In the era before advanced special effects, huge costume budgets, and computer graphics imagery allowed the seemingly impossible to come to life on film, the graphic artwork of manga and animation were the primary means to visualize concretely narratives of superhuman abilities, fantastical creatures, and other worlds--past, present, and future. The only limits to putting authors’ fictional worlds into believable physical forms in manga were their skills and imagination as illustrators. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to see that science fiction, fantasy, and historical adventures dominate in manga. From Astro Boy to Akira, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to X, Princess Knight to The Rose of Versailles, our exhibition is filled with examples of these three popular genres. Supernatural horror is another story type that benefits from imaginative graphic imagery, as exemplified by The Spiral and also Death Note.
While some manga genres and their content are very familiar to us from popular fiction and film, such as the detective story techniques and tropes that structure the episodes of Case Closed, or the professional criminal theme that enlivens works such as Golgo 13, some emphases in manga may surprise us. Food and culinary culture, for example, providing different focal points for each of the 104 volumes of Oishinbo, comprise an unexpectedly major theme in manga. The number of sports manga, ranging from baseball and basketball to boxing and golf, is also startling. Martial arts themes, a related topic, also provide the material for a large number of manga, from Fist of the North Star to Naruto. Additionally, many manga cross between genres, such as the fantasy tinged realism of Fruits Basket or Bleach, or the unclassifiable JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.