Wednesday, September 15, 2010


At some point last weekend between eating pizza, drinking beers in the park and eating indian pizza, my buddy Ramenate reminded me that I still haven't posted the majority of the massive stockpile of photos and dispatches from my trip out to Tokyo earlier this year. How true!

I have a knack lately with all the blogs, projects, brainfarts (oh yeah, and day job) I'm foolishly juggling of forgetting that coming up with an idea is like 10% of the actual work. I am gonna try to be better about this and post more goodies for you guys... How many times have I said that? BUT THIS TIME I MEAN IT :B

So anyway, Nate put me on blast for being lazy while we were inventing a kimchi bloody mary cocktail we're calling the "Gwangju Mary:

(so damn tasty! click above for the recipe)

Ready to prove him wrong, here is the next in a series of posts I've labeled Japan 2010!


I had a short list of things set in stone for my Tokyo trip earlier this year that I specifically wanted to check out & photograph for Same Hat. One of the most auspicious was the BIG AX FESTIVAL, a month-long art show organized by manga publisher Seirinkogeisha. The exhibit was held in Billiken Gallery, and featured a huge set of featured artists; in fact, the month-long show was split down the middle with two separate openings and sets of artists. I was lucky enough to visit the final weekend of the exhibit with Nate, and see the 2nd half of BIG AX FESTIVAl (which featured original works by Same Hat patron saints Suehiro Maruo, Yusaku Hanakuma, Shintaro Kago, and many other amazing artists).

Billiken Gallery (Billiken Shokai) is a super cute shop in the highly fashionable and consumerist Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo. For those that haven't had the pleasure, Aoyama is the 'hood further down the way from Harajuku, home to the crazy Comme des Garçons and Vuitton flagships, swank little eateries, and some of the hottest/fanciest ladies in Tokyo.

(photo by saripom)

The gallery space at Billiken Shokai is in the back, while the front half of the shop features American indie comics (David Bowing by Clowes, David B's Epileptic, etc) along with vintage vinyl figurines, tin toys, and other collectibles. The staff there was cute and polite, a juxtaposition to the wacky-ass art hanging for the AX show. I took a few photos (below) before they informed me that was actually frowned upon... and ended our time there by buying some autographed manga and pins for friends.

Check out the Billiken Gallery's exhibit blog for lots of pics of their ongoing exhibits; I have found tons and tons of contemporary artists to follow/stalk/read about from their blog! It makes me wish that the SuperFrog Gallery in San Francisco was 1/10th as, well, relevant for lack of a better word. Not to harp on this, but it's spaces like Billiken that underscore how much of a missed opportunity for Japan/Manga/Cartoon gallery space the New People building is in its current form.


By Yuka Goto, awesome artists of the Justice Corps series. She captures this art brut x nasty high school girl's diary aesthetic really well (and has a story called The Neighbor in the AX Anthology)

Paintings & prints mounted on the wall, manga by AX artists stacked for folks to peruse on all the tables!

BIG AX FESTIVAL t-shirt (not for sale)

Oh yeah, and every issue of AX to date (along with paintings by Maruo, drawing by Hanakuma)

Glass case full of AX/Seirinkogeisha artists pins, including sets by Suehiro Maruo.

Tsuge, Hanakuma, Hayami, and others! These pins were for sale (and are also available at Taco Che


Hirakuchi Hitomi

A painting by one of the Same Hat pantheon: Shintaro Kago!

Shimatora Torada, author of the lovely manga, Träumerei

Minimalist pen drawing by Yusaku Hanakuma

Pieces by Yoshikazu Ebisu

This dude is jolly: Yoshikazu Ebisu

Suehiro Maruo signing books

Damn dude! Yoshikazu Ebisu, Minami Shinbou, and Suehiro Maruo

Yuka Goto and Toshiko Suzuki(?)

Check out this sea of talent! That is Mr. Buff Hotness (Hanakuma!) in the purple turtleneck.

Original painting by Suehiro Maruo. It was sold when I visited, for something like $1200? (Wait, it had to be way more than that... I forget)

The dude Nishioka of Nishioka Kyoudai

Piece by Kurihara Takashi

Piece by Imiri Sakabashira

Piece by Toyo Kataoka

Piece by Fukuzawa Minako

Piece by Akino Kondoh

Every issue of AX!

Piece by Kazuichi Hanawa

I hope folks enjoyed this collection of photographs and details on the gallery. There are more pics on the Billiken Gallery blog, but it doesn't have permalinks to previous posts unfortunately. Just go back through the archives to February to see 'em!

I would definitely include Billiken Shokai on my list of Tokyo stops, especially if you're already over in West Tokyo at Harajuku or kicking it on the Chuo Line. I just added it to the Same Hat Guide To Everything for anyone planning an upcoming trip!

Hey guys,
Leigh here from Top Shelf. The AX book is indeed real, not to worry! It's available via direct order from our web site or at conventions. Unfortunately we had some logistical delays with the book moving through distribution channels, but Diamond has it now and will be distributing to comic shops, bookstores, Amazon, etc within a week or two. Sorry for the confusion and hope you enjoy the book!

The direct order page for AX is here, by the way ( and as Jose-Luis mentioned, we are in the middle of a big mail-order sale right now. Thanks everybody for all your interest and support!


Sootoo said...

Only $1200 for an original Maruo painting?!

This is much too cheap!

Anonymous said...

Great pics!

But I have more pressing business:

What the hell happened to the U.S. Ax Anthology? Why was it never really available for cover price? It seemed like it made its rounds among a couple major bloggers and then disappeared. I was really looking forward to buying this, but 45 bucks new on Amazon?! I don't think so!

