Though the art of manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) reflects a contemporary aesthetic, artists immersed in the genre know it is directly related to the centuries-old Japanese medium of woodblock printing, or ukiyo-e.
"We pick up imagery and technique from ukiyo-e," says Brady Evans of the group Manga Bento, which is exhibiting its manga- and anime-inspired artwork at the Contemporary Cafe. "Our graphic techniques, what we do on the computer — like flattened colors and the use of outlines — are reflective of ukiyo-e. You can look at our work as very graphic and contemporary, but it was all done in ukiyo-e."
‘THE FLOATING WORLD OF MANGA: WORK FROM MANGA BENTO’
» On exhibit: Through Nov. 28; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, noon to 2:30 p.m. Sundays
» Where: The Contemporary Cafe, the Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive
» Museum admission: $8, $6 seniors and students
» Call: 526-1322; for cafe reservations, 523-3362
Evans says that because the two genres have many parallels, manga artwork could be considered a modern form of ukiyo-e.
"Back in the day, ukiyo-e was very commercial. It used raunchy humor and depicted beautiful women in an idealized form," he says of the prints that were mass-produced for the nonelite classes.
Compare that with today, when entire bookshops and rows of shelves in major bookstores are devoted to hundreds of manga titles.
UKIYO-E PRINTS first appeared during the Edo Period, from 1615 to 1868, in the city of Edo (now Tokyo). There, the middle class avidly sought the prints, stunningly beautiful artwork offered as posters of kabuki idols, depictions of beautiful courtesans and, later, scenes from nature. Mass production came at relatively low cost.
Leading ukiyo-e artists included Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige and Kitagawa Utamaro.
Though considered a "low" art during its time, the genre eventually came to be respected as fine art for its artistic and technical caliber.
Evans says that, likewise, the manga genre has the potential to offer serious artwork.
"We’re trying to say that anime and manga can be used to express complex ideas, too."