Japan in Rotterdam: World of Manga

Rotterdam is quite a friendly city to those interested in Japanese pop-culture. Shelves of manga in bookstores and various Japanese products in the eastern supermarket, as well as sushi bars and Japanese restaurants are proof of that. Right now it's even more interesting as the Wereldmuseum has an exhibit about manga.
World of Manga lasts until January 12th next year. In a few words it was really educational, but also a lot of fun. For those interested in Japanese pop-culture, like me, the best part is surely to learn about the origins of manga and its ties to the history and religion of ancient Japan. But for those unfamiliar with Japan and manga the historic background makes an easy bridge to the "weird" and unknown World of Manga. As you see this setup proves itself worthy both ways.
The first room welcomes you with a short description on manga, followed by a series of beautiful illustrations that tell the tale of an emperor's wife and her waiting lady.
One wall of the room is occupied by a film screen that shows an introduction to the origins of manga. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Fashion Monster plays in the background.
The next space is lit blue. Various Oni heads and guards accompany a big statue of Enma-ō, one of the ten divine judges. Does that sound familiar to you? Perhaps like an anime you are watching? Chances are you are in the right. Both the description and the audiotour mention the ties between Dragon Ball Z and the Buddhistic statues.

The objects in this room were carved out of wood, sometimes decorated with gold. Except for the Oni heads. Those were from papier maché, cow intestines, a shark jaw, goat horns and monkey hair, resulting in scary sculptures. Ancient Japan believed that scary statues of guards, oni's and various other demons and demon-fighters, would scare away the real evil.
After Oni's it was time for more demons and Youkai. Supernatural beings that come to our world when we experience sad, angry or even furious emotions. The guards squash these youkai and oni under their shoes.
A lot of strong and dynamic Street Fighter artwork is shown here. Demons, youkai and Oni make appearances in Street Fighter too. After all they stay a common theme in manga, anime and Japanese video games throughout the years.

Time for a more recent historical viewpoint. World War II happened and Japan wasn't unharmed. Traumatized by the events a good deal of Japanese expressed their feelings through art. Monsterous robots, controlled by teenagers, were created to fight for a peaceful world.
The mecha room showed the emotions and motives behind those big chunks of steel.
The last historical room was about tattoos and tengu's, influences of Kabuki theatre and gangs are made clear by gracefully drawn illustrations and tattoos. A huge tengu mask greets you as you come in.
This part holds a lot of work from Shiho Enta, who has a very notable style. These works seems to be expressionless at first glance, while the characters glare at you. With a second look it all changes. You'll see the mystery, the fear, the sadness. It's interesting yet calming.
Before I climb the stairs to the next floor I pass a display case with old Japanese books. These contain a few of the first "manga" illustrations.
Upstairs is completely different compared to the floor below. Cammy and Ibuki from the Street Fighter franchise greet me with a smile and a sexy pose. Upstairs is all about the humans in manga, especially the girls.
At this point I'm surround by all new illustrations. Ranging from flyers and CD covers to hand drawn sceneries. Some are about daily life, others about mythological ladies.
The piece that really got me consisted of two illustrations. The first showed a group of four friends, highschool girls, walking down the street in the spring of 1944. The second picture took place in spring too, two years later. Only three out of the four girls were pictured. The left girl had an injured leg. The middle one held a picture of the, now deceased, fourth girl. This way they could all graduate together.
Up ahead was, in my opinion, the least interesting room. Photographs and edits of people meant to look like they lived on the edge of our world and the World of Manga. The idea was really good, but after the first five pieces it got kinda boring.
For the grande final they saved the animated movie room, devoted to Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki by Mamoru Hosuda. That movie is a must see, by the way. Tears are guaranteed.
As a huge fan of the movie this room was like heaven to me. There were design sketches and storyboards all around me. The scenery stills from the movie were stunning too. For those unfamiliar with the movie a small description was provided, as well as a trailer and various clips from the movie.
When I took the elevator down to go home, I felt very satisfied. But I did not leave before I checked out the Art Shop. Next to a catalogus of the exhibition they had all kinds of cute Japan-themed gifts. For the richest among us some pieces of the exhibition are available for purchase.

So if you have the chance I really recommend you to check out World of Manga in Rotterdam. And for now I hope to see you all next week at the NoZLan stand at Abunai!con, and later on this site for another "Japan in Rotterdam".

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