José-Luis said...

Hm, that is odd that it's $45 bucks on amazon, but it's $30 direct from! I just got it at SPX and there is TONS of great comics in there! Surreal, grotesque, unusual, touching comics.

myrto said...

What an amazing post!
Thank you for sharing.
Maruo looks so cool and the art featured is breathtaking.

I do agree, the price for the Maruo painting is unusually cheap. Are you sure it was an original? Last time I was in Nakano Broadway they had an auction for a signed poster of his, the starting price was about 1.500 $ and every bid had to be at least 100$ more than the previews one...

alive said...

omg that's what I call an exhibition, a truly feast for the eyes. So many artist there I admire. and I agree $1200 is too cheap!

btw the link to your mate's blog was mean, since his first post is filled with pics of beautiful japanese cuisine! I really got hungry for some ramen :D

Ryan S said...

@Sootoo: Maybe I am misremembering! It was a small painting but definitely out of my price range either way. Seeing his actual paint and details in person was super exciting

@Anonymous: Hmmm.. that's weird! I agree with Jose, you should totally grab it from Top Shelf direct via their site! The book IS an amazing thing, I read a preview back last summer and was really impressed. Will be doing some posts on it next week!

@Myrto: It definitely was an original painting-- but I think i'm misremembering the price. maybe it was like 4200?? haha

@Alive: thanks for reading, dude! Nate's ramen blog is insane, it always made me really hungry to read while at work.

Ryan S said...

UPDATE: I added a few more pics to the post, I couldn't help myself

monika said...

Hi,I think 「Nice report」。(Sorry for bad english…eigo heta de gomen ne!)Maruo's painting was about¥130000 in my memory.Individually,
2 pics of ”RYOKI-OU" are so cooooool!Yukio Kawasaki is one of the legendally artist of"GARO"and "AX".His site is here

Mr. Freibert said...

awesome post, recently discovered yuka goto! totally love her style. Wow Ebisu is there too! and Maruo! amazing

Anonymous said...

Oh, I was just introduced to Yuka Goto's work through a few recent issues of AX. Her work stands out in every issue. The color covers of her series have appeared on the back of a couple recent issues and I would really like to read them. It's great to find out more about her work through this blog.

Anonymous/Jose: I'm really confused about the Ax anthology too, I ordered it a week or two ago from Amazon when it was still listed, I didn't know that it had since disappeared. I gather now that it's never going to show up... No luck through Barnes and Nobles, either. guess I should have gone to SPX after all... what exactly is going on with this book?!?! at least i got free shipping on a couple of used Steve Jackson "Fighting Fantasy" books out of the deal....

Anonymous said...

i'm a "FREE super saver" and it feels great

jimpac said...

Amazing post, Ryan. Can't wait to have a proper look round the Billiken site. I wish an exhibition like this could tour around. I'd love to see these pieces displayed somewhere in London (or anywhere I could get to)... probably not much chance, though.
It's really hard to pick a favourite out of the ones highlighted in your post, but if I could have just one hanging on my wall I think I'd have to go with the Ebisu one.

As for the Ax anthology, my guess is that it's been subjected to more delays and will surely turn up in regular shops soon (fingers crossed!). The worse thing about this is the growing frustration caused by these delays. Also, all the internet hype, that meant there was a real good buzz surrounding the book which would have hopefully helped it reach a larger audience, happened so long ago that Top Shelf have probably missed the chance to capitalise on it. Hopefully, when it finally sees the light of day, this buzz will be reignited and it will do just as well as it would have done if it had hit the shelves two or three (or more) months ago.

Anonymous said...

...but it sounds like the AX book, in fact, _is_ out now but just hasn't shown up from most booksellers yet?

Leigh Walton said...

Hey guys,

Leigh here from Top Shelf. The AX book is indeed real, not to worry! It's available via direct order from our web site or at conventions. Unfortunately we had some logistical delays with the book moving through distribution channels, but Diamond has it now and will be distributing to comic shops, bookstores, Amazon, etc within a week or two. Sorry for the confusion and hope you enjoy the book!

Leigh Walton said...

The direct order page for AX is here, by the way:

And as Jose Luis mentioned, we are in the middle of a big mail-order sale right now.

Thanks everybody for all your interest and support!

Ryan S said...

Thanks Leigh! I added your comments to the body of the actual post :)

Ryan S said...

Also, for everyone reading--- a great post was just reblogged on the SH Tumblr about Yuka Goto's art:

mydisplayname said...

hey there. just wanted to say hi and this blog is a great source. you dont seem to do many scanlations anymore which originally bought me to this site a couple years ago. ive been a silent follower until today, when i felt like doing that following thing.

Ryan S said...

@nice1holmes: Thanks for the comment! It's really great to hear from folks that have been reading for a while, warms the cochleae of my heart.

You are correct, Evan & I stopped doing fan translations back when we started the Tokyo Zombie project--- opting to focus this more on scene/book reports and that kind of stuff. lemme know if there is other types of posts you'd like to see in the future!

Karel Veselý said...

GREAT POST! I wish I was there!

Sadly, at the same time reading the post I got email from Amazon stating that "Due to a lack of availability from our suppliers, we will not be able to obtain the following item(s) from your order". Ordering Ax anthology directly from publisher means additional 45 USD for postage, which is way too cruel for my account. Have to wait until it shows up on booksdepository or aphorhead again :(

Elena said... are a lucky man...


jimpac said...

Just had word from my local comic shop that the Ax anthology has arrived. Going to pick it up tomorrow. Good times!

That Which Haunts said...

FUCCKKKKK, I wish i was there. Great blog, I am keeping up.