Manga—Japanese graphic novels or comics—play a vital role in contemporary Japanese culture. Not only do they enjoy immense popularity (annual sales within Japan have risen to more than two billion US dollars); internationally, they have become the centerpiece of the “Cool Japan Initiative,” the Japanese government’s current campaign to promote its status as a cultural superpower. Manga’s popularity partly arises from the medium’s historical connection with Japanese woodblock prints and paintings (ukiyo-e), which were produced in Japan throughout the Edo period (1615–1868). The term manga, in fact, was coined by the renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849).
Since 2014, in its mission to expand and significantly enhance its renowned collection of Japanese works on paper, the museum has begun a multi-year series of exhibitions about manga and has acquired several original works by manga artists such as Maruo Suehiro (b. 1956) and Anno Moyoco (b. 1971).
Visions of Gothic Angels: Japanese Manga by Takaya Miou
The artwork of Takaya Miou is typically categorized as shōjo manga (graphic novels for girls). Her endearing depictions of female characters explore themes of femininity and female identity through imagery reminiscent of early modern European religious painting: figures dressed in intricate Victorian outfits, angels with elaborately rendered wings, and garlands of roses.
In addition to Christianity, however, the themes and imagery in these works originate from a wide variety of other sources, including Art Nouveau designs, Surrealist painting, Symbolist literature, contemporary punk fiction, avant-garde Japanese poetry, and Japanese popular fashion. From these points of departure, Takaya freely explores unsettling topics–violence, unconventional sexuality, and madness–that do not easily conform to the lighthearted sensibility of shōjo manga as a genre. A more accurate label for her work would be mature, socially conscious fantasy. She envisions our world as a mysterious, morally ambiguous wilderness populated by angels, skeletons, and emotionally complex mortals.
This exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of the Robert F. Lange Foundation.
An Overview of Takaya Miou’s 25-Year Career
Displayed here is a fraction of the manga that Takaya Miou has created since 1991, most published independently through her private company, NEWM;KZ. Having complete control over the techniques and materials, she has been able to produce elaborately crafted covers for her books with embossing, metallic inks, and sumptuously textured paper.
Since 2001, she has received recognition and support from major commercial publishers, but because of the creative freedom that self-publishing offers, NEWM;KZ remains as productive as ever.
Manga in Japan, Hawaii, and throughout the World
Lecture by Cartoonist & Manga Critic Deb Aoki
900 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
The entire staff of the Honolulu Museum of Art would like to express its deep gratitude to the Robert F. Lange Foundation, which continues to generously support the Asian Art Department’s efforts to catalog its collection of Japanese art, including the artworks displayed in this exhibition.