Akemi Takada's 40 Year Anniversary Exhibit Relives the Magic of Creamy Mami, Urusei Yatsura

posted on by Kim Morrissy

Akemi Takada is a big deal in Japan. Her anime character designs practically defined what a “beautiful girl” looked like in the 80s. She's best known in Japan for drawing the anime version of Lum from Rumiko Takahashi's classic manga Urusei Yatsura, as well as the characters from the Studio Pierrot magical idol show Magical Angel Creamy Mami. Neither show really caught on in the States, but they're regarded as classics in Japan, and you can still see their influences in modern anime.

To celebrate her 40th year as an illustrator and character designer, a special art exhibition is currently being held at the Tokyu Department Store Kichijōji in Tokyo. This gives fans an opportunity to look at Takada's art from throughout her long career, buy some new Urusei Yatsura and Creamy Mami merchandise for the first time in years, and even try out a special Creamy Mami-themed VR experience. Takada herself was involved in the exhibit, giving out signatures and holding a talk show about the production of Creamy Mami for the first handful of people who bought over 3,000 yen worth of goods on the exhibit's opening day.

Outside the exhibit and merchandise shop were flower bouquets for Takada, with messages of appreciation from the presidents of Studio Pierrot, Hobby Japan, and Liquitex (a merchandise maker).

Although it was free to enter, the merchandise shop was like a mini-exhibit of its own, showing off reproduction of art prints and specially drawn key animation frames for fans to buy. These cost of hundreds of thousands of yen apiece, so you'd have to be a particularly wealthy fan to splash out for them.

The exhibit itself cost 800 yen for entry and contained about 50 different pieces of artwork. Most of the artwork was from previously published magazine illustrations and disk covers, although Takada did draw two new pieces art specially for the exhibit from Urusei Yatsura and Creamy Mami. I expect that they'll be shown off at a later exhibit or collected into an art book somewhere down the line.

As you may imagine, Takada's most iconic series were most heavily represented. There was plenty of Urusei Yatsura, Creamy Mami, and Patlabor the Mobile Police illustrations to admire. But there were also some original drawings and doujinshi cover illustrations. Her older work was represented, too, such as her illustrations for Fancy Lala and a Little Red Riding Hood picture storybook.

The exhibit also showed off some of Takada's own storyboards and character designs from the Creamy Mami TV anime and OVAs. They depicted some of the final moments in the series, so watch out for the spoilers.

Arguably, the most interesting part of the exhibit was the part that wasn't anime at all! The exhibit also showed off clothes she made with her mother using a traditional Japanese method of dyeing fabrics, called Yūzen, as well as labels that Takada designed for the winemaker Shibuya Echizen. The writing on the label translates to “bodhisattva child”, and the image doesn't look anything like the anime character designs that populate the rest of the exhibit. Akemi Takada is truly an artist with a diverse range of skills and interests.

Outside the exhibit and next to the goods corner, I tried out the Creamy Mami VR experience. This was very simple; you simply put on the VR headset and saw Mami and Yuu appear in front of you. From there, you had to walk on three circles that appear on the ground in order to conclude the experience. Although this experience was only available on June 28 and July 1, it was free to try; all you had to do was sign up on the day. It was a nice addition that made the exhibit a bit more interactive.

The exhibit will run on the 2nd floor of the Tokyu Department Store in Kichijōji from June 28 to July 4.

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