Mechasobi is an interactive digital installation created by Shoji Kawamori and Pentagram design studio. Kawamori was commissioned to design a custom mech, a giant interactive controllable robot inspired by robot anime (known as mecha anime).The design was based on the idea of a not so distant future where building sized robots are constructing cities. Mechasobi may appear friendly but has the potential to be chaotic and destructive under the control of exhibition visitors in gameplay.
For most people, to create groundbreaking comics or pioneering animation would be achievement enough — Tezuka Osamu did both. In 1961, Tezuka poured his earnings from manga into his company, Mushi Production, in order to adapt his roster of characters to animation.
Astro Boy (2017/2017) by Osamu TezukaBarbican Centre
Most famously, these early animations included the first black-and-white version of his robotic Pinocchio, Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy), made for television in 1963.
As Tezuka once ruefully reflected, “Manga is my wife. Animation is my mistress”. Tezuka died in 1989, but his studio continues to thrive and build on his legacy; for instance, in both 1980 and 2003, they remade Tetsuwan Atomu in colour.
Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics at Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France (2018/2018) by Barbican CentreBarbican Centre
Since first becoming popular, comics have provided a wellspring of compelling imagery and narratives ripe for adaptation.
In the Philippines since the 1950s, numerous ‘novelas’ that began life as serials in komiks anthologies — involving a wide array of genres, from social realism to fanciful escapism — have been swiftly adapted into locally produced live-action films.
Film still from ZsaZsa Zurtunnah (2006/2006) by Carlo VergaraBarbican Centre
This synergy with movies is also evident in graphic novels like Carlo Vergara’s Zsazsa Zaturnnah, in which a gay beautician has overcome his homophobic upbringing and can transform into a curvaceous superheroine. The twelfth best-selling Filipino fiction book of 2005 was adapted into a live-action movie in 2006.
A visionary builder of an interconnected universe, Matsumoto Leiji has created such philosophical science fiction manga as Captain Harlock, Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999.
Leiji Family (1977/1977) by Leiji MatsumotoBarbican Centre
He has also directed, written, designed and consulted on many of the animated iterations of these comics, for both television and the cinema.
Cosplay costumes in Mangasia at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2017/2017) by Mikio SakabeBarbican Centre
In their ubiquity and abundance, comics influence and interact with every other cultural medium in Asia. Since first becoming popular, comics have provided a wellspring of compelling imagery and narratives ripe for adaptation. Comics have played a central role in the birth of cinema, animation, television, and the more recent boom in video games, smartphones and the digital revolution.
Their striking characters and costume designs inspire innovators in the music and fashion industries, as well as communities of fans who recreate and re-invent these styles as cosplay.
Dress from S/S 2012 Collection by Jenny Fax in Mangasia at Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France (2018/2018) by Barbican CentreBarbican Centre
Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics is a Barbican International Enterprises exhibition, curated by Paul Gravett, touring globally. Mangasia presents a vivid journey through the art of Comics and visual storytelling across Asia. From its historical roots to the most recent digital innovations, the exhibition looks to popular Japanese ‘Manga’ and beyond, highlighting key creators, characters and publications.