Giant Robot Visits Otomo Katsuhiro’s Genga Exhibit

Otomo Katsuhiro‘s movie, Akira, was my gateway to anime as a teen. Due to this, I was giddier than a kid on a sugar rush when the day came to visit his latest exhibition at the 3331 Chiyoda Arts gallery in Akihabara. Most of the tickets were already sold out because it was the beginning of Golden Week when I attempted purchase passes from the nearest kiosk at Lawson’s. Fortunately, I managed to buy tickets during the latest time slot before the museum closed. The date was set.

My friend and I arrived at the gallery an hour before our time slot. A small park was neighbored its entrance and Chiyoda Arts was apparently a Junior High School before it was renovated into what you see now. We lined up and entered the gallery shortly after our appointed time slot ticked into place.

The exhibit itself was a brightly lit chamber painted with white with music from composer Haishima Kuniaki‘s album, Καρδια, playing eerily in the background. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed so we couldn’t take any pictures until the “Motorcycle Display.” A few foreign visitors stood out amidst the crowd who undoubtedly were introduced to the medium through Otomo’s work like myself. Sketches and paintings from Otomo-san’s art book, Kaba and Kaba2, were on display and unlike his films, a majority of the pieces featured from Kaba and Kaba2 were lightheartedly strange and semi-cutesey depictions of animals. Others were of sketches from mangas penned by him that I haven’t even heard of up until today. It was different from the Otomo-san that I knew.

Of course, drawing, sketches, and paintings from his landmark films: Memories, Steamboy, Akira, and many others. I can’t say for certain because fine arts (as a profession) isn’t my forte, but on closer inspection, a good deal of them appeared to use water color as a medium. It was impressive to see how much detail that he invested into the pieces crafted by his own hands. Print media barely did the originals any justice.

Next was the exhibit room with the original panels for the Akira manga in all their totality. Yup. Every panel from all 6 volumes was on display in their unvarnished splendor. The number of pages for each book was so immense that they had to stack them row upon row on “shelf wires” suspended through the display case for visitors to see.

The room after that was arguably the main event. For a donation of 500 yen, visitors had an opportunity to don a replica of Kaneda’s jacket from the manga and sit inside a reconstruction of his motorcycle with pages of the manga garnishing its display. A crater rendering a scene from one of his mangas adorned the back of the room. In addition to that, graffiti drawing from visitors plastered a section of the wall in tribute to the event. It was the only part of the exhibit where visitors were allowed to take photos.

At the end of the exhibit, visitors were allowed to slip their ticket stubs into a slot to determine where proceeds from their purchase went towards the Tohoku recovery. A small gift shop for the exhibit stood near the exit where you could buy posters, postcards, the soundtrack for the exhibit, an art catalogue for the exhibit, and other Otomo related paraphernalia. All in all, it was a delightful experience and briefly brought the child in me back to life. If you’re living in Tokyo this is a must see and would be crime against pop culture for any fan to miss.