Manga. The word alone conjures up a thousand multi-coloured visuals of giggly girls adorned in that ever-so-tiresome Hello Kitty - as well as Gwen Stefani and those damn Japanese lapdogs she likes to call her Harajuku girls. Not forgetting perverse men getting chufties from fanciful cartoon females. Oh gosh where does it end? Drown kitty and get a grip Gwen, please.
Japanese girls adapt the characteristic look with ease. Anyone else looks like they’ve had an unfortunate accident with Crayola and a fancy dress box.
But Manga has many more guises than that of the aforementioned. How Manga Took Over The World at Urbis offers the perfect guide into this twisted journey of the Japanese craft.
Manga actually means flowing words in Japanese. Its an art form that stretches back to the eighteenth century but has morphed into a peculiarly Oriental form of entertainment enjoyed all over the world. But these are not comics in the same sense as that of Beano. Manga is split into many different categories including kids, action, fashion, education and erotica.
Urbis displays all of the above, from cutesy to violent, erotic to commercial, informative to distinctive, exploring the way Manga has permeated everyday life in the 21st century. There’s even a photo-gallery of how teenagers in both Eastern and Western countries are dressing like real-life Manga characters. Naturally, Japanese girls adapt the characteristic look with ease. Anyone else looks like they’ve had an unfortunate accident with Crayola and a fancy dress box.
It’s not just in print either. The exhibition also features life-size cut-outs, doll models, anime videos, Manga make-up and even a giant Picachu style bean bag bed to lie on if it all gets a bit too much. And by a bit too much, I’m referring to the Rapeman in the over 18’s room.
Yes, the Hentai Japanese (meaning sexually explicit or perverse) comic book series of the ‘80s, documented the day to day activities of a high school teacher who ‘dispenses his surreal brand of ‘justice’ at night under the business Rapeman Services, which is co-run with his uncle, a former surgeon. He uses rape as his weapon. The business' motto is righting wrongs through penetration.’ Wrong, wrong, wrong. Don’t let the Daily Mail know, they’ll close the exhibition down.
Urbis says the exhibition offers something for everyone, focusing on the massive influence that Manga has had on contemporary urban culture. However seeing as there was no one and nothing to stop inquisitive minors wandering into the over 18s room, I’d suggest that children should be accompanied by an adult.
It’s also worth remembering that Saturdays will be Manga fundays for kids with different activities each week.
The increase in popularity of Manga in recent times has meant that it is now used by corporations across the world to advertise their products and services. It's even been incorporated into education through plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet in the series titled Manga Shakespeare. There’s a Manga version of the the Simpsons and controversially, the Bible.
Still, perhaps this city isn’t quite ready to be renamed Manga-chester and therefore the Manga world takeover remains debatable. What is certain is that it has developed into a medium in its own right, overlapping, influencing and being influenced by other forms of popular and underground culture.
Confidential recommends it. Head down to Urbis and it’ll certainly give you something to think about for the rest of the day.
How Manga Took Over The World is at Urbis until 27 September. For more information please click here
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