all photos by Daici Ano

Naoki Urasawa is somewhat of a phenomenon. Throughout his career – he’s still 56, I might add – Urasawa has sold over 120 million manga and his works, which include Master Keaton, Monster and 20th Century Boys, have been adapted into anime and movies. His works are known for their dense, multi-layered narratives that often involve thrilling suspense and mystery. Earlier this year the Setagaya Literary Museum hosted a two and a half-month long exhibition on Urasawa titled “A Life in Drawings.” Although the exhibition ended in March, images are now available for those who didn’t get a change to see how Urasawa breathes life into his many works.


Visitors are greeted by cardboard cutouts of original characters which have sprung to life

The exhibition is comprised of “a large collection of original drawings and manuscripts, including drafts, conceptual story notes, storyboards, prized illustrations and sketches, and even manga notebooks from the artist’s childhood,” say Torafu Architects, who were responsible for designing the venue. The intent was to create an “exhibition space where visitors can go beyond the page and get a sense of the amount of materials that went into the production of these works.”


An introduction section that conveys the sharpness of Urasawa’s stroke through still and moving images


Original drawings corner at the center of the venue


Three exhibition walls shaped like distorted cubes to create an evolving scenery, while also guiding visitors


Each wall presents the spread-out contents of a single book to give a sense of the sheer amount of drawings that go into a volume



Enlarged reproductions of his original drawings can be found on walls here and there to create a sense of immersion into Urasawa’s works, which is made possible by the artist’s hyper-detailed drawing style



The curving wall presents a selection of scenes expressing emotion in a few frames made using cardboard cutouts of manga pages