- Elginism - https://www.elginism.com -

Professor Munakata Tadakusa meets the British Museum

More coverage of the new Manga comic book, with a storyline involving the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.

New Scientist [1]

British Museum gets the manga treatment
17:17 1 November 2011
Cian O’Luanaigh, contributor

Missing artefacts, a 200-year-old conspiracy, and a mysterious airship over London. Oh, and someone’s nicked Stonehenge…

Folklore and ethnology expert Professor Munakata Tadakusa certainly has his work cut out in Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, the latest collection of comics from acclaimed manga artist Hoshino Yukinobu. Invited to give a talk at London’s British Museum, he soon finds himself investigating a plot to steal museum artefacts and return them to their “rightful” owners.

Hoshino’s cloaked detective has been solving crimes for over two decades in one of Japan’s leading manga magazines – the fortnightly Big Comic. Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure is the sleuth’s first visit to the UK, the result of a collaboration between Hoshino and the British Museum, which in 2009 invited the artist to create a manga based on its collections.

At times simplistic, at times wonderfully melodramatic (a dying curator whispers “Donate my collection…I will…become a part of the British Museum…”), Hoshino’s action-driven plot explores relations between Japanese and British researchers, the question of who really “owns” archaeological remains, and the debate about returning artefacts to their countries of origin.

In true manga style, Hoshino’s simplified character designs are set against hyper-realistic museum artefacts and intricately depicted landmarks, transporting me to London and allowing me to indulge my inner geek by mentally ticking off the artefacts I recognized from the Museum.

The original Japanese manga was published in 10 episodes over five months in Big Comic, allowing readers to digest clues, build tension in increments, and savor those well-placed cliffhangers at the end of each installment. Collecting these into one book warped the pace; story threads seemed hastily woven and the secondary characters lacked depth. Motives are secondary to action: a fatal sniper shot towards the end, for example, reeks of deus ex machina.

That said, the collection includes interesting extra content, including an interview with Hoshino on his research for the book – from visits to British archaeological sites to the minutiae of UK police uniforms. There is also an enlightening note on Japanese illustrative styles from graphic historian Timothy Clark.

Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure is no great detective story, but it is an entertaining mix of archaeology and adventure. And in one scene an airship tries to drop Stonehenge on St Paul’s cathedral, which is definitely worth a look.

Book information:
Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure
by Hoshino Yukinobu
British Museum Press