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A COMICA REVIEW BY:

KARL PELL


Karl Pell is a freelance journalist who attended the Comica Manga Live! Masterclass on September 4, 2004.

This event showcased some of the great variety of manga art styles and artists working across languages, continents and cultures in the world today. As the title suggests, this event was focussed on short discussions of each of the seven artists work, combined with the simultaneous display via a large projected screen as well as explanations of the processes involved in manga production.

Those dedicated anime and manga fans who attended were exposed to a wide variety of manga styles and content; from the playfulness of Makita Takashi’s hilarious philosophical take on dinosaur life that uses a highly simplified series of coloured stencil shapes reminiscent of South Park, to the more orthodox, as seen in the accomplished drawing style of Takahama Kan, whose recently published erotically charged illustrated novel Mariko Parade, produced in collaboration with the French author Frederic Boilet.

The main segment centred on manga artists and their highly idiosyncratic approaches to manga production. Highlights included a masterful display of technique from Sakurai Hisaki whose luxuriant, intense visual style lends itself to the manga adaptation of the Japanese hit film The Ring - to name but one publication. A screening and then discussion of work by Kubo Kiriko who is well known for her series Cynical Hysterie Hour among others. Kubo who both works from and bases at least part of her work on her own experiences as a Japanese living in the UK aims her work at the Japanese audience and discussed some of the problems associated with working internationally. From the margins of the anime marketplace, we heard from Misako Rocks, a young newcomer to the budding audience for manga in America, who is striving to overcome language and cultural barriers in order to establish herself there. The popularity of manga and other Japanese pop-cultural forms in East and South-East Asian countries, in particular Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan was also reflected at this event by the presence of the Taiwanese artist Puppetbear, who graphically demonstrated the visual impact made possible by the use of computer software in manga production. Indeed, out of the half dozen artists interviewed only two did not use any form of computer enhancement in their work.

In terms of the position of Europe relative to Japan and the rest of Asia, manga in the UK may well be on the margins in terms of the size and type of audience it is able to attract, as well as geographically. But the very fact an event like this one at the Institute for Contemporary Art can attract such interest points to the extent to which manga and anime have successfully been able to transform the image of ‘comics’ and ‘cartoons’ from something simply ‘just for kids’ to the level of art forms in their own right.

We may have been exposed to the bare bones and how-to of manga production, given a glimpse of the hard yards and the nitty-gritty that go hand in hand with becoming a commercially viable, even highly successful multi-million volume selling manga artist, but it took away none of its magic. Manga and anime will no doubt continue putting themselves forward across the world as attractive alternatives to established norms of communication well into the future.

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Reviews

"I went in a casual fan, and came out an undisputed Kirbyphile."
Comic Book Resources

"5 Stars... a superb exhibition."
Time Out

"...chat over beers with some of the UK's coolest comic types..."
Thomas Behe

"...the Talking With Gods documentary didn't disappoint."
The Guardian

"...an inspiring look into the creative lifestyle."
Pop Culture Hound

"Paul Gravett Rules!"
Peggy Burns

"The whole affair was very effective as an insight into the creative process of a genius."
Unified Review Theory

"...plenty to spark your interest here, even if your last comic experience involved cow pie."
Flavorpill

"With Comica, the ICA is doing what it does best: reaching out to culture's fringe."
Kulture Flash

"There's always something interesting in Comica's raft of events..."
Joel Meadows