Otaku Culture Exhibitions of 2008

I must admit that overall, 2008 was a good year for me. Art-wise, it also brought several anime culture related art exhibitions which are worth mentioning. Most notably of all these was the Takashi Murakami retrospective which opened earlier in the year at MoCA in Los Angeles, then traveled to the Brooklyn Museum for the summer.

My hope was to see this exhibition in person during our trip to New York, but by the time I got there it had already left. Alas, I will have to look for another opportunity to see Murakami's work in person. Until then, I will have to content myself with my humble collection of the Superflat Museum figurines.

Incidentally, those have been on display at the Cameron Art Museum here in Wilmington since the fall, in the Toy Crazy exhibition. While it may not be exactly all art vinyl, which is what interests me more, Toy Crazy does have variety going for it. The majority of the toys on display are vintage, with a small part comprising more contemporary fare.

Another big exhibition took place in Vancouver, under the name Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art. I managed to pick up the accompanying book at the Whitney, which allowed me to get a better sense of the art included. The scope of the exhibition was truly great, encompassing various comics, animation, video games, and so on from all over the world. This was not simply a Japan-centric show, as one might expect, but included contributions from multiple countries.

What was perhaps a bit of a surprise to me was the inclusion of highly commercial projects in the "Computer and Video Games" section, such as Super Mario World, Zelda, GTA, The Sims, and Quake to name a few. No one can deny the iconic nature of the jolly plumber or the little boy in his green hat and tunic, but I'm not sure about its place in this exhibition in light of the thousands of other possible choices. Perhaps I'm too much of a stickler about the indie scene, but still. It makes me think of an analogous attendance of an art-film festival and being shown Harry Potter.

The good news is that there is plenty of work in Krazy! to redeem its commercial tangent in electronic gaming, such as the fantastic Satoshi Kon film Paprika. That film does embody the indie spirit as far as I'm concerned. Other notable artists included were Makoto Shinkai, Junko Mizuno, Art Spiegelman, Roy Lichtenstein, and KaiKai Kiki artists Chiho Aoshima and Mr.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, 2008 saw another exhibition focusing exclusively on anime. Anime! High Art - Pop Culture showcased some of the most important Japanese animation to ever be created. Separated into genres of Kodomo, Shojo, Ecchi, and Shonen to name a few, the exhibition showcased numerous important titles. Akira, Mononoke Hime, and other works by Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Tezuka, and Yoshitaka Amano get my vote. While it's apparently necessary to have exclamation marks in the titles of anime related exhibitions, I'm still unclear on whether the museum was showing the actual films or single cells from the films in question (based on this collection of photos).

Lastly, the folks at MCAD kicked off another SGMS, or Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits: Culture and Creation in Manga and Anime. This sounds like a fascinating event to attend, with the major guest speaker in 2008 being Yoshitoshi Abe. It's hard for me not to be envious of hearing him speak, as he has served as such a major inspiration to me. Yet that is one more opportunity I have missed and will have to look for again.

The three day event bears some resemblance to a con, yet with the focus shifting more towards an intelligent look at otaku culture in the West it reaches a maturity that cons probably never will. Among the scheduled programs at SGMS are fashion shows, lectures, academic paper presentations, and your more traditional segments like screenings and panels.

The success of SGMS has also given rise to the publication with a similar focus. Mechademia is an annual journal of writings on this very subject which I'm going to have to try and get my hands on. Maybe it's time to put my degrees and experience to some better use and get on board with them.

So there you have it. Three major otaku culture exhibitions around the world, though there's probably more that I didn't come across. Add to that the SGMS event, and my fledgling Aniwave, and I think this anime thing is going up to another level in the cultural strata. A pretty good year for anime culture, even if the anime industry wasn't doing so hot.

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