Manga At The British Museum

The past year, I’ve missed out on a couple of exhibitions I really, really wanted to see. But I was determined we would not miss this one, given the boys’ love of Japanese culture.

The Citi exhibition - Manga

The description of the exhibition, in the British Museum’s own words:
Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan. Now a multimedia global phenomenon, manga developed after the Second World War, but its artistic roots can be traced back to the 12th century. A fascinating glimpse into Japanese culture, manga tells stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds. Immersive and playful, the exhibition explores manga’s vast appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

We went last Saturday and, for the first time in all the times we’ve visited the museum, the queue just to get through the gate was massive! It snaked up the road, past the museum, and back down again to the gate. I was a little miffed that there wasn’t a separate queue for members, but hey ho, we still got in and there is a separate bag check for members.

In the museum itself, it was positively heaving. I have never seen so many people in the building.

We headed straight for the exhibition – a moment’s quiet as there was hardly anyone in the entrance area. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that photography is allowed; usually it isn’t for major exhibitions.

The first thing that people see is Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I had no idea, but the story is a massive influence on manga with various interpretations.

‘Alice’ at the entrance to the exhibition
An alternate version of the White Rabbit

Getting through the exhibition did prove a little frustrating at times as there’s always a section of people who seem to give no thought to others who are there to enjoy the same thing.

We took our time – there’s so much to see – and I, especially, discovered new manga I’m looking forward to reading.

I’ll let the photos we took do the ‘talking’ now…

Line drawings of ‘Alice’

Line drawings of ‘Alice’

The tools of manga artists

The tools of manga artists

More line drawings of ‘Alice’

More line drawings of ‘Alice’

Drawing implements

Drawing implements

Illustration of travelling warrior
Dragon Ball Z (I think)
Astro Boy! I’m pretty sure this is the first anime I ever watched, back in the day

Astro Boy! I’m pretty sure this is the first anime I ever watched, back in the day

Astro Boy comic cover
Miketsu, character from ‘Kaijinki’
Astro Boy Metropolis
Explanation for ‘Kaijinki’
Print and bookshop photograph - explanation below
This is the explanation for the photograph above

This is the explanation for the photograph above

From the manga ‘Vagabond’ by Inoue Takehiko

From the manga ‘Vagabond’ by Inoue Takehiko

On either side of this illuminated image of a manga bookstore, there were seating and shelves filled with manga, which we were allowed to browse through and even read, cover to cover.

Illuminated display photograph of a manga bookstore
Head of a titan from ‘Attack on Titan’

Head of a titan from ‘Attack on Titan’

Art from ‘Attack on Titan’

Art from ‘Attack on Titan’

From ‘Saint Young Men’, one I’m looking forward to getting into. Explanation below…

From ‘Saint Young Men’, one I’m looking forward to getting into. Explanation below…

Explanation for ‘Saint Young Men’
‘One Hundred Poems’ playing cards explanation
‘One Hundred Poems’ playing cards

‘One Hundred Poems’ playing cards

Poster illustration
From ‘Toward the Terra’, explanation below…

From ‘Toward the Terra’, explanation below…

Explanation for sci-fi manga series, ‘Toward the Terra’
From ‘Golden Kamuy’

From ‘Golden Kamuy’

‘Golden Kamuy’

‘Golden Kamuy’

Ceiling hanging display

Whenever I visit an exhibition, I always get the accompanying book. This one is true value for money. It’s about 350 pages and costs just under £30 (10% off for members).

Accompanying book for the exhibition
Satisfyingly thick…

Satisfyingly thick…

Pages from the book

Divided into 6 sections, it’s chock-full of interviews, photos, images from so many different manga.

Chapter 1 from the exhibition book
Chapter 2 from the exhibition book
Chapter 3 from the exhibition book
Chapter 4 from the exhibition book
Chapter 5 from the exhibition book
Chapter 6 from the exhibition book

Best of all (in my opinion), there are about 15 manga extracts peppered throughout – 8 or more pages of different manga in original Japanese script, with English translations on the side.

