A friend passed along a press-kit the other day that’s 3 shades of awesome, announcing the team-up of manga-ka Moyoco Anno (best known in America for her manga Happy Mania for Tokyopop, and Sugar Sugar Rune for Del Rey) and international upscale cosmetics giant shu uemura to produce a “sophisticated yet invigorating collection of cleansing oils and make-up tools” for shu uemera’s 2009 artist collaboration series. The line is called Tokyo Kamon Girls, inspired by traditional Japanese kamon crests (like Japanese-style heraldry) and featuring Anno’s manga-riffic take on contemporary Japanese women.
The line contains 4 different products, a series of balancing and cleansing oils that will run between $77 and $89 CDN, and be available exclusively at Holt Renfrew in Canada (Bloor Street, Yorkdale, Vancouver). Anno has contributed art and design for the packaging of the product, and generated a loose narrative around five archetypical Japanese women, each relating to a different ‘flavour’ of product. Also available is a make-up brush kit with Tokyo Kamon Girl designs emblazoned on the case, and a custom make-up box, also sporting Anno’s designs.
Incorporating traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print styles and Japanese iconography, laid overtop of ultra-contemporary packaging, these are some downright lovely pieces of design. They integrate the traditional elements of Kamon design including circles and nature, with each flower or plant on Anno’s badges representing different aspects of the women she’s created… Kamon in particular were typically reserved for upper-class families, and the application of these designs uses lots of shiny gold foil and ink to give the products a luxurious, high-end feel. A lot of thought and effort has gone into this campaign, and shu uemera has spared no expense. (Click for larger.)
This in and of itself is lovely, and would make for a lovely post here at Comics212. But here’s the most awesome part: The press kit also came with a gorgeous booklet which espouses the philosophy of the line and the various “girls” on one side, and a biography and gallery of Moyoco Anno’s manga and illustratuin work on the other! And a CD-ROM full of images from Moyoco Anno’s vast bibliography! And permission to post them (until at least October 31st, 2009)! So if all of the images disappear at some point in the future, you’ll know why.
Get ready for some lovely art. Let’s start with the book, first.
The Tokyo Kamon Girls 40-page flip-book could only be the product of an international upscale cosmetics company with money to spend… if you take my meaning. It’s a high-end production, with gold-foil inset on the cardstock cover depicting the Kamon Girl designs in something approaching their historical mode: shiny and austentatious. The book features glossy full-colour production with liberal use of a fifth-colour gold ink to add that extra oomph.
Scattered throughout are biographies of each of the five Tokyo Kamon Girls: “pure and innocent” Sakurako, “energetic and strong-willed” Tamaki; Tsuruha (“who sparkles as she drifts through the streets of Tokyo”); “reserved and elegant” Matsuno; “coquettish” Katsura. In addition to the Kamon featuring the girls, Anno also created a full-size illustration of Sakurako as an ukiyo-e print, which is gorrrrrgeous:
The first half of the book is then rounded out with a description of the make-up brushes and make-up box, a page featuring quotes from Anno on her inspirations for creating the series (“I felt afresh that shu uemura is a global brand which is aimed at the world and treasures Japanese aesthetics. That is why, when designing the bottles, I felt I wanted to design something with a hint of modern Japanese taste.”). Oh, and a walk through the five real-life Tokyo neighborhoods that the five fictional ladies live in, places that you will never live because you are poor (for the record: Ueno Park, Den-En-Chofu, Ginza, Azabu-Juban, Shirokane). It is amazing.
The other half of the book (and really it’s a flip-book, maybe this is side-a and the cosmetics-focussed side is side-b) is an introduction to Moyoco Anno, artist. It contains a biography, partial bibliography, and dozens of illustrations. Because the bio wasn’t presented to me in a digital form, I feel awkward about copy-pasting it in here, but the notable bits from her biography are that she’s been making manga for 20 years, she’s an accomplished ukiyo-e woodblock printer in addition to being a manga-ka, she’s had a bunch of hit series, and her website is http://www.annomoyoco.com.
One of the most interesting bits about Moyoco Anno that isn’t in the printed bio? It doesn’t mention that Moyoco Anno’s manga has appeared from more publishers in English than any other manga-ka! It’s true. Her North American debut was in the pages of the Tokyopop-published Happy Mania (11 volumes), but her next series was the satirical bishonen role-reversal series Flowers & Bees from Viz (7 volumes). Her current, and most-popular English-language series is Sugar Sugar Rune, an all-ages shojo series from Del Rey (8 volumes, ongoing) about magical young witches who gain their powers from breaking boys hearts (HEH). Somewhere in there, Anno contributed a story to the French/Japanese co-production JAPON, known in North America as Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators from Fanfare/Ponent-Mon (1 volume). Actually, the bibliography mentions all of these stories except Flowers & Bees, but despite being an English-language booklet produced for an English audience, it doesn’t mention which… if any… of her manga works have been translated into English! If it weren’t for the fact that my customer demographic and the demographic for these products were so far apart, I’d fear customers coming in to ask me for manga like Hatakari Man or Sakuraman. But I have a feeling I’ll be able to sleep easy on this one.
What this book does do though is provide lots of gorgeous illustrations and excerpts from her catalogue, which I am free to run below. Yay! Oh, and: all images Copyright ©2009 Moyoco Anno, all rights reserved. Don’t copy or distribute these images. Got it?
Lovely, isn’t it? That “Tundra Blue Ice” one actually reminds me a little bit of Taiyo Matsumoto’s work, and it’s from very early in her career. Heck, it might’ve been her first series actually… the timing works out right. Nice.
Here’s two more pieces, but these are particularly cool. These are wordless comic strips from Moyoco Anno’s newspaper strip, called Ochibisan. It runs in Japan’s Asahi Shinbun, and is illustrated in the style of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. It’s a celebration of the seasons, and each strip runs in brilliant full colour.
Seeing all of these pieces together, it really shows the range that Anno posesses. Moving effortlessly from manga to fashion illustration to ukiyo-e woodblock prints to newspaper strips to product packaging and design. She has a phenomenal career, and I find myself really inspired by her work.
In closing, I wanted to talk about a few little biographical tidbits that I didn’t get to mention early on. First off, sadly Moyoco Anno took a break from manga last year for health reasons, stopping the serialization of her incredibly popular Hatakari Man manga mid-stream (which may account for why it has not yet been licensed for release in North America). It is currently unknown when she’ll return to manga (though she is continuing her newspaper strip), though given the prestige of the Tokyo Kamon Girls project I can’t imagine why she would.
Moyoco Anno is also the wife of Neon Genesis Evangelion director and co-creator and Gainax founder Hideki Anno. They wed in 2002, over 5 years after The End of Evangelion.
For more on Moyoco Anno and Tokyo Kamon Girls, check out these resources:
Thanks to Nathalie for the heads-up!