Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Pulp Culture
'My Reality' showcases anime's influence on popular art

November 27, 2003
By Franklin Harris

The first things you notice are the two pink rabbits. They are huge. Gigantic even.

''Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable'' by Momoyo Torimitsu.
Courtesy Photo
''Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable'' by Momoyo Torimitsu.
Entitled "Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable," the air-filled bunnies, which tower nearly to the ceiling, are a work of pop art by Momoyo Torimitsu, a Japanese artist who now lives in New York. There is something quintessentially Japanese about them. Their exaggerated cuteness reflects modern Japan's obsession with everything kawaii — everything cute and pretty. But their equally exaggerated size reminds you of the giant robots and radioactive monsters that dominate Japanese sci-fi. They are Godzillas of cuteness, adorable yet unsettling.

Torimitsu's work is part of "My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation," currently at Huntsville Museum of Art. Huntsville is the last stop for the exhibition, which has toured the eastern United States for more than two years.

As the exhibition's title suggests, all of the works on display bear the influence of Japanese animation (anime) and comic books (manga), although in some the influence is more obvious than in others. For instance, Micha Klein's painting, "Virtualistic Vibes, Space Nicky," is more evocative of American cyberpunk science fiction and Heavy Metal magazine than of anything distinctly Japanese.

''Virtualistic Vibes, Space Nicky'' by Micha Klein.
Courtesy Photo
''Virtualistic Vibes, Space Nicky'' by Micha Klein.
Other works, however, are overtly in debt to anime. Taro Chiezo's "Angry Girl" would make Andy Warhol proud. The painting incorporates the anime superheroine Sailor Moon into an abstract environment. In this instance, not only does pop culture influence art, it is literally part of it.

Perhaps the most interesting works in the exhibition are those of Kenji Yanobe. His pieces combine whimsy with post-apocalyptic survivalism. His "Survival Racing Car" is a child-sized vehicle with robotic hands, one holding a Geiger counter and the other a walking stick. With its enclosed cockpit, it looks like a small robot ready for a night on the town.

"Survival Gacha-pon" is another of Yanobe's efforts. It is a robot in the form of a giant gumball machine. But instead of candy it dispenses items you might find helpful after a nuclear exchange: food rations, radiation pills, bandages and the like.

Despite cute appearances, however, the seriousness of Yanobe's work is apparent. Japan, after all, is the only nation to experience the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

''DOB in the Strange Forest'' by Takashi Murakami.
Courtesy Photo
''DOB in the Strange Forest'' by Takashi Murakami.
Takashi Murakami's works enthusiastically embrace the commercial side of pop art. His work reminds you of Disney's creations. "DOB in the Strange Forest" looks like a cross between "Fantasia" and the video game "Sonic the Hedgehog."

By turning to Disney, Murakami follows in the tradition of the cartoonists who invented manga and anime.

The late Osama Tezuka, Japan's "God of Comics" and the creator of "Astro Boy" and "Kimba the White Lion," drew his inspiration from Walt Disney's early cartoons. The "big eye" look Westerners associate with anime comes from Tezuka's having borrowed from the character designs of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

"My Reality" will remain in Huntsville through Jan. 4. Admission is $7 for nonmembers and half price on Thursday nights. Members and children under 6 are admitted free. Museum hours are 1-5 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with extended hours Thursday from 5-8 p.m. For more information, call (256) 535-4350 or visit the museum online at www.hsvmuseum.org.

Pulp Magazines

RECENT COLUMNS

Order a helping of Cartoon Network's 'Robot Chicken'
03/31/05

Campaign against video games is political grandstanding
03/24/05

Prize-winning author is 'Wrong About Japan'
03/17/05

Censored book not a good start
03/10/05

Some superhero comics are for 'fanboys' only
03/03/05

'Constantine' does well with its out-of-place hero
02/24/05

'80s publisher First Comics' legacy still felt
02/17/05

Director's cut gives new 'Daredevil' DVD an edge
02/10/05

Put the fun back into 'funnybooks'
02/04/05

Is 'Elektra' the end of the road for Marvel movies?
01/27/05

'House of Flying Daggers' combines martial arts and heart
01/20/05

Anniversary edition of 'Flying Guillotine' has the chops
01/13/05

Movie books still have role in the Internet era
01/06/05

Looking ahead to the good and the bad for 2005
12/30/04

The best and worst of 2004
12/23/04

'Has-been' Shatner is a 'transformed man'
12/16/04

'New Avengers' writer Bendis sweeps away the old
12/09/04

MORE



HOME | COLUMN ARCHIVE | NEWS | FEEDBACK | MESSAGE BOARD | ABOUT THE AUTHOR | LETTERS | LINKS | PICKS


© Copyright 2005 PULP CULTURE PRODUCTIONS
Web site designed by Franklin Harris.
Send feedback to franklin@pulpculture.net.