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Tea Leaves

Manga amongst the Marbles gives cause to reflect

London exhibition marks more than a glorious triumph of 'trash' culture

A Kabuki theater curtain from the late 19th century made by Kyosai Kawanabe in an apparent four-hour, sake-fueled frenzy is displayed at the British Museum's manga exhibition.   © Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

An unusual exhibition has just opened in the hallowed chambers of London's British Museum, dedicated to Japanese manga. The fact that it is taking place is a tacit acknowledgement of the genre's emergence as a respected art form and officially sanctioned emblem of Japanese "soft power."

Wandering through the exhibits, I couldn't help but be reminded of "Sturgeon's law" -- the American science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon's dictum that 90% of everything is trash. That certainly goes for manga, which is often infantile, vulgar and banal.

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