This is Manga: The Art of Urasawa Naoki

The artwork of manga master Naoki Urasawa is now on display in in London, marking his first exhibition in the United Kingdom. Liz and Paul were sent to attend a special preview on behalf of Orbital, where they were treated to a special live-drawing/musical performance by the artist himself!

Japan House London presents “This is MANGA- the Art of URASAWA NAOKI”, a retrospective of Urasawa’s career from his debut in 1983 to present. It features more than 400 original drawings and storyboards, as well as selected stories from his major works, including ‘YAWARA!’, ‘MONSTER’, ‘20th Century Boys’, ‘MASTER KEATON, ‘PLUTO’, ‘BILLY BAT’, and ‘MUJIRUSHI’.

What strikes you the most when you enter the gallery space is the sheer size of some of the pieces. The exhibition immerses visitors with enormous life-sized depictions of Urasawa’s characters and wall-length panels which invite attendees to pose as though part of the artwork. At the other end of the physical scale, intimate hand-drawn thumbnails and storyboards offer a rare glimpse into the artist’s process.

At the center of the exhibit is a tunnel of drawings highlighting the many distinctive faces of Urasawa’s characters. Colour pieces are interspersed with black and white artwork, and pages from early works like ‘Yawara!’ (as yet uncollected in the UK) displayed alongside the more recent ‘Mujirushi’ show a clear progression of style, tastes and interests. And it was a special thrill for us to see original pages from our personal favourites, ‘Monster’, ‘Pluto’ and ’20th Century Boys’.

The character designs and large-size reproductions of pages from classics such as ‘Monster’ both delight and chill with the atmosphere they generate. And, if you look closely enough, a simple walk-through of the space and displays becomes a treasure hunt as you learn that Urasawa has created several brand-new sketches just for this exhibition. These have been drawn directly onto the walls and pillars of the gallery itself, meaning this could be your only chance to see them!

To encourage visitors to return and experience the work in the weekly serial style of Japanese manga, four changing displays of consecutive stories from ‘Yawara!’ will be presented over the duration of the exhibition, one every two weeks.

If you’ve booked for the live-draw and musical performances, you’re in for a unique experience! We won’t give too much away as it’s best to be surprised in the moment, but you’ll definitely get a sense of the things that are close to Urasawa’s heart and his development as an artist.

For longtime fans as well as those new to manga (the exhibition is a perfect introduction to the art form), this is a rare opportunity to take a comprehensive look at the art of a master storyteller.

This is MANGA- The Art of URASAWA NAOKI is open to the public at Japan House London from 5 June to 28 July 2019. Admission FREE.