MANGAKA are a group of design students from Osaka, Japan. They all study at OMCD (Osaka Municipal College of Design), and last week they exhibited their work outside Japan for the first time ever at TENT London for London Design Week 2014. They didn’t have an easy road getting here and due to lack of funding each member had to self-fund their trip, but with an awful lot of determination, hard work and team spirit – they made it! You can find out more about their story by clicking here.
Their collection is based on a manga (comic book) theme. Take a look at their inspired designs below (the closer you look, the more you will find), and meet the MANGAKA members…
The MANGAKA stand at TENT London, London Design Week 2014.
Kill Devil by Kazuna ‘Pamela’ Doi
What is it? A chopping board and magnetic kitchen knife holder in the form of a comic book.
The idea? When you use the kitchen knife you become the ‘hero in a sailor suit’. The scenes of the comic show a giant, sharp-fanged devil appearing, who says “I’m going to eat you.. In a mouthful!” to which the girl in a sailor suit (Japanese school uniform) responds by picking up the knife and replying “Which is eaten, me or you?“. The chopping board then becomes the battle arena where the two go head to head in a fight to the death. The final two cells show the girl putting her hands together in thanks for the feast she is about to enjoy, “itadakimasu“, and then she sits, slumped against the bare skeleton of the giant devil and a pile of bones, her belly full. “END“,
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “I want to tell people about the Japanese word kawaii. The normal meaning is ‘cute’, but in the Harajuku style (Harajuku is an area in Tokyo where the most extreme teen fashions and subcultures are born), kawaii is not only cute, it is also a little bit scary.. it is cute with a dark side.”
Long Long Time by Kana ‘Zoe’ Mondori
What is it? A wall clock embedded within a comic strip panel.
The idea? You will identify with the character in the comic strip as you, like her, rush through the day trying to keep up with all the demands on your time. The open windows show the passing of time as the tone changes from light to dark as night falls and your head hits the pillow / ..desk!
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “I love manga, because you can read many different stories and each one will make you feel something different. My favourite manga is ‘One Piece’ because it is so exciting!”
Heroes by Kodai ‘Shawn’ Syakutou
What is it? A customisable side-table with removable ‘hero trays’.
The idea? In your very own ‘coffee-table adventure’, the world is ruled by monsters but you’re in luck! Five heroes appear to come to the rescue and you can choose two of them to fight off the monsters for you, just place your chosen ‘hero trays’ into the table slots and let the battle commence!
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “My favourite thing in Japan is going to the onsen (natural hot-spring baths). When I enter the bath I can completely relax.”
Keep It Up by Enya Hou
What is it? A set of 8 (only 6 pictured) transparent acrylic angled blocks containing images which tell a story. The pieces have graduated shades of blue at the base which, when viewed from above, give the impression of the blocks being filled with colour.
The idea? This set of blocks can be used either as a soothing display piece, or played with as a tactile, versatile desk toy – there is no ‘right way’ to place them. The comic strip images inside the blocks tell a story which provides inspiration and motivation, while at the same time the soothing blue tones and calming simplicity of the pieces help to heal a frazzled mind.
“My comic story shows a character who is trying to lose weight by jogging but they encounter so many troubles and obstacles on the way (for example being knocked out by a stray baseball). However, they never give up and at the end when they stand on the weighing scale it says “congratulations! you just lost 0.1kg“. The ever positive character decides to view this as an achievement and is happy about the result!
…so what I am trying to show is that no matter what, you have to keep it up! Even though the result might be small, at least you made some changes!”
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world?
(Enya is Canadian, and has lived in Japan for the past 5 years)
“There are too many things in Japanese culture that I would like to introduce to the rest of the world, but if I need to choose one, I guess it would be wagashi* (traditional Japanese sweets).
I still don’t know much about them yet, but people might think of them as just a general Japanese dessert, however they are much more! They not only show how Japanese present simplicity, but also in order to achieve that simplicity, they have to be very strict about the ingredients they use etc. Also, they make wagashi for different seasons and I think they make a poem to go with each wagashi, so when people eat that specific wagashi, they can feel and enjoy the season!
…for the Japanese, the seasons are important! They always talk about them, when they greet each other they talk about the season too and they enjoy the four distinct seasons very much!”
*you can find out more about the art of wagashi by clicking here.
Reflect Panel by Itsuki ‘Eva’ Egawa
What is it? A wall-mounted mirror in the form of a comic strip, with 2-sided panels in each cell that can be switched around to reveal mirrors.
The idea? The user’s reflections as they go about their daily life make them a character appearing in the comic book story. The comic strip shows a girl going about her morning routine – from waking up, washing her face, eating breakfast, getting dressed to leaving the house, ‘ittekimasu – I’m off!’ in the morning.
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “The simplicity of Japanese design. The word we use for this in Japan is shizuka (quiet).“
Spice Me Up! by Ryouta ‘Roger’ Hata
What is it? A seasoning case in the form of a comic complete with front and back cover. Open it up and you will find 9 spice drawers, each decorated with a comic book character to match the spice, and there is also a drawer for a spoon.
The idea? Each of the spices represents a different feeling which is portrayed by the character, for example garlic = hungry, and this drawer displays a desperately hungry looking character drooling at the aroma of garlic. The Spice Me Up! case and its design was inspired by the comic ‘Jump’.
