Anime exhibit in Beverly Hills is both naughty and nice

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There’s a new anime exhibit underway and longtime film-scene writer Susan King sent over this preview for readers of Hero Complex.

Anime is for kids of all ages -- well, except for all the adult-only material. That’s why there are some carefully curtained areas at Anime! High Art-Pop Culture, the exhbition now underway at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.

The erotic is a “huge component of anime,’ according to academy programmer Ellen Harrington, which is why strategic steps were taken with the exhibit in the academy’s grand lobby and the fourth-floor galleries. ‘We expect this is going to be very popular with families and we want to make sure that no one is put into an uncomfortable position. So it is curtained off with warning signs.”


Originating at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main in Germany, the exhibition traveled to Copenhagen before making its American premiere at the academy. The multimedia program features nearly 400 cels, clips and character models that highlight the range of anime, the enormously popular art of Japanese animation. There’s a strong presence for the most popular anime movies and TV series, such as “Akira,” “Dragon Ball Z,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Pokemon: The First Movie” and “Princess Mononoke.”

“Anime has been a major component of Japanese popular culture for the 20th century,” Harrington said. “It grew out of a tradition of the flat-paned screen paintings and wood cuts and then went into manga — the Japanese comic book trend that’s still the most widely circulated form of published literature in Japan. The story depictions and the visual aesthetic [of manga] moved into the creation of moving animation. The merging and development of that manga style into anime feature films, TV shows and now myriad other kinds of entertainment is part of the national contemporary conversation in Japan.’

Harrington added: ‘It’s become so unbelievably popular in the U.S. and in Europe within the last decade. The movies have come over and so many of the TV series and characters, like Pokemon. American kids are growing up seeing the aesthetic and are drawn into the types of powers, characters and struggles in these stories.”

The exhibition is for both the fanatic and the neophyte. “If you understand anime and love anime, you are going to come here and see all the characters that are familiar and the original works of art,” Harrington said. “But for other audiences who are just learning about anime and are interested in animation generally, there is an interesting narrative. There is material from the earliest Japanese animated films; there is a section on Studio Ghibli which is Hayao Miyazaki’s studio. He is the only anime director to this point who has won an Oscar.’

Miyazaki won for the trophy for best animated feature for his surreal and startling 2001 epic “Spirited Away,” one of the great works in anime that is raising the ambitions and perceptions of the medium. Anime can be so many different things to such a wide-ranging consumer audience and the exhibit reflects those varied sectors.

The show is divided into specific audiences and genres. “Children to adults in Japan consume anime so there is special product for each group,” Harrington said. ‘So besides the erotic anime there is a special anime for girls, especially teenage girls. There is a whole line of anime products that are oriented to teenage boys and there is a whole fantasy genre and very large science fiction component.”

Over the course of the summer, Harrington promises the academy will screen some anime movies.

“Anime! High Art-Pop Culture” is on display through Aug. 23 at the academy’s two galleries at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Hours are 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 6 p.m weekends. Admission is free.

--Susan King


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Images, from top: Cel from ‘Sailor Moon’; cel from ‘Pokemon: The Movie’; cel from ‘Dragonball Z: The Dead Zone.’ Credits, from top: Frostrubin collection; courtesy Mike and Jeanne Glad; courtesy Mike and Jeanne Glad.