Anime Architecture exhibition shows fictional worlds of Japan's anime films

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Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration

Anime Architecture exhibition showcases the fictional worlds created for Japan's animated movies

The highly detailed drawings used to create the backdrops of animated Japanese movies like Ghost in the Shell are the focus of a new exhibition in London.

Currently on show at House of Illustration, Anime Architecture pays tribute to the artists and designers behind some of the best-loved anime films, from Akira to Patlabor: The Movie, and Metropolis.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
Anime Architecture pays tribute to the artists and designers behind some of the best-loved anime films, including Ghost in the Shell

These creative teams were responsible for creating entire fictional worlds, combining familiar landscapes with fantasy elements. These scenes, often produced from hand drawings and watercolour illustrations, became defining factors for the visual mood of each film.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
Released in 1995, the animated movie was directed by Mamoru Oshii, and featured artwork by Production IG

"The job of a production designer is to draft a universe for the director to locate his film," explained exhibition curator Stefan Riekeles.

"In the development stage, the film architect – as the production designer is sometimes called – will try to provide a set in different camera perspectives so that a whole scene can be accommodated there. To make a story convincing, the drawn and painted architecture has to support the world in the film – it must be credible in narrative terms."

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
The film featured an industrial-looking cityscape filled with faceless skyscrapers, complex engineering and excessive advertising

The exhibition contains over 100 images, including both technical drawings and original watercolour paintings. These include several from Ghost in the Shell, the cult classic released in 1995, which was directed by Mamoru Oshii, and featured artwork by Production IG.

Based on the Manga comic by Shirow Masamune, the film featured an industrial-looking cityscape filled with faceless skyscrapers, complex engineering and excessive advertising.

The movie went on to inspire blockbusters including The Matrix and Avatar. It was also adapted into a live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson, which was released earlier this year.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
Ghost in the Shell's imagery went on to inspire blockbuster movies including The Matrix and Avatar

"I think it's a great moment to have a look at the original artwork which laid the foundation for the Hollywood version," said Riekeles.

"The artists were looking for an expression of a crowded space," he continued. "They found a blueprint for such a place in Hong Kong, which is exotic enough for a Japanese audience to evoke a feeling of alienation and strangeness, but familiar enough to relate their daily life to."

"The film is set partially in the Hong Kong of the 90s and partially in a fictional, so called 'new city'. The new city represents the future, while the real Hong Kong figures as the past. It is fascinating to see, how the artists integrated both concepts in their illustrations."

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
Anime Architecture also includes images from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

The movie's 2008 sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, also features in the exhibition – in the form of pencil drawings by prolific illustrator Takashi Watabe. There are also drawings by artists including Mamoru Oshii and Atsushi Takeuchi.

Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition at the House of Illustration
Intricate pencil drawings were created for this movie by prolific illustrator Takashi Watabe

"The exhibition is silent. We do not focus on plot or main characters. We focus entirely on the masterful drawings," added Riekeles.

"We present scenes that are tranquil, here and there almost picturesque, drawn by hand with pencil and watercolours on paper. It is the sheer beauty of these illustrations that we will celebrate in this exhibition."

Anime Architecture is on show at House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, London, until 10 Sep 2017.

Images are courtesy of Shirow Masamune, Kodansha, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment, Kodansha, IG and ITNDDTD.