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Manga Artist Sketches Incredibly Detailed Urban Backdrops of Japan

Kiyohiko Azuma Urban Sketches

Manga artist Kiyohiko Azuma is most well known for Yotsuba&!, his series which follows a young girl humorously moving through life. In that work, Yotsuba is rendered in a cartoonish manner, juxtaposed with her surroundings, which Azuma depicts with realistic detail.

The contrast between reality and fantasy is striking, but not unheard of in manga. In fact, Shigeru Mizuki, author of GeGeGe no Kitaropioneered the style. When pulled out from the manga context, Azuma's architectural drawings come into focus as works of art in their own right. His detailed black and white line drawings are incredibly complex. The architectural drawings relay different facets of an urban environment and seem almost like stage sets, just waiting for a character to appear.

Yet, within the context of Yotsuba&!, Azuma's choice to emphasize the main character's cartoonish nature is purposeful. For the artist, the stylistic choice simply reinforces her “otherness.” “I lean toward realism, but at the same time, it’s not like I’m trying to make things actually realistic—what I’m going for is more like having a somewhat strange character within a realistic world,” Azuma shares. “Now, that’s pretty standard in manga, but what I’m aiming for is to strike the right balance of being ‘somewhat' strange—not too out there, but not too normal, either.”

Manga artist Kiyohiko Azuma creates stunning black and white urban sketches, which emphasize the lines of the city.

Kiyohiko Azuma Yotsuba&! Urban Sketches

Image from Yotsuba&!

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h/t: [Spoon & Tamago]

All images via Kiyohiko Azuma.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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