Akira Exhibition in Berlin

AKIRA: The Architecture of Neo Tokyo: Through September 4, 2022 at the Tchoban Foundation. Museum for Architectural Drawing; Christinenstraße 18a, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Neo Tokyo. Super!  

The opening scenes of Akira tell the story of how Neo Tokyo has surfaced from the ashes, and in Akira we soon meet the characters that will play such importance. The music draws us into the city and the high speed motorbike action that sets viewers up for a science fictional epic. The film was hugely popular, on video in the early Nineties and since has gained a huge following and is recognized as an incredible piece of anime, leading the charge and explosion of manga and anime in Europe. 

Stefan Riekeles, head of Riekeles Gallery, in collaboration with the Museum for Architectural Drawing director Nadejda Bartels and co-curated by Hiroko Myokam of Eizo Workshop (Japan) present an incredible selection of imagery for fans of Akira to enjoy and appreciate. With fifty-nine pieces on display in two galleries over two floors, the exhibition is beautifully set out, with a logical layout that allows one to enjoy the art sequentially. The colors and strength of the art represents the background vividness of the film. For speakers of English, all descriptions are in German and English, while language is no real barrier to enjoying the art. 

The art is astounding, and while it looks well framed on walls, as one goes closer to consider the media and skill utilized, the art pops out. The dark scenes painted so skillfully that the neon and light works so well. While very static, the images are a delight to see and come in a variety of sizes. It was wonderful to see the layering of cells over background imagery and how scenes which were panned by the camera are drawn at the correct angle and length, the uniformity being that of brilliance, not size or format. The long view of Tokyo, Chantilly Corner where Tetsuo falls in the initial Bike Chase, the alleys and city are all breathless as the art variety demonstrates details and expansiveness. The removal of cells in most cases, the foreground, allows contemplation of the architecture and ingenuity of the art. Pencil concept drawings, layout drawings, imageboards, and of course the backgrounds all add up to give the viewer a very comprehensive and thoughtful view of Neo Tokyo. 

Akira, while so well known, is not a subject that is often seen in exhibitions. Riekeles was allowed exclusive access to Studio archives of the artists involved, and these works have not been exhibited before, and it is unclear if they will be again. The art being shown includes works by Akira‘s art director Toshiharu Mizutani and production artists Katsufumi Hariu, Norihiro Hiraki, Shinji Kimura, Satoshi Kuroda, Hiromasa Ogura, Hiroshi Ōno, Hajime Soga, Tsutomu Uchida and Takashi Watabe.

The Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing, is the perfect setting, an unusually beautiful building in a very nice Berlin neighborhood, where coffee shops with street seating are just around the corner. The building is modern and unique, with the ground floor entrance feeling like a library and lounge, spacious, open and welcoming, the staff are excited about fans of the film seeing the work, and keen to share the appreciation of architecture. Set over two floors with a lift between them, as well as the two galleries, there is a small viewing room and one can see clips and identify the use of some of the art. 

Riekeles has written a wonderful book which makes for fine accompaniment to the exhibition. Anime Architecture – Imagined Worlds and Endless Megacities by Stefan Riekeles was published by Thames & Hudson in 2020 and was available to view at the Museum. The Riekeles Gallery also has a number of posters and very high-quality prints for sale, limited in number, signed by the artists, on the Riekleles Gallery .  

The area nearby is well worth a visit for fans touring in Berlin. The Neo Tokyo bookshop has a huge stockliist of manga and Japanese Culture on Tor Strasse, and, Grober Unfug  and Modern Graphics are two comic book and manga shops a few minutes walk away. St. Georges bookshop specializes in English books and has a selection small of mostly second hand science fiction and fantasy. A short two-stop U-Bahn trip away is Black Dog comics, an incredible shop full of American and English European titles and Patrick the owner, is a huge SF film fan who is very engaging.

The Architecture of Neo Tokyo is well worth a visit if you are in Berlin and have an appreciation of Akira

[Based on a press release.]

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