November 9, 2009 / 4:20 PM / 9 years ago

Japanese manga comes to London's British Museum

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Japanese manga artist Hoshino Yukinobu has brought his popular character Professor Munakata to London’s British Museum, featuring some of the collection’s most famous treasures in his drawings.

In a single-room display near the entrance to the famous museum, a giant picture of folklore expert Munakata donning his trademark bowler hat and black cape includes the Sutton Hoo helmet dating from the 7th century.

One reason the British Museum wanted to work with Hoshino was because of its exhibition of dogu, ceramic figures from ancient Japan which runs until November 22.

“One of the aspects of that project was exploring how the prehistoric figurines have been rediscovered and re-enjoyed in contemporary culture,” said curator Tim Clark.

“A lot of his Professor Munakata stories have shown him touring around Japan to archeological sites and having encounters with the dogu, so it was actually the dogu project that brought us to him.”

Clark also said the character of Professor Munakata had a common purpose with the museum in that both, in different ways, “have a fascination in unraveling the mysteries of the past.”

One of the captions in the display written by Hoshino, also points to a cultural purpose in the collaboration.

Noting that Britain and Japan were both island states, he wrote: “Britain chose to explore beyond the seas whereas Japan has often been enclosed by the sea. Professor Munakata will go on to investigate such differences, which are deeply rooted in our cultural identities.”

Although the display, which runs until January 3, is small, a larger exhibition on manga and its place in popular culture could follow.

“I hope that happens in the future,” said Clark, who is Japan curator at the museum.

The current display features a handful of drawings, only some of which include items from the British Museum’s collection, and blown-up versions on the walls and on the floor.

There is also a stand containing manga comic books which visitors are invited to browse.

Clark said Hoshino, inspired by his visit to the museum, was working on eight or nine stories linking his character to the collection. They are expected to be published in 2010.

They will be combined in a special hardback version, which will in turn be translated into English.

Clark said that while manga still enjoyed a relatively small audience in Britain, as opposed to Japan where it is part of mainstream culture, the recent rise of the graphic novel suggested that interest in the genre could grow further.

“They are not exactly the same, but clearly they have a lot of similarities and it seems to me that people are finding graphic novels are presenting stories in an engaging way.

“It remains to be seen how much manga and graphic novels really begin to take off.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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