‘Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan’ at House of Illustration

The first UK exhibition of background illustrations for classic sci-fi anime films launched at London’s House of Illustration a few days ago, and it’s a must-see for anime fans.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan features drawings and paintings from some of the most influential anime films from the late 1980s and 1990s: Akira (1988), Patlabor: The Movie (1989), Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Metropolis (2001).

The exhibition is curated by Stefan Riekeles, who spent years bringing together art from iconic anime art directors – Mamoru Oshii, Hiromasa Ogura, Atsushi Takeuchi and Takashi Watabe. Pencil drawings, water colour paintings and more are gathered together to demonstrate the scale of the task that artists and directors faced in constructing impressive cityscapes.

These particular films are especially iconic because they are hand-drawn. Nowadays, CGI and digital have taken over the animation world. At their time of release, these films were revolutionary for their scale and ambition and, more than 20 years on, are still fantastic films with a loyal fanbase.

As you move around the exhibition and move from one film to the other (make sure you take the time to read the information on the wall), it becomes clear how each director viewed cities. Patlabor: The Movie was the first animated film to employ a location photographer, so that the city that was constructed was as realistic as possible – albeit with robots. Other films deal with the idea of the city as an extension of the brain or the conflict between humanity and technology. Now that we’re talking about ‘the internet of things’ in 2017, these films were spookily ahead of their time.

Whether or not you’ve seen all of the films or are an art connoisseur, this exhibition is a treat to explore. Backgrounds and cityscapes are arguably overlooked in anime films, with viewers more likely to recall what the characters looked like, so this is a rare opportunity to see the art of some of your favourite anime films up close. Metropolis was one of the first anime films I ever saw and it blew me away because of its scale.

Adult tickets start at £7.50 and you more than get your money’s worth. Just don’t be that person who spends the whole time taking photos on your phone – it’s distracting for everyone else and it’s also not allowed.

House of Illustration is in Granary Square, a short walk from King’s Cross station, so you can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner at the market after you’ve visited the exhibition.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan is on until 10 September and tickets are available now!


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