Manga excerpt, ‘Golden Kamuy’

Manga excerpt, ‘Golden Kamuy’

English translation with numbered panels

English translation with numbered panels

For those who are interested, the manga excerpts are:

Golden Kamuy’ by Noda Satoru
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Ótomo Katsuhiro
Giga Town: A Catalogue of Manga Symbols’ by Kóno Fumiyo
Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey’ by Higashimura Akiko
Edo As It Was’ by Akatsuka Fujio
The End of Unagi-Inu’ by Akatsuka Fujio
The Willow Tree’ by Hagio Moto
Stay Fine’ by Chiba Tetsuya
Slam Dunk’ by Inoue Takehiko
Real’ by Inoue Takehiko
Blue Giant Supreme’ by Ishizuka Shin’ichi
Saint Young Men’ by Nakamura Hikaru
Olympia Kyklos’ by Yamazaki Mari
Red Flower’ by Morohoshi Daijiró
Ocean Adventurer Kaitei’ by Hoshino Yukinobu

The exhibition is on until 26th August. If you can’t make it, I’d recommend getting the book from the museum’s online store. If you love manga, you will not regret it. For, as the book states, there really is “a manga for everyone”.

Hyper Japan 2019 Pt.2 - Sword and Book

A follow-up to last week’s post as Gordon and I received more loot in the post!

‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ by Stefan Jennings and Jane Kelly

First, the book, which contains images from an old photo album that had been salvaged from a load of stuff thrown out as part of a house clearance. It’s called ‘Found’ and is chock-full of images and poetry. Jane kindly posted it to me, wrapped in a promotional newspaper.

‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper
‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper, inside
‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper, back

If you want to know more about the project, you can contact Stefan Jennings at stefan.a.jennings@gmail.com, or Jane Kelly at barkingdogs@btinternet.com

The sword, Frostmourne. I am so glad it was posted to Gordon and he didn’t have to lug it home on public transport! It is big and heavy. But oh, so impressive.

The box containing Frostmourne

The box containing Frostmourne

Beautiful wooden mount for the sword

Beautiful wooden mount for the sword

Frostmourne sword
Frostmourne - detail
Frostmourne - detail
Frostmourne - detail

Hyper Japan 2019 - 10 Year Anniversary

Yesterday, the boys and I headed up to London for our 7th visit to Hyper Japan.

Hyper Japan - Kensington Olympia

We almost missed this one because Gordon initially couldn’t get the day off, but then it turned out he could, so we off we went.

I didn’t post about our visit last year for reasons lost in the mists of time…

Even though Hyper Japan is a 3-day event, we’ve always gone on the Friday only because I can’t face the thought of travelling on a Saturday or Sunday to London, to spend the day around lots of people, and then battle back on the train after a long day.

Another reason to go on the Friday – we then have the whole weekend for the boys to wallow in their loot, and for me to recover.

Despite it being the festival’s 10-year anniversary, there wasn’t anything extra special laid out that I could see. But it was pretty good anyway.

The venue was Kensington Olympia, which, in our opinion, is the best setting ever for the festival. It’s easy to get to, either overground on the train or via the underground. And the building is, literally, next to the station.

The procedure for entering and bag check was a bit farcical last year. But this year was a lot smoother and, before we knew it, we were in the building. For a change, it wasn’t heaving with people from the get-go, making it easier to do the initial browse. We always split up first, have a quick look around then meet up again for lunch.

Hyper Japan - Kensington Olympia
Japanese wall hangings
Gorgeous clothing by    Tainted Prince

Gorgeous clothing by Tainted Prince

Kimonos
Samurai print
View from first floor

What I like about this venue - it’s split over 2 floors, with the food upstairs. Again, the queues for the food stands weren’t that long, another nice surprise. We timed it well as the queues built up quickly after we’d bought our food.

Then we went our separate ways again to do some serious shopping, the boys more than me.

Bought a couple of presents for upcoming birthdays, and had an interesting chat with a writer, Stefan Jennings. Together with his friend, Jane Kelly, a photographer, they’d set up a modest little stand filled with black and white images of people in Japan. There were large prints and a book, filled with the images. Annoyingly, I can’t remember the name of the book.

The images are from an old photo album that had been thrown out as part of a house clearance somewhere in London. Many of the photos had suffered water damage. A friend had alerted either Stefan or Jane, I can’t remember, to the photos. They salvaged them and set about restoring them as best they could.

There weren’t any text or notes to explain anything about where the photos had been taken or who the people in the photos were. But it was obvious they’d been taken in Japan, most likely in the 1930s and 1940s. They believe the white woman in the photo must have been from the UK, and she’d made a life for herself in Japan.

Sadly, on returning to the UK, either before or after the war, she may well have found it difficult to talk about her time in Japan or to show any of the pictures because of the negative, bitter feelings towards Japan.

I wanted to buy the book but didn’t have enough cash on me, and they hadn’t set up the equipment for card payments. But Jane kindly made a note of my email address and said she’d get in touch so we can work out payment and posting of the book to me.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the post about the book.

