--Araki’s works From JAPAN--
Gentaro Araki’s "Rei Ayanami" (Castkit)
U-noa Freak (picture book)
COM’P•X (picture book)
ANDOLREA-U-NOSS (picture book)
--SD books JAPAN--
Super Dollfie Perfect Catalogue La carte d'un Angel (picture book)
Super Dollfie Perfect Catalogue 2 (picture book)
Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer
BYOIN Gallery (Simon Yotsuya’s work picture book)
Kaitai Ningyo (Ryo Yoshida’s work picture book)
Astral Doll (Ryo Yoshida’s work picture book)
Shojo Ningyo (and All other doll creators work picture books)
Enclose phrases in double quotes ("").
Figure+Doll=U-noa (Unoa Doll)
Ghost in the Shell 2" is a SF story about a cyborg (a doll that looks human) who has more presence than a human being. The graphic novel, "Dolls" by Yumiko Kawahara, is a story about an expensive houseplant-like doll. All you have to give it love and warm milk. The doll won't talk, or grow up. It shows an expression of happiness or sadness on the face sometimes, just as if it's reflecting the owner's feelings.
Is this a thing or a living creature?
Owners of dolls can't help but to have an indescribable feeling caused by these objects. Today, the numbers of the people who are obsessed by the charmed presence of dolls are increasing rapidly in Japan.
The development of entertainment culture in Japan has not been to always create a one-way path from maker to consumer. Rather, the satisfaction from