By Jason S. Yadao
If these first six weeks of 2011 are any indication, this year is going to be a very good year for anime- and manga-inspired art. We’ve already seen the talent displayed by the students in middle and high school who entered the Liliha Library Anime Art Contest, and now there’s another collection of talent on display: the local anime- and manga-inspired artist collective MangaBento and their latest exhibit, “Kakimochi,” on display at the Academy Art Center at Linekona (1111 Victoria St.) through Feb. 19. The artists in the group range from high schoolers to adults, with a good chunk of their membership currently in college.
“But is their stuff any good?” you ask. Let’s put it this way: My folder of raw shots I took at the opening reception on Saturday has more than 150 pictures in it. Narrowed down, there are still more than 50. Posting that many at once, of course, would be an incredible slog to get through. Plus this post would’ve gone up later, and some of you out there apparently don’t like when I do things “later” *cough*likehere*cough*. To that end, I’m breaking my coverage into two parts: Part 1 will cover Saturday’s opening reception, while part 2 will take a closer look at more of the featured artwork. So here we go …
Our destination today is the mezzanine gallery, on the center’s second floor. The first thing that catches the attention once you get there: all those painted manga sound effects and comic bubbles floating around everywhere on the walls. This is the view toward the main display wall …
… a view of the left flank …
… and a view on the right.
No opening reception for an exhibit named “Kakimochi” would be complete without a table full of kakimochi (along with other snacks) for visitors to munch on, all free for the nomming. (It kinda makes me wish that future art exhibits around town would bear names like “Cookies & Milk,” “Chocolate-Covered Caramel Marshmallows” or “The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.”) By the way, that ninja photographer behind the table? That would be MangaBento’s Devin Oishi. Here’s what he saw from his perspective.
As part of the opening-day festivities, three girls performed a dance routine on the Art Center balcony. I apologize for not getting their names — they were quite good. (I also would’ve gotten the full routine if not for my memory card running out of space a few seconds into the performance. Remember, kids, always check your equipment before heading to a big event.)
But the star of the show, naturally, was the art itself. There’s a dash of old-school anime cool in the exhibit, with Lia Rodriguez’s “Many Faces of Lum.” (By the way, speaking of Lum and Urusei Yatsura, you may want to pick up that series’ DVDs from AnimEigo very soon. Just sayin’.)
Contemporary fandom is also represented nicely with pieces like Michelle Siu’s “My World.”
And here’s Michelle posing next to her picture, complete with a “he?” sound effect. (For those of you unfamiliar with manga effects, “he?” — spoken like a sharp “heh?” — expresses incredulous surprise.) This photo actually illustrates another neat thing about this exhibit: With all the painted sound effects and comic flourishes around the room, if someone is positioned at a proper angle, it’s possible to make him or her look like he or she is in a living manga page.
It’s a point emphasized with this person looking at Jon Murakami’s “Ararangers” prints.
Also, with this very angry-looking elevator. (It was quite busy swallowing people up and spitting them out throughout the day.)
Meanwhile, Brady Evans, Tracy Hirano and Jade Clark struck a pose near their pieces.
For those of you who don’t want to strain your eyes looking at their pieces, here’s a close-up of Brady’s “Okuri” …
… along with a wide-angle shot of Tracy’s “Natsuhi,” left, and “Handle With Care,” and Jade’s “Elf.”
There was even a nostalgic link to the group’s past. Those of you who have visited MangaBento’s website no doubt have seen this logo before:
Those are MangaBento’s mascots, Sumi and her pet pig, Bento. The reason I bring them up here is because of the piece contributed by Ayumi Sugimoto. Ayumi founded the group several years ago before moving on to work professionally in Japan. When she heard about the group’s latest exhibit, she wanted to join in, too … so she sent along this updated, super-cute image of Sumi and Bento. Their expressions just made me smile and think, “Yeah. Everything just seems right with life right now.”
And speaking of things that just seem right: Every MangaBento public event in recent memory has featured some spot where people can pick up a pencil and paper and draw stuff to their hearts’ content. At the opening reception, there were two tables that were seeing a fair amount of artist traffic: this one …
… and this one. (I think the second one is the one that will be used throughout the exhibit.)
And I must say, there were some cute sketches on that second table, too.
See you tomorrow with part 2 …