Cultural Cartoons

It’s called anime and manga, stylized Japanese-influenced cartooning, and the work of eight remarkable teenage artists is featured in an exhibition at Borders-Ward this month

Friday - June 10, 2005
By Chad Pata
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Shame on you parents for scolding your kids for wasting their days playing video games and watching cartoons — they were not being idle, they were studying art.

What exactly they did learn is on display all this month at Borders in Ward Centre as eight of the top local teens show their award-winning pieces of anime and manga in its Stairway Gallery.

“This is the icing on the cake for them to show off their stuff to not just their peers but to everybody else,” says Scott Yoshinaga, adviser to the group. “These are all high school kids, and their love for the culture and this type of art style is what really drives them and impressed me.”

Showing off their artwork and
their sense of humor are
(from left) Rachael Ing (Masako),
Leslie Kam (Blublood Razberry)
and Jaemi Yoshioka (Minitsu)

The group was formed out of last year’s MangaBento art contest, in which 75 local kids entered. The top eight anime addicts formed this group, which gets together every Saturday to perfect their art skills.

For those who don’t watch the cartoons with their kids, anime is Japanese animation whose popularity in the States began with Speed Racer, exploded with Pokeman and now actually has channels dedicated to it all over America.

Its book form is known as manga, characterized by its expressive faces and oversized eyes, allowing a still drawing to express all the character’s emotions in a glance. These comic books, or graphic novels, have become so popular in Japan they now make up 40 percent of Japan’s annual publishing, according to web designer Frank Sanchez.

Ashley Nose’s work starts the art
spiral on view on Borders Ward
Centre Stairway Gallery

But what is it that attracts local kids in Oahu to this art form?

“Part of it is the story — it’s not a Disney happy-happy story,” says Ashley Nose, a freshman at KCC. “There are a lot of adult themes that American cartoons don’t touch upon. But also it is a lot of really nice art and they make it for all ages.”

Nose’s work starts the art spiral at Borders, with her arresting piece named “So The Beautiful World” featuring a single girl with those amazing anime eyes that seem to peer right through you.

Her mastery of the style is such that she was asked to produce all the promotional art for the annual anime convention, Kawaii-Kon, held here on Oahu earlier this year. While her art best exemplifies the style popularized by Pokeman, what each member of the group has produced is reminiscent of the multitude of styles in this 200-year-old art form.

Incoming UH freshman Rachael Ing’s
work is colorful and detailed

The one male in the pack, Michael Bromer, captures the war themes that Leslie-Ann Kam diffuses with her expressionless characters imposed in front of patchwork quilts of colors and patterns. Meanwhile, recent Punahou graduate Jaymee Masui confronts the duality of mankind with the cherubic faces of porcelain China dolls peacefully enjoying tea while observing the severed head of another in her piece “The Tea Party.”

The themes may be a bit over the top, but the art brings more to these kids than just an appreciation for color and shading.

“It’s so different from what we have in America, and it is a great way to learn about Japan,” says Rachael Ing, an incoming freshman at UH whose piece “Negi Ramen” may be the most detailed in the show, and contains a certain “Precious Moments” done Nippon-style sure to make it a favorite.

“The art really shows not only the cultural differences, but also the different way they interact.” This culture is proving to be a powerful magnet for these budding artists. Most want to pursue a career in the field, whether game design or comic book work, and some, like Nose, want to take their skills to Japan and try to make it there.

“I’d take anything I could over there, but I really enjoy character design,” says Nose, who got hooked on anime at age 6 from watching the popular Sailor Moon show.

No matter what happens after the show, Yoshinaga says they have all benefitted from each other and honed their skills through their differences.

“If I had this when I was a kid, it would have been so much easier for me to break out as an artist,” says Yoshinaga, who worked as a cartoonist for the student daily Ka Leo at UH, but readily admits the group is much more talented than he. “This makes it easier to be able to do a gallery of this type, and it’s really great to see them take advantage of these things.”

Leslie Kam does a quick sketch, demonstrating
her artistic talent and manga technique

The show already seems to be causing a stir as traffic on the bookstore stairs resembled the Vineyard onramp with all its fits and stops as customers checked out the new wall displays.

Some of the pieces are for sale, and with works like those from Betty Lam, who has just earned a first-prize scholarship to the Art Institute of California, they may be a wise investment for the future.

And you thought those cartoons were a waste of time.

The young artists will be at Borders-Ward June 25 . The time will be announced on the website: They will be showing off some artwork and may draw a few things for onlookers as well.


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