Another exhibition I caught on its last day (back in September, at this point) was the Yotsubato exhibit–YOTSUBA & DANBOARD THE EXHIBITION–commemorating the series’ tenth anniversary. It was a fine toast to the series’ ten years, collecting various fascinating artifacts from across the series’ decade-long run.
Advertisements for the series from the past until now opened the show, with nostalgic dates and images, visually taking us through the history of the series. Following that was a collection of most likely every piece of Yotsuba merchandise ever created, ranging from the various figures (and their numerous permutations) to the yearly calendars, to those music albums inspired by the series (which I have yet to listen to.) The series’ various foreign editions were also on display in several languages. It was interesting to see how different countries handled the material, from decisions of whether or not to leave in Japanese sound effects, flipping the pages, and the quality of the printing. But obviously, the real point of the display was to read each page in your most stereotypical accent of choice, natch.
It goes without saying that the core of the exhibit lied in the display of original manuscripts, sketches, and storyboards for choice scenes in the manga, along with the roughs and inks for promotional illustrations and the like. Also on display were a number of real items that were used for reference displayed with their corresponding reach-out-and-touch-it appearances in the comic. Scooters, egg beaters, vacuum cleaners, digital cameras, and even Yotsuba’s little shoes were all there. It’s these little details that bestow Yotsubato with its characteristic sense of realism, so it was cool that the organizers went out of their way to bring that stuff out for people to see.
It goes without saying, but seeing Azuma’s original manuscripts was nothing short of super awesome, which is admittedly my typical reaction upon seeing real manga manuscripts. Marveling at how clean the lines are, taking note of which areas needed corrections, clearly seeing areas where drawings have been photocopied, and the like–it’s all really cool to see up close. One of the more interesting aspects of the stuff on display was seeing later pages in the series that make heavy use of digital compositing for the placement of backgrounds, and later on for the application of screentones and the like. Some pages were composed of the best parts from two versions of the same page, and it was eye-opening to see which drawings Azuma deemed as worth showing to readers and which not.
While Azuma’s evolution as an artist is obvious to those who have kept up with the comic for years, the not-quite-chronological display of the art effectively highlighted the difference between the series’ early cartoony Azumanga Daioh-esque artwork, to the series’ current laid back, realistic artwork. Again, eye-opening.
The exhibition was concluded with a display of photos, figures, and dioramas centering around the franchise’s much beloved Danboard. Highlights included a dancing Danboard robot, and a chilling diorama of two menacing Danboard robots being constructed inside of a dark cave. The diorama had an interesting catch in that ten different animals were hidden within the scene. While a few of the animals were obvious at first glance, a good number of them were camouflaged into the scene as parts of the environment, like a piece of twisted metal that looked suspiciously like an elephant’s head, or the back of a pot of molten metal that took the shape of a catfish’s face. We found everything except for the terrier, and that bugs me even now…
Much like the Evangelion exhibit, the Yotsuba exhibit was a heartfelt celebration of the series’ history, production, and unique sense of imagination. At a mere 500 yen, it was a total steal–too bad it’s over!