The induction of manga-style painting into Japan’s contemporary art canon over the last 15 years can be put down to the work of not one but two artists. Sure, it was Takashi Murakami who laid the theoretical foundations, spelling out links with classical painting and ukiyo-e prints. But it was another artist who provided the movement with its emotional appeal: Yoshitomo Nara. To Murakami’s brains, Nara provided the heart.
And whereas Murakami’s continued mining of that same intellectual territory he demarcated with his Superflat theory — cartoon characters, floating atop flat-plane backgrounds — has resulted in repetition, Nara’s heart appears to know no bounds. His latest show, “a bit like you and me…,” which is at the Yokohama Museum of Art till Sept. 23, is perhaps his best.