Photo/IllutrationVisitors enjoy original manga manuscripts and illustrations drawn by Hisashi Eguchi at the Yokote Masuda Manga Museum in Yokote. (Tsutomu Yamatani)

  • Photo/Illustraion

YOKOTE, Akita Prefecture--Driven by an urgency to preserve manga culture, the Yokote Masuda Manga Museum here has been steadily increasing its manuscript collection.

By the end of March, a total of 32,000 original comic book artworks provided by Akiko Higashimura and Junichi Nojo and 64 illustrations by Momoko Sakura and 11 other artists for permanent exhibition were added to the list.

The museum now boasts about 77,000 manuscripts hand-drawn by 182 cartoonists, including popular artist Hisashi Eguchi, in its collection.

“Our efforts to preserve original manuscripts and make use of the artworks before the central government has taken action have been well-received,” said museum official Takashi Oishi, 46. “This place plays a part in manga culture. I want people to be proud that there are original manga drawings by so many cartoonists.”

Utilizing subsidies provided by the prefectural government for promoting local development, city officials came up with a project costing about 520 million yen ($4.8 million) to substantially renovate the museum. They intend to build a world-class “sacred place for manga” that places importance on the collection and public display of original manuscripts, equipped with a storage room, an archive room and a sidewalk cafe.

The museum will be closed for construction from February 2017, with the new facility scheduled to open in summer 2018.

The officials also concurrently continue to expand the museum’s collection. For the time being, the city museum will allocate 3.4 million yen annually from its budget to collect a total of 300,000 original artworks from 200 artists.

The massive collection of original manga pages by Higashimura and Nojo are provided on a 20-year lease from the cartoonists. The officials and the artists will consult on how the manuscripts will be handled after the end of the lease. In addition, it has been agreed that their future manuscripts will be added to the collection after a certain period of time.

Higashimura, whose 12,000 manuscripts were included in the latest addition to the collection, was born in 1975 in Miyazaki Prefecture. Her child-rearing essay manga “Mama wa Tenparisuto” (My mum gets panicked easily) has sold 1 million copies after starting its run in 2007.

Nojo was born in Tokyo in 1951. Characterized by his elaborate artwork and characters with intense personalities, he won the Shogakukan manga award with “Gekka no Kishi” (The “shogi” chess player under the moonlight) in 1996.

Of 12 cartoonists whose artworks were collected for permanent exhibition, manga manuscripts drawn by four artists including Go Ohinata, who hails from Ugo, Akita Prefecture, have already been put on display.

After Takao Yaguchi, a veteran manga artist who is known for “Tsurikichi Sanpei” (Fishing enthusiast Sanpei) and serves as the museum’s honorary director, donated all of his roughly 45,000 manuscripts in 2015, museum officials have been working on digitizing the original drawings through scanning with a high-definition scanner. The officials also plan to continue with the digitization process for manuscripts by Higashimura and Nojo so that the manga pages can be on public display when the museum reopens.

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