When I mentioned that I’m from Malaysia, and my parents had lived through the Japanese occupation during the war, Stefan mentioned a book written by a Malaysian and set during that occupation, called ‘The Gift of Rain’ by Tan Twan Eng. I admit to being embarrassed that I hadn’t read it, but plan to remedy that soon.

Even more interesting, I learned that Jane had grown up in Malaysia and had even gone to the same kindergarten school as me! What a small world.

The boys and I watched one of the acts, a cyber punk band called ‘Ijen Kai’. Interestingly, they all wear masks, which mean no one has any idea what they really look like. The one who held my attention and most people’s attention, I’m sure, is the dancer. Talk about fluid and so flexible.

Ijen Kai on stage

Ijen Kai on stage

Ijen Kai
Ijen Kai, getting ready for the ‘meet and greet’ after their performance

Ijen Kai, getting ready for the ‘meet and greet’ after their performance

The boys were beyond pleased as they’d found items that had been impossible to find, fairly well priced, from a franchise they’ve grown to love called ‘Kamen Rider’.

Gordon’s loot - Kamen Rider, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Evangelion figure

Gordon’s loot - Kamen Rider, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Evangelion figure

Gordon also treated himself to a sword (from ‘World of Warcraft’, which he doesn’t play) called Frostmourne, which he’d always wanted ever since watching a replica being made on the ‘Man at Arms Reforged channel on Youtube. He didn’t have to lug it back on the train, which was good because – and I take it these are new rules – weaponry is no longer allowed to be taken out of the building. So, it’ll be posted to him instead. And here’s the link to the post with pictures of the sword.

Liam’s loot - Gundam (requires assembly), Kamen Rider (one of which includes a DVD), Yu-Gi-Oh cards

Liam’s loot - Gundam (requires assembly), Kamen Rider (one of which includes a DVD), Yu-Gi-Oh cards

I bought myself an art book for a franchise/show/game that Liam discovered first called ‘Fate’, which has a huge amount of stuff and information attached to it. ‘Fate/Apocrypha’ is just one of many tv shows, which we’ve watched together, and I just love the designs. As Liam had already spent enough of his money, I decided to buy it. It doesn’t bother me that all the text is in Japanese as it’s chock-full of lovely illustrations on very good quality paper.

‘Fate/Apocrypha’ art book
A page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
A page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
Character page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
Character page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
‘Fate/Apocrypha’ character
‘Fate/Apocrypha’ characters

And I also treated myself to a gorgeous coat because… why not?

Coat from ‘Tainted Prince’
Sleeve/cuff detail

Weekend At The British Museum

That makes it sound like I stayed the entire weekend at the museum! If only...

British Museum

After way too long, I finally had a weekend away, all to myself. Boys were happy to care for Neil, so I could have a break.

I decided to keep things straightforward and picked London and the British Museum. What helped the decision was a talk being held at the museum – ‘Ancient Myth in the Modern World’. The discussion was led by Bettany Hughes with Madeline Miller and Kamila Shamsie. I’d just read ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and was excited to hear her talking about it. I’ll review the book next week.

This was the first time I’d attended a talk at the museum. All three women wore their knowledge lightly, making for a heartily entertaining discussion. At no point did any of them talk down to us; the assumption was we were as aware of the classics as they were.

Obviously, I’ve been to the museum enough times before, but this was the first time I was there on my own. It was bliss, wandering around with no agenda. I’d already decided I would spend Saturday in Egypt and Greece after making my way around the Waddesdon Bequest, which I’d not seen yet.

The Waddesdon Bequest is a collection of about 300 objects, left to the museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild in 1898. It’s meant to document the history of collecting.

I apologise that some of the pictures aren’t that good. It seemed like a good idea at the time not to take my camera (!) but it didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. Had to rely on my phone camera…

These are book covers! Rare survivors of the Reformation, ‘they decorated the Book of Epistles and the Gospels on the altar of the Gothic Minster in Ulm’.

Book covers

This is the Holy Thorn Reliquary. In 1239 in Constantinople, King Louis IX of France acquired the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus; it cost him about half the annual expenditure of France! Then, sometime in the 14th century, Jean, duc de Berry, commissioned this reliquary to house one of the thorns. The thorn is in the middle, mounted on the sapphire, in front of the figure of Jesus.

Holy Thorn Reliquary

A hunting calendar (1600-1620), Germany, engraved with the names and figures of different game animals and hunting dogs.

