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The Suginami Anime Museum

Monday 23rd January 2012

Andrew Osmond visits the Suginami Anime Museum

The Suginami Anime MuseumThe chances are that many anime fans who visit Tokyo – even those who know their way round every maid café and dojinshi dive – may have overlooked the Suginami Anime Museum. It’s certainly a modest establishment, far smaller than some of Tokyo’s anime and manga megastores, and it doesn’t have the cachet of, say, the Ghibli Museum. Nonetheless, it’s well worth a visit and its location on the same JR line as the Ghibli establishment (just a few stops down the track), means you could easily take in both in a one-day double-bill. And if that doesn’t encourage you, then the Suginami Museum is free!

The Suginami Anime MuseumThe museum “starts” on the third floor of a larger building – as anyone who’s been to Tokyo knows, one building will typically house umpteen different establishments. The first level features a delightful “timeline” display of anime history, featuring a succession of four TV sets showing anime clips, with both the TVs and anime getting newer with time. Festooned with vintage merchandise, the display gives you a snapshot history of how Japanese viewers experienced anime, as it evolved from a cute kids’ diversion into a multi-stranded medium.

The Suginami Anime MuseumA wall displays the signatures of dozens of anime luminaries, and there are antique animation toys for anyone wanting a spin of the Praxinoscope. There’s also a series of displays showing “How to Produce Animation.” This is a simple but useful walkthrough of the anime production process (English translations provided), including notes on anime’s changing tools, such as the introduction of paperless drawing tablets. It’s further enlivened by a video-screen guide to animation principles hosted by Astro Boy; a booth where visitors can try dubbing an anime scene for themselves; and mock-ups of workspaces of anime legends such as Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino.

Jin-RohAt present, though, the museum is focusing on the decade-old film Jin-Roh, a dark alternate-world drama released by Production IG. This is a temporary exhibit; the museum has three or four each year, based around themes, characters or creators. Jin-Roh is topical because its director, Hiroyuki Okiura, has just completed a new, very different, film. Letter to Momo has already started rolling out at film festivals such as October’s Scotland Loves Anime, and it comes to Japan in April.

There isn’t much on Momo in the museum, unfortunately – just a poster and a few character designs. However, there’s plenty on Jin-Roh as you climb to the second level: background art, key frames, character sheets, and an oversized model trooper. The oddest tribute to Okiura’s film, though, is on the top floor, where you find a very cute exhibit of Red Riding Hood pictures, drawn by child visitors to the museum – Jin-Roh revolved round a much grimmer version of the fairy tale. The Jin-Roh film itself is sometimes screened in the museum’s own compact theatre, with a 150-inch screen.

But the real heart of the Sugnami museum is its library, opposite the cinema on the middle floor. If you can read Japanese, then there are anime books galore, and even if you’re not, there are one or two in English if you look hard. And there are also DVDs, gazillions of them that you can watch on site, drawn from the whole spectrum of anime history. Not just anime but world animation, from Czechoslovakia to Aardman. Whether you want to watch Speed Grapher or Heidi, Gatchaman or Princess Knight, they’re all here. True, they’re mostly unsubbed, but it’s hard to imagine a pleasanter environment in which to browse vintage anime, exploring the decades in the country where the medium was born.

The Suginami Animation Museum is near Ogikubo station on the JR Chuo Line (the station is also on the Marunochi subway line). From the station, take the Kanto bus at the north exit, and get off at Ogikubo Police Station, about 5 minutes away. The museum is on the opposite side of the road from the police station, on the third floor of the Suginami Kaikan building. It is CLOSED on Mondays, but open other days between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (last entrance 5.30). The museum is also closed between December 28 and January 4. Alternatively, the museum can be accessed from Kamiigusa Station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. Take the Seibu bus towards Ogikubo and get off at the Ogikubo Police Station.


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Culture shocks and military musings, in Gen Urobuchi's hard-hitting anime
"It’s an interesting time to have a hero with a militarist outlook. This blog has discussed the arguments over the alleged political content in the blockbusting Attack on Titan and Ghibli’s film The Wind Rises. In both cases, the controversies connects to Japan’s own militarist past in the 1930s and ‘40s, and the spectres they conjure up in countries round the world; of Japanese kamikaze pilots, of torturers ruling POW camps, of the so-called “banzai charges” of soldiers sworn to die for their Emperor."


Who watches the watchmen watching your thoughts...?
Psycho-Pass; the first half of the name should warn you. This is a blend of SF and horror by the studio which brought you Ghost in the Shell, now splicing cyberpunk, police procedural and splatter. There will be blood, and dismembered body parts, and if no-one’s actually eaten a human liver on the show yet, there’s still Psycho-Pass 2 to come.
Commuters that pass through Shinjuku Station in Tokyo this week are treated to a fantastic wall display of 7,649 Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

2014 at the Japanese box office

Jasper Sharp runs the numbers on newly-released statistics
The incendiary claims put forward last October by Takeshi Kitano that “the Japanese film industry is going to ruins” seemed to hit a raw nerve with many in the industry and were widely reported in the international press.
Following its phenomenal success in UK cinemas last Autumn, Manga Entertainment are thrilled to announce the re-release of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' in 3D for a limited time in 56 sites across the UK.
Rooster Teeth and Animatsu Entertainment to release RWBY: Beacon limited edition Steelbook on November 21st.

The History of Evangelion

Andrew Osmond on the prelude to the First Impact
Evangelion started as Neon Genesis Evangelion, a 26-part TV serial in 1995. It used a familiar Japanese plot template: the teenage boy who drives a giant robot (or in Eva’s case, cyborg), using the huge and frightening body to fight monsters and save Earth. The lyrics of the TV song express the myth. “Like an angel without a sense of mercy / Rise young boy to the heavens as a legend!”

Short Peace

Jasper Sharp on the anthology movie currently touring the UK
There have been three Japanese works nominated in the Academy Awards category for Best Animated Short Film over the past ten years or so: Koji Yamamura’s Mt. Head (2002), Kunio Kato’s The House of Small Cubes (2008) – so far the country’s only winner – and most recently Shuhei Morita’s Possessions (2013). For all that, it remains pretty difficult for most viewers who aren’t regulars on the specialised festival circuit to catch such examples of cutting-edge animation.
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