The earliest commercial Japanese animation dates back to 1917 and it’s been on a rapid incline ever since then, becoming a hit around the world. It allows people to escape into another world and even take on the look or personality, whether it be a film or a graphic comic book or a drawing or painting in a modern art gallery. The art itself is known for its colorful graphics, larger than life characters, and fantasy themes that often revolve around sex.
Set Sail with Sailor Moon
In 1991, the cartoon Sailor Moon made its debut and put Naoko Takeuchi on the map. She’s one of the few female manga artists that have risen to fame in a genre dominated by men. Her message is one of empowerment and changing how people view women. Her drawings continue to be adapted to cartoons, movies, video games and more. Takeuchi has her own studio called Princess Naoko Planning (PNP) that manages her creations like Sailor Moon and other anime series and musicals.
Iwamoto Masakatu is known as MR. He’s your traditional anime artist and has a style that many people are familiar with. He paints, sculpts and does performance art and video. While still in art school, he had a stroke of luck to be discovered by infamous contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, and worked as his assistant for eight years. MR. is part of the otaku subculture that came out of the 1970 and is based on males who are into manga comics, anime animation, sci-fi literature and video games. His work is explicit and shows his love of the Lolita fantasy. MR. paints young boys and girls in the typical anime/manga cartoon-like style featuring the big eyes, who appear very innocent. You may have seen if work, if you saw the Pharrell Williams video for “It Girl”.
Cult Classics & Dramatic Flair
Shohei Otomo is a stand out in the anime art circle, and comes from a very artistic family. His dad is Katsuhiro Otomo, the legendary manga artist that created the animated cult classic film Akira, that became a worldwide phenomenon. Otomo earned acclaim also as a graphic artist and is known for his dramatic and bold style illustrations that are highly detailed and combines Japanese and western culture icons. Otomo is controversial in the sense that he shows the realness of Japanese culture. Many of his works contain samurais, geishas, punk rock youths, and delinquents (AKA furyo). Much of his work is done in black pen, so it’s black and white with an occasional color (like red) thrown in for a dramatic flair. Many of Otomo’s works are fight scenes and revolve around violence, consumerism, and are quite vulgar, but always very realistic.
Kenta Matsuyama more commonly known as 281_Anti Nuke is extremely political and has become an infamous and widely respected Japanese street artist. His works bring such themes as politics, law nuclear weapons, and other troubling issues to light and raises awareness though his simple, but meaningful work. 281_Anti Nuke rose to fame after the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster with his provocative stickers taking over the streets of Tokyo.
Tokyo locals couldn’t get enough and eventually fans of street art around the world became familiar with his work. His work continues to be in sticker form, but also includes prints and posters. Many of his pieces have people hiding behind hoodies, sunglasses, surgical masks and even hazmat suits, so they are anonymous but still deliver their message, just like he does when he puts stickers up like graffiti in Tokyo. In 2014, Adrian Storey directed a documentary film about 281_Anti Nuke and his work.
There so many anime artists on the scene. If enjoy anime art, you should also check out: