One of the major reasons that I developed an interest in Japan is manga. I loved the stories and art of Rumiko Takahashi, and steadily became more and more interested in other series. Reading manga was my escape for a great portion of my childhood (especially middle school). I'm not as active in reading new series or keeping up with the latest popular series (much to the disappointment of my students), but I still hold a great deal of love for the manga I read when I was younger.
I've been told here that I don't have a 20 year old's interest in manga -I have more a of a mid-30 to 40 year old's interest, because of my love of popular 90's and 2000's manga. In all fairness, by the time most of my favorite series reached America, it was quite a few years old!
In Yokote, which happens to be pretty far south from me, there is a manga museum. I hadn't known about it until I saw a flyer for the Fullmetal Alchemist exhibition that was there for a while. Immediately, I knew I had to go. It was a traveling exhibit, and it was the second to last stop in Japan.
Driving was a two hour venture on tolls (so expensive!), but once I got there, it was awesome. The general museum is free to go to, you just have to pay for the special exhibit.
Walking into the Fullmetal Alchemist exhibition, I was overwhelmed by the sheer craftsmanship that was present in the layout, as well as the art on display. No pictures are allowed inside (obviously), but we could take a few of the walkway in and the gold statue of Hiromu Arakawa's cow character.
Depending on the day of the week, a different little comic strip was on the admission ticket. I went twice, and got two different ones. If I had the chance, I probably would have tried to get the whole week set, but then again, it was pretty far from me.
Fullmetal Alchemist was (and still is) a favorite series of mine. I was so ecstatic to be able to see an exhibit of a series that had finished a few years ago, and to realize that it was still popular today as it had been when it was being serialized.
The exhibit was filled with original drawings and story boards. A large majority of editing is done on the computer, but the initial sketching are done in blue, then perfected in black. Sometimes you can see the white out used to correct small errors. It was so fascinating to see the brush strokes that sometimes get lost in printing. I learned so much about manga, something I had been interested in, just by walking through an exhibit. Although I couldn't read a large majority of the signs, it was still probably one of the coolest things I've done here.
They brought to life one of the climatic scenes with the voice actors of the anime. The last portion of the exhibit had the original color drawings of most of the covers and special editions. There was time-lapse of the creation of one of of them.
The rest of the museum is dedicated to general manga creation, with a focus on Akita born artists. I hadn't realized that some of the characters I see around the prefecture are there because the creator was from Akita!
There is a room where you can see manga originals behind glass panels, along with a computer to browse all the digitized collection that they are continually working on.
The gift shop is big and filled with pretty cool items, and there are two huge areas dedicated to reading manga. They have walls of shelves, and considering entrance is free, it's pretty amazing the selection that there is a place for people to just go and read. It's like a library, but only for manga.
If you find yourself in Yokote, or even anywhere in southern Akita, I think a day, or even just an afternoon, is well spent there, especially if you have a fondness for art or manga.
Love always, Laura Ann