On Saturday 8th of June I went to my first audio described tour, of the Cti Manga exhibition at the British Museum, by Vocal Eyes describer Lonny Evans and the exhibit curator Nicole. Vocal Eyes is a charity that ensures blind and partially sighted people can use audio description to experience and enjoy the theatre, museums and architecture the same way as everyone else. I've written an introductory review about my experience for people who are unfamiliar with manga, which you can find on the Vocal Eyes website. This post is a follow up review with more information for people who are fans of anime and manga. I’ve also included some pictures I took of some of the pieces you’ll see if you do decide to go to the exhibit yourself.
The Manga Exhibit:
Manga is a visual art form of storytelling which focuses more on the use of shading and symbols to tell a variety of stories in the real or imagined worlds. Outside of Japan this exhibit is the largest collection of original Japanese manga and footage of its influence as a global phenomenon. It includes storyboards and work from the creators themselves, enlarged images of some popular characters, statues and sculptures. As well as immersive videos of a popular publishing house, interviews with the editors, footage from films, events and cosplaying.
These items were split into different zones, during the tour we were shown some of the zones, informed about some of the surrounding pieces and given an introduction of Manga and the history behind it beforehand. Below are some images of a popular rabbit, mimi chan we were introduced to at the start of the tour. From what I can remember Alice in Wonderland is a popular illustration in Japan, the white rabbit from the story changed genders and became mimi chan, an important character used in Japanese storytelling and culture. For more information about this check out the British Museum’s “Manga: a brief history in 12 works” blog post. Also if the images have peaked your interest then I do recommend going to the exhibit to find out more yourself. I quite liked learning about the story behind mimi and the way you could see images of her around the museum.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: the last image on the line of mimi chan, a female rabbit wearing only a bow on her head|
For anyone who is familiar with manga, you'll be happy to know that the authors of some of the most popular manga shared the original drawings of some of their work. Here are a few you might recognise:
The Audio Described Tour:
One of the first pieces we were introduced to was “Afterword to Giga Town: album of manga symbols” by Kona Fumiyo. The pages are an explanation of how to read manga pages and the meaning behind the various symbols used within manga. As someone who reads manga this section was quite useful, because although I knew that you start a page from the top right all the way down to the bottom left, I didn’t know what some of the symbols meant. So this was a great piece of information. For more information about manga, read the British Museum’s “An Introduction to Manga” blog post. From the diagrams below you’ll see that there are lots of symbols used in manga and it can be difficult to follow along the numbered panels. Which is why I felt like Lonny did an excellent job explaining the way manga pages are structured. In addition to the meaning behind the different shaped speech bubbles, vertical and horizontal lines you often see in panels.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: pannels with mimi chan to showcase how these symbols are used in manga. Tne pannels are telling a story and show mimi Chan's reactions. There's also black text explaining what's happening|
Next on the tour was a section about the major manga publishing houses. It included a video on a large screen of how a chapter is prepared at Shueisha the publishing company where weekly shonen jump publish their manga chapters. If you’re a fan of shonen manga, you’ll be very familiar with them. If not then they’ve published One Piece, Bleach, Naruto and more. Below that on some stands were smaller screens of interviews from some editors, which had headsets so you could listen to them. I saw a little boy come up and use a black headset for one of them. This is where we were told that manga makes £3 billion so helps run everything in Japan. In addition to learning about the different publishing houses and who the editors were. For any Dragon Ball fans, I’m sure you’ll recognise its editor in this image. Here we also saw a coloured enlarged image of Son Goku and the smaller original drawing on display. Nicole also had a fun little story about how Dragon Ball came about, I won’t spoil it for you so you’ll have to go to the exhibit and find out for yourself (,assuming you like Dragon Ball of course!).
Following that was a look at a rather creepy looking drawing from “One Hundred Ghost Tales” by Kohada Koheiji which were quite popular and made on woodblock prints in colour. Both Lonny and Nicole explained that these drawing foreshadowed the way supernatural type mangas would be drawn. They also handed out a tactile image of the drawing which people could feel, it also had braille on it as well. I liked the tactile image, I thought both it and the explanations Lonny and Nicole provided helped people understand that the drawing is quite creepy with images of the ghost’s insides being shown. We were also shown a statue and some work of the manga Astro Boy, which is quite an old and popular one.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: a framed photo of theghost drawing we were showm on the tour. It's very creepy because you can see the creature's insides! The fame is on a yellow wall and there is a yellow plaque with black text about the work.|
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: a statue of Astro Boy smiling with black hair, large anime eyes, wearing red boots and black and green shorts|
The next section we were shown was made up of some book shelfs with images of manga and large screens above them. One of them had a video of a manga store with mimi in it and the other had a film of a manga that takes place in the British Museum. Nicole told us, she was included in this piece of work, along with some other well known curators! After that we were taken to a section with some manga from different genres, such as music and love and desire. Below are some images of the Musical manga “Blue Giant”. Lonny explained to us that the different types of shading and symbols represent different sounds people play.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: a frame of a music manga called Blue Giant manga. In the middle are story boards of some pannels, these are the outlines of the drawings before any shading is done. Around them on the top and bottom corners are copies of the finished pannels fully shaded where you see characters playing instruments and a scene in the street.|
The final three areas we were taken to was a section with a video of comi kat, a convention which Lonny and Nicole described as the mothership of comicon. The video had footage of people dressed up in cosplay and white speech bubbles explaining what they said. It’s a place where people cosplay their favourite characters and sell fan work they’ve done about their favourite manga. Nicole stated that the convention usually doesn’t allow people to take any photographs, so they were lucky enough to get permission to take some footage! They also showed us a 17m theatre curtain with characters that took 4 hours to make! It’s also the last time anyone will see it because the curtain itself is quite fragile. We then finished the tour with a sculpture made by the daughter of a manga artist we were shown today, made up of the words her father used to say. I liked the way little details were mentioned about these pieces, such as the fact that the curtain had footprints on it and the creator of the sculpture was doing the pose her father’s popular character was famous for in the small plaques about them.
To finish I really enjoyed both the exhibit and the audio described tour. Thank you to Lonny and Nicole for providing us with such a brilliant tour. I loved the little bits of detail you shared with your stories. As you can tell I took lots of pictures, if you’d like to see more photos that didn’t’ make the cut then you'll be placed to know that I'll be uploading more on my Instagram account! Also if you’d like to attend an audio described tour of this exhibit, visit the Vocal Eyes website for details on how to book and arrive early, the museum is a big place but the staff are very helpful. They took me to the exhibit because I couldn't find the group I was meant to meet. For those of you who want to go to the exhibit but aren't a member, don't worry! Uniqlo have got you covered with their vouchers. That’s all I’ve got from this post, I hope you enjoyed reading about my first audio described tour. Let me know if you decided to go and what you thought of it.