The coolest manga pictures you’ll ever see
If you didn’t already know it, hear it now -- manga is affecting your life.
Far from being a Japan-centric oddity, the dramatic, violent, sexual, colorful, playful images and stories that have for so long been a mainstay of Japanese culture-tainment are spreading across the globe.
Lady Gaga, the new Superman, Lara Croft, Nicki Minaj … all show a manga influence in their styling, at least according to two artists who have put together a series of images to reflect the life-imitating-manga trend.
“This may be the first time in 75 years that a visual art form (as apposed to pop music) is influencing youth culture to such an extent,” say Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low. “This is not confined to the extreme cosplay people who like to dress up as characters. Manga and anime are clearly influencing the visual styling of everyone. We felt we had to respond.”
Manga and Asian cartoons continue to grow in popularity in the East, but they’re also finding huge numbers of fans in the West. At the same time Western kids, previously the influencers on the East, are now far more likely to be influenced themselves by Asian youth.
“Asian youth identity is not merely imitating the Western youth. Indeed the primary influence is currently from East to West and not the other way round, which is unusual,” say the artists.
“It also coincides with a primary shift in Western perception, which is now far more accepting of the idea that it might be cool to be an Asian kid. Hence, for example, seeing many more white girls with Asian boyfriends than even five years ago.”
“There is another point too -- this work reflects an increasing trend for people to change themselves to resemble some kind of stylized, idealized version of themselves.
“Eye surgery, (Asians widening their eyes to improve job prospects), increasing use of makeup in men, plastic surgery being hugely on the rise in Asia (eg South Korea), and so many other examples, both in the East and the West.
“People also do this online -- making avatars of themselves, for example -- but all the people in our 'Manga Dreams' project are real.”
The images were created with real people, and that itself was revealing. “The portraits are so strange and unnerving on their own -- real but a disturbed reality -- that we ended up removing the cartoon backgrounds for a lot of the images.
“Rather than photographing humans trying to become manga characters, we feel as though we photographed manga characters trying to become human beings,” say the artists.
The reality of each image has actually caused people to question that reality. “One thing we have been asked is whether these images really are portraits since they are so stylized. And our response is that if these images had not originated as photographs nobody would be asking this question.
“Nobody would doubt that Cezanne's images of people are portraits, nor Picasso's, nor Modigliani's, nor Rodin's busts ... yet all of those are far more stylized than ours.”
“None of these people is computer-generated -- they are all real people. When you see the big prints in the exhibition and the book, this creates a disturbing tension: ‘It’s real, but it can’t be real, but I can see it’s real, but it can’t be real.’
“We did not use CGI. The only tool we used was basic re-touching software, primarily in order to create the tableaux-like, cartoon-like backgrounds.”
“Manga is catching on in the West. Manga conventions in the United States and the U.K. attract tens of thousands of people, sometimes even more than that.
“Obviously, it has taken a while for the perception and awareness in the West to catch hold -- but look at Lady Gaga, or the re-styled Superman, or re-styled Lara Croft, or Nicki Minaj and try saying there is no Manga influence … clearly manga is catching on!”
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“Manga Dreams” exhibition runs until March 5, 2011 at Hamiltons Gallery, 13 Carlos Place, London W1K 3EU. www.hamiltonsgallery.com
A selection of prints from "Manga Dreams" is currently on display in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia until the end of April 2011.
Works from "Manga Dreams" will be exhibited at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
A major museum exhibition of "Manga Dreams" will take place at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France in 2012.
The book "Manga Dreams" is published by Lucky Panda Press and is distributed by Turnaround Publisher Services (http://www.turnaround-uk.com/) and is also available through Amazon.com.