-culture, including gekiga. In 1964 the magazine Garo was founded. Aimed first at older teenagers, it published the famous historical story The Legend of Kamui by Sanpei Shirato. Set amongst the outcast burakumin society, it provided a new twist on the standard samurai story. The magazine quickly gained a following amongst university students.

  

Garo presented stories which were visually or thematically too challenging for the mainstream market. Many stories had unresolved or ambiguous endings. It gave older gekiga artists such as Tatsumi, Seiichi Hayashi and Yoshiharu Tsuge a forum for experimental and unconventional work and gave opportunities to new artists. By the late 1960s gekiga was everywhere. In 1967 the ‘God of Manga’, Osamu Tesuka himself created a new experimental magazine, COM. Garo’s circulation peaked at 80,000 in 1967?68, tiny by Japanese standards, but it continued to exert a 

significant influence on the world of manga and design. By the 1980s gekiga has become integrated into the many strands of manga. For some younger people the term gekiga is now consigned to the history books, but its legacy lives on. The work of Sanpei Shirato has been acknowledged as an early influence by Hayao Miyazaki, the Oscar-winning director of Spirited Away. Takao Saito’s deadly assassin Golgo 13, first published in 1968, is the longest running manga still published today. Over the last twenty years the works of artists associated with gekiga such as Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Shigeru Mizuki, Yoshihiro Tsuge, Masahiko Matsumoto and Takao Saito have been translated into many languages and won readers and awards around the world. Two members of the Gekiga Workshop, Masahiko Matsumoto and Yoshihiro Tatsumi have produced autobiographical accounts of the period, Gekiga Fanatics and A Drifting Life. Both works feature in the exhibition and evoke the excitement and challenges the artists faced nearly 60 years ago when manga for adults was still uncharted territory.  This is the first time that original drawings of gekiga ? the underground movement that revolutionised manga ? have been exhibited in Europe. 

 

The exhibition is supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Japan and the Japan Foundation.

 

 
 
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Hogarth's London

Hogarth GIN sml

22 October 2014 - 18 January 2015
 
During the night of 25/26 October 1764, William Hogarth (1697-1764), one of the great chroniclers of London, died at his home in Leicester Fields. For over thirty years, in his paintings, but even more so in his engravings, he captured the highs and especially the lows of life in London. Hogarth’s acute observations of the human condition were played out on the streets where he was born, lived, worked and died; they have placed an indelible stamp on the way we imagine Georgian London. Hogarth’s striking compositions and eye for the telling detail capture the vitality and suffering of the lower orders and the pretensions of the aspiring middle classes. Pugnacious and insecure, touchy yet convivial, ambitious and public spirited, William Hogarth was a complex and contradictory individual. The son of a poverty-stricken schoolteacher imprisoned for debt, he rose to become Serjeant Painter to the King, but was never fully accepted by the London art establishment. 
 
This exhibition of fifty of the artist’s best-known London satirical prints marks the 250th anniversary of his death. Hogarth’s cautionary tales of eighteenth-century London ?  ‘modern moral subjects’ as he called them – include A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress, The Four Times of Day, Industry and Idleness and, of course, Gin Lane and Beer Street. His dynamic narratives, full of incident and dense with topical references, tell stories of contemporary London types who would have been immediately recognisable to audiences of the time. 
 
In the two hundred and fifty years since he died, Hogarth’s commentaries on London have inspired numerous artists to look at life in London in their own time. Though neither a cartoonist nor strictly a caricaturist, his satires remain a touchstone for satirists from David Low and Ralph Steadman to Steve Bell and Martin Rowson. This exhibition invites the public to look more closely at the original pictures and discover a London which is sometimes horrifying, but always fascinating. 
 
This exhibition is supported by The William Hogarth Trust.
 
For Hogarth related events, please follow this link.
 
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1914 Day By Day Cartoons

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Day by Day Cartoons

(You can see these images in our online gallery.)
 
 
26 June - 19 October 2014
 
Over six weeks, twelve cartoonists and graphic artists will respond to the events that happened across the world as the world was heading to war one hundred years ago. You will be able to follow their illustrated commentary on the issues and incidents of the day as relations between the great powers deteriorated into war, via the BBC Radio 4 and 14-18 NOW websites.
 
However, if you would like to see the artworks up-close and before they are released onto the Radio 4 website, please visit the Cartoon Museum where all the artworks will be displayed from the 26th June.
 
Artists include Steve Bell (Guardian), Peter Brookes (The Times), Steven Camley (Glasgow Herald), Kate Charlesworth (The Cartoon History of Time), Achim Greser & Heribert Lenz (Frankfurter Allegemeine), John McCrea & Ferg Handley (Marvel/Lucasfilm & Marvel/Commando), Jon McNaught (Dockwood), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip), Zoom Rockman (The Zoom!), Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drew), Ralph Steadman (New Statesman), and Lalit Kumar Sharma & Alan Cowsill (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Marvel).
 
You can see these images in our online gallery.
 
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, supported
by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
 
Joint HLF  ACE Lottery logo BLACK  FWW Centenary  Led By IWM Black

 

 

One of Our Minor Wars 'Well, if you knows of a better 'ole, go to it.' Bruce Bairnsfather, Bystander, 24 November 1915

 

  

Heroes and Villains

An exhibition of art depicting real life, the cartoon and comic world that highlights those we love and those we love to hate. Featuring political cartoons, cartoon and comic strips, and caricatures, including some selected by celebrities and members of the public.