At a new museum in Niigata, fans get a first-hand view into the unique, imaginative world of manga and anime.
IN the fast-expanding field of manga and anime museums, an institution that opened in May in Niigata is aiming to take its exhibitions to a whole new level through a bonus element: interactivity.
The city has produced many renowned manga and anime creators, and the museum hopes to make that a more visible part of the city’s identity, say those behind the founding of the new Niigata Manga Animation Museum. Among the big names that have hailed from Niigata are Shinji Mizushima, Rumiko Takahashi and Mineo Maya. Fujio Akatsuka also lived in the city during his teens.
There is a reason why the city has produced so many manga and anime artists, according to Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, president of Production I.G, an anime production company that has a studio in the city and has also helped organize the museum’s exhibitions.
“The works of local artists impress me through their enduring visuals,” Ishikawa said. “The sheer number of artists might have something to do with the city’s heavy snowfall in winter.”
The result of a joint public-private partnership, the museum was built by the Niigata municipal government at a cost of about ¥300mil (RM9.53mil). Its operation has been commissioned to a private-sector firm.
Located near Niigata Station, the museum is adopting an approach to programming that allows visitors to enjoy manga and anime through interactive experience.
At an exhibit titled Manga Taiken Table (Interactive manga table), visitors can learn about key expressions used in manga by playing with characters created by Fujio Akatsuka. One example is Iyami from the comedy series Osomatsu-kun, who is best known for his flashiness and signature three large buckteeth.
In an exhibit titled Let’s Become Voice Actors, visitors can try their hand at the profession by dubbing their own voices in scenes featuring characters created by anime production company Gainax Co. A special exhibition based on the theme of "Space Battleship Yamato 2199" is running until July 31.
Fumihiko Sakata, director of the museum, is one of the founders of Niigata Comic Market – better known as Gataket – a major event at which manga and anime fans to sell comic books they made themselves.
“I want the museum to be a venue for those who became manga and anime professionals through Gataket to present their works,” Sakata said.
Local governments have been constructing museums and other facilities as part of efforts to help revitalize their regions. Although a great deal of money is spent with the goal of attracting visitors, such projects are often unsuccessful due to a lack of effort, adequate planning and business acumen.
There have been concerns that the Niigata museum could follow that pattern. Its future success therefore depends largely on the abilities and efforts of its operators. Aware of the problem, the museum held a symposium to discuss the matter the day after its opening on May 2.
One of the panelists at the event, manga critic Tomofusa Kure, said that a project to build a community based on manga and anime could lose momentum if it is too casual.
“To run (these museums) successfully on a continuous basis, it’s necessary to refuel them,” said Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co. President Shinichiro Inoue, another panelist at the event. “You need to hold events that appeal to a younger audience, such as the (current) Spaceship Yamato exhibition, in addition to permanent exhibitions that are historically and culturally significant.”
A museum boom
According to the Association of Japanese Animations, there are 62 exhibition venues related to manga and anime. Of them, those built from the late 1990s to the early 2000s tend to focus on the works of individual manga and anime creators.
Since the Kyoto International Manga Museum was built in 2006, similar institutions that offer a broader view of manga culture have been on the rise. Among these is the Kitakyushu Manga Museum, which opened last August in Kitakyushu.
It highlights the work of manga creators who were born or lived in the city, such as Leiji Matsumoto and Seizo Watase, and also has a large manga archive. Visitors are offered access to about 50,000 titles, as the museum places an emphasis on opportunities to see, read and draw manga. It also hosts a free manga class on weekends.
Some manga museums have even been teaming up to cross-promote individual artists and exhibitions. Last year, the Yokoyama Memorial Manga Museum in Kochi, which preserves the work of Ryuichi Yokoyama, and the Hasegawa Machiko Art Museum in Tokyo, which takes the popular manga Sazae-san as its theme, held a joint exhibition on the two creators.
Eiji Takahashi, vice director general of the Association of Japanese Animations, said, “Today’s (manga and anime) museums must publicize their own institutions and missions through collaborative events with their peers.” – Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network