The proliferation of manga across the globe has been one of the pillars of the Japanese government’s economic soft power initiative, “Cool Japan” which also works to spread Japanese culture internationally. Many Japanese are often surprised by how knowledgeable foreigners can be regarding many popular manga titles as well as the increasing number of tourists who flock to Japan to consume and experience manga culture first hand. That being said, the roots of the medium itself is most likely unknown to both Japanese and international fans alike.
Revealing the little known history of manga is the aim of The Manga Master which is directed by Oki Moe who is helming her second feature. Her debut work, Firecracker Ideals was a purely independent spin on the contemporary morose of young people as they grow to see the wide disparity between their life idealized through youthful ambitions versus unwelcome realities. It was hailed as a confident movie capturing some of the rebellious energy of independent Japanese cinema of the 80s. The film publication Kinema Junpo mentioned her as one filmmaker with enormous future potential. Now she is tackling most likely her “biggest” and most challenging work, a period piece starring Issei Ogata.
Kitazawa Rakuten (Issei), is the first person in Japan to hold the occupation of “manga artist” and who is often referred to as the forefather of modern manga. He lived through the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa Eras and their upheavals which had an impact on his pupils, countless manga artists and manga culture itself. Nevertheless, hardly anyone in his hometown of Saitama, let alone Japan, could claim to truly know the man. Who was Kitazawa Rakuten?
Oki co-wrote the movie which has been produced to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the birth of Kitazawa Rakuten and the 50th year since the opening of the Saitama Municipal Hall. Such productions are often not-so-cleverly disguised pieces touting the qualities of the region the movie is set and promoting tourism there. However, Oki’s involvement lends hope for a story far more interested in dealing with its subject matter than what can be inferred from the “production committee” credit. The production itself has faced some ups and downs toward release with its fate still somewhat unknown though all involved are staying optimistic for a theatrical run slated for 2019.
More information as well as a trailer will be provided on the Indievisual social media sites and blog as they are revealed.