Hunting calendar

This depicts subjects from the ‘Aeneid’ (about 1540-50); Neptune calms the winds.

Subjects from the 'Aeneid'

Miniature altar piece, dated 1511, carved with scenes from the life and Passion of Christ.

Miniature altar piece
Miniature altar piece - detail

Love these horses, part of the Parthenon...

Part of Parthenon

‘The Mausoleum at Halikarnassos was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The modern word for a monumental tomb derives from the Latin form of Maussollos’ name’. Maussollos was a member of the Hekatomnid dynasty who governed Karia in south-west Asia Minor. He came to power in 377BC, by which time Karia was a distant part of the already weakening Persian empire. Maussollos succeeded in creating a virtual kingdom and established a new capital at Halikarnassos.
This is a forepart of a colossal chariot horse from the quadriga, a four-horse chariot group; it was positioned on the summit of the mausoleum. The original bronze bridle and bit remain on the horse.

Chariot horse

I never tire of taking pictures of the Great Court...

Interior - Great Court
Exterior of the Reading Room

Exterior of the Reading Room

Reading Room seen from Egypt gallery

Reading Room seen from Egypt gallery

Window into the Reading Room

Window into the Reading Room

Tennyson quote etched on the floor of the Great Court
Stairs to the side of the Reading Room

On Sunday, I spent time in Medieval Europe and India. I saved India for last because of the extensive refurbishment that had taken place last year; I was excited to see how different it was to what I remembered.

Looking down at stairs leading up to Europe galleries

Looking down at stairs leading up to Europe galleries

This two-handed sword of state (about 1473-83) was used by the Prince of Wales at royal ceremonies. ‘The steel blade was commissioned in Germany and bears the mark of two running wolves. Along the edge of the handle are invocations to the Virgin Mary’.

Sword of State

A lion-shaped door knocker (about 1200), part of the fittings of a church. ‘By grasping it, a wrong-doer sought the protection of the Church and accepted whatever punishment was imposed’.

Lion head door knocker

The Dunstable Swan Jewel (about 1400) was found in a Dominican priory in Dunstable. ‘It may have been worn to indicate an allegiance to the de Bohun family or to the House of Lancaster. King Henry IV took the symbol of the swan when he married Mary de Bohun in 1380’.

Dunstable Swan Jewel

Tristram and Isolde casket (about 1180-1200), one of the earliest representations of the medieval story.

Tristram and Isolde casket

Three counters known as ‘tablemen’ (about 1180-1200), used in a game similar to backgammon.

'Tablemen' pieces used in a game similar to backgammon

The Savernake Horn, a hunting-horn from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, carved from an elephant tusk and decorated with enamelled silver panels.

The Savernake hunting-horn

Entering the South Asia section, the first thing that catches the eye is this gorgeous set of dragon tiles from the Ming Dynasty. These dragons were part of a garden screen that originally ran along the ridge of a building

Ming Dynasty dragon wall tiles
Chinese dragon tiles - detail

This stunning sculpture by the Bengali sculptor, Mrinalini Mukherjee, ‘suggests a female form… it has been built up using lengths of thin, folded clay lending it an organic quality, and is partly glazed’.

Sculpture

The temples of the Hoysala Dynasty, which ruled the southwestern Deccan between 1006 and 1346, are quite distinctive and featured voluptuous female bracket figures that were placed at an angle between the temple wall and roof. The stone panel of elephant and riders is another distinctive example.

Hoysala Temple figures
Hoysala Temple figures
Stone panel of elephant and riders, Hoysala temple

This carved ammonite fossil is known as a ‘Shalagram’; it’s believed to be a naturally occurring form of Vishnu, representing his discus weapon, the ‘chakra’. These ‘fossilised marine molluscs are found in the Kali Gandaki River in western Nepal.’ This particular example has been carved on one side with an image of Vishnu lying on the cosmic serpent, Ananta.

Carved ammonite fossil

‘Shiva dakshinamurti’ – ‘the god sits at ease in a position known as facing south. High in the Himalayas, where he resides on Mount Kailash, he turns to his devotees (the south is towards India) and teaches’. I love the serene expression on his face; it’s as if he really is looking down and smiling at you.

Statue of Shiva

Next visit, I’ll take in the rest of the gallery – the Amaravati Shrine and China at the other end.

Couldn’t leave without treating myself to the usual – a couple of books:

'Confronting the Classics' by Mary Beard
HP Lovecraft