Takashi Murakami and the Superflat

While I never watched much anime when I was young, many of my friends did. In fact, a few of my friends obsessed over it. When they were over, they would tell me of the stories that they had seen on the tube. Many of them stayed up late to watch Toonami on Cartoon network where they would be able to catch a half hour of Dragon Ball Z. As they grew older, they fell away from the genre. I, on the other hand, have started to grow fonder to the artform. I am not alone either. There are many American young adults and adults who study and critique anime and manga.

The anime fanbase intrigues me. Somehow Anime and Manga’s demographic isn’t exactly specific. Adults and children both can get together and bond over Dragonball or Princess Mononoke. Why is this?

Takashi Murakami, a prominent Japanese graphic artist delves into the infantilization of characters in Japanese art in his art series titled “Little Boy” where he employs his classic Superflat aesthetic– the aesthetic he gave name to in his Superflat manifesto. An artblogger on the web blog Post Bubble Culture explains this aesthetic and movement in his blog  titled “Pop Psychosis” He explains that Murakami’s artwork suggests Japanese anime and manga’s cute ‘kawaii’ style is a result of WWII. The country of Japan was completely emasculated after WWII by the laws that the United States had put in place. Many died in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Tokyo after the United States bombings. Murakami suggests that anime and kawaii imagery is a result of the escapist mentality that followed the war.

In his work, Murakami paints mushroom clouds with cute kawaii styled eyes. The internet blogger asks his readers if this style could be misinterpreted by a western audience. If so does it help or hinder Superflat arts statement about WWII?

While Murakami’s art is executed in a cute style, I am drawn closer to it because of its depictions of war. It gives me an eerie feeling that I cannot shake. I mean look:

Is this not terrifying? Everything about it is sharp. Even the colors are vibrant, bold, and in your face. What do you think? Is the Superflat aesthetic’s confrontation with WWII problematic? Could this be passed off as simply a formalist work, or are transglobal audiences pulled into inquiry because of the Superflat aesthetics contradictory cutsie and violent nature?

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One thought on “Takashi Murakami and the Superflat

  1. I have never watched anime or manga besides a couple episodes of dragonball z when I was very young. Although many of my closest friends watch anime almost every day. It is growing more and more with the help of advancements in technology. We can pretty much stream anything now days, for instance right here in Decorah there are thousands of people watching eagles sit in a nest, that is pretty weird if you ask me. Having not watched anime I am not very knowledgable on the content. I have been wondering how often are scenes like murakami’s mushrooms depicted regularly in anime? If scenes like these are shown often I feel as if I would be uncomfortable at times. Also how many people do you think really notice these hints at WWII, with many of my friends who watch anime talk about their shows, I have never heard them mention anything about this topic within anime. You said the internet blogger asks his readers if this style could be misinterpreted by a western audience, and from my experience with talking to anime watchers I would say it could be misinterpreted, but it isn’t, at least not at this time.
    I may have to give anime a try after hearing such positive feedback from many people, and on top of that this topic within anime definitely sparks my interest.

    Like

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