Famed mangaka Naoki Urasawa is no stranger to journeying overseas. He has been a guest of honor multiple times at France’s Japan Expo, and his current ‘series’ Mujirushi is being published in collaboration with the world famous Louvre Museum. But he hasn’t yet taken the journey further westwards to the United States, that is until now.
Starting January 23, JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles will be playing host to the first North American exhibition centered around the work of Naoki Urasawa. Titled “This is MANGA – the ART of NAOKI URASAWA,” the exhibition will cover a broad swathe of Urasawa’s long career, from one of his very serializations in YAWARA! all the way to his latest works in Mujirushi and Billy Bat. JAPAN HOUSE is promising “over 400 original drawings and storyboards” as well as four exclusive YAWARA! stories only available at the exhibition, along with a reading room where you can enjoy the entire collected works of Urasawa in English. And the best thing is, it’s free.
This forms part of JAPAN HOUSE’s ongoing aim to promote manga as a legitimate art form in the US, and I can’t think of a better mangaka to pick for this purpose than Naoki Urasawa. The influence of the west, particularly through the music of Bob Dylan, is keenly felt in Urasawa’s work, meaning that his stories do not feel as ‘alien’ as perhaps other mangaka’s stories do to westerners. That’s to say nothing of the fact that Urasawa’s stories are always fantastic, and in this sense alone should serve as an excellent starting point for any budding manga fan.
Speaking of Urasawa, he will actually be making his way over to Los Angeles to take part in two events on January 23, when the exhibition opens. The first event will be a book signing, which while is unfortunately limited to only 50 people and prohibits visitors from bringing in their own material for Urasawa to sign, still offers a fantastic opportunity for fans to meet the great man himself. Even if you miss that chance though, there will be another event that night that will consist of a conversation and live drawing session between Urasawa and Fredrik L. Schodt, who translated Pluto into English for VIZ Media.
Naoki Urasawa’s importance to the world of manga cannot be understated, as he – like Osamu Tezuka – elevates the medium with his genius and restless creativity. Even in Japan, Urasawa is a pretty reclusive man and doesn’t do many events in person (unless of course you end up taking some of the university classes he occasionally does) so this is an excellent opportunity for any fans of his works to come and meet the world famous creator. More information can be found via JAPAN HOUSE’s official website.