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “Japanese cars. My favourite is the Toyota ‘Aqua’ (‘Prius’ in the UK) which is a hybrid petrol-electric eco-car.”
Girl in Shine by Miori ‘Mona’ Moriwaki
What is it? A jewellery case in the form of a comic book with various compartments inside and a mirror. You can hang your jewellery onto the features appearing in the scenes to store them, and use the mirror to check on yourself after putting on the jewellery.
The idea? You, and your accessories will become part of the comic book world. Open the case and you will follow a girl on her journey where she discovers the magical ‘Kingdom of Shine’ inside a mysterious cave. Once in the cave, she walks over jewel-laden bridges, and is surrounded by birds singing in trees adorned with sparkling gold and diamonds, ‘Wow! It’s beautiful!’ she exclaims, and tries on some of the jewellery. In the inner part of the cave she finds an old tree stump. ‘When looked in, the wonderful thing happened… The beautiful girl who put on the gathered jewellery was reflected in the stump.’ At this point in the story, you will look up at the mirror to see your own face reflected, adorned in your beautiful jewellery… ‘The girl found the exit of the cave and went away from there. She was glad, and began to sing a song.’
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “I love girls’ manga, especially ‘Sailor Moon’ because the heroine is very cute.”
Meet the Memories by Hitomi ‘Olga’ Okumura
What is it? A pair of stools displaying vertical comic-strips on frosted panels.
The idea? Alone, each stool shows a lonely scene of a man or a woman drinking a glass of wine alone at the bar. Put the pair of stools together, however, and the scene turns into an encounter between two people as they reach for the same wine glass. Their hands touch, and the last panel shows them looking towards each other and raising their glasses. The backdrop of the display where the stools sit shows the first part of the comic strip: an elderly couple sit at a bar, each reaching for the same glass of wine. The next image shows them clinking their wine glasses together, and smiling as they recall their first encounter.
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? “My favourite manga, ‘Slam Dunk’ which follows the lives of the members of a basketball team – the players are very cool!”
Battle Time by Miyuu ‘Mini’ Hayashi
What is it? A set of three stacking chairs in his, hers and baby bear sizes. These three chairs neatly fit together when stacked to form a 3-D comic scene when looking down at the transparent seat panels. The three layers of illustration represent the technique used when drawing manga – 1st layer = tone, 2nd layer = line, 3rd layer = effect.
The idea? When the food is laid on the table, let the battle commence! Dad turns into a fiery-eyed demon with a cape of flames, Mum becomes a turbulent whirlwind spreading debris and leaves far and wide, and junior transforms into a chopstick-wielding thunderstorm-powered force of nature as they all lunge towards the roast chicken. When it comes to dinner-time, there is no mercy! Once dinner is over and the plates are polished clean, however, normality resumes and the family smile and joke with each other fondly, ‘Oh! What fun we’ve had!’.
One thing about Japanese culture you would like to share with the rest of the world? *Unfortunately, Mini was unavailable to answer this question at the time of interview.. we look forward to finding out your answer, Mini!
Kiyono ‘Viola’ Yamada, The Artist
Viola is the cartoonist extraordinaire who drew all the manga illustrations on each design, including the amazing caricatures of each MANGAKA member within their works, in the ‘backdrop comic strips’ and for all the promotional material. She also delighted a lot of visitors to the MANGAKA stand at TENT London by offering to draw their portraits for them as a ‘thank-you’ for visiting the stand!
Out of all the manga styles that you have used in the various works, which is your favourite style to draw in? “My favourite has got to be the style of Osamu Tezuka, the cartoonist and animation film producer who is the writer and illustrator of the ‘Mighty Atom’ (later called ‘Astro Boy’) manga series.”
Kairi Eguchi, The Teacher
The fact that the MANGAKA team were able to travel to London to exhibit at London Design Week is all thanks to the vision and persistence of Mr Eguchi, the students’ design teacher at OMCD (Osaka Municipal College of Design) and also designer in his own right.
Can you tell me about why you decided to bring the students to London to exhibit at TENT? “In 2012 Enya (Hou) and I went to Milan to exhibit some of our works made by my company Kairi Eguchi Design at the Salone Satellite during Milan Design Week. This was a great experience for us and I decided that I wanted my students to also have the chance to experience participating in an exhibition in a foreign country. At first, we set our sights on Milan but it turned out that the organisers didn’t quite understand the concept of our work. So, we had to rethink and our next target was London Design Week…and finally, we made it!”
What would you say is unique about Japanese design? “In Japan, culture and design are mixed. Japanese design tends to be minimal and simple, and this minimal design style is famous, although comics are even more famous and so for this exhibition we decided to combine the minimal design with the comic book style so that people can instantly recognise where our works are from.”
Who are the designers you most admire? “Michio Akita, (product designer, Tokyo) who is my master. He teaches mind theory for designers. Another one would be Yves Behar, a Swiss designer and entrepreneur based in San Francisco who founded the Fuseproject. He is a great sustainability advocate and my favourite of his projects is the ‘clever little bag‘ packaging system for trainers which was designed to reduce the amount of waste created by discarded shoeboxes.”
A big thank you to the whole MANGAKA Team, and we look forward to seeing the next chapter in your story!