Manga Drafts Find Safe Homes in Museums as Value Reassessed

© 1974 “The Tomb of the Pharaoh” Keiko Takemiya
One of Keiko Takemiya’s original drawings shows her trial-and-error process as traces of previous sketches remain.

There is a growing movement to preserve original sketches that manga artists have drawn with their own hand.

In the past, original drawings were often discarded as they were regarded merely as layout pages.

But in recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to their value, and the aim is to prevent them from being destroyed or going missing.

It is assumed that there are at least 50 million such items in Japan. Attempts to utilize traditional warehouses and former school buildings to store the drawings are also underway.

The Yokote Masuda Manga Museum in Akita Prefecture has collected and exhibited original manga drawings since it opened in 1995.

Takashi Ohishi, director of the museum, said: “I don’t set strict criteria for whether this museum accepts works or not. The priority is preventing them from being destroyed or going missing.”

In 2015, the museum received a donation of about 42,000 original drawings from the complete oeuvre of Takao Yaguchi, a manga artist from the prefecture.

Yaguchi is famous for his manga series “Tsurikichi Sanpei” (“Fisherman Sanpei”). He passed away in 2020 at age 81.

In 2020, the Cultural Affairs Agency asked the museum to establish the Manga Genga Archive Center. The museum also opened a consultation desk for affairs related to the preservation of original drawings.

When a manga artist passes away, his or her bereaved family sometimes worry about storage for the original drawings and thus consider disposing of them.

The archive center consults with such people and gets details such as the name of the artist, the volume of drawings and their preservation conditions. Then the center informs them of possible storage places.

However, most storage facilities for this purpose are small. Thus, in fiscal 2021 the archive center began a “pool” project for preventing the drawings from being discarded or going missing. The center plans to store such drawings inside the former warehouse where the consultation desk is set up.

Original drawings can reveal an artist’s enthusiasm, such as traces of the trial-and-error process, changes in the speed of pen and brush strokes and subtleties of color. Therefore, some original drawings are regarded as art items.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A former warehouse building that will serve as an archive in Yokote, Akita Prefecture, is seen in October last year. The building accommodates a consultation desk for the Manga Genga Archive Center.

There was a sensation in 2018 when an original drawing of Osamu Tezuka’s work, “Tetsuwan Atomu” (“Astro Boy”), was bought for about ¥35 million at an auction in Paris.

Today, exhibitions of popular manga artists’ original drawings are held across the nation, attracting increasing attention.

Although there are cases of publishing companies or other entities storing large numbers of original manga sketches, in other cases it is feared that these precious drawings may go to other countries, such as through sales to third parties.

The Kondo Hidezo Kinenkan museum commemorating Hidezo Kondo, a manga artist from Chikuma, Nagano Prefecture, known for his satirical touches, stores the artist’s original drawings.

Since it opened in 1990, the museum has stored about 4,000 original drawings and other documents of the artist in a warehouse next to the museum.

Prof. Kazuma Yoshimura of Kyoto Seika University, who studies manga culture, said, “Japanese warehouses are suitable for preservation because they have dark interiors and also because their plastered walls are excellent for ventilation.”

On the other hand, the Kyoto International Manga Museum in Kyoto City stores about 50,000 manga books and original drawings in the building of a former elementary school that closed in 1995.

Yoshimura, who cooperated on its establishment, said, “The museum is loved by local residents and stored items are handled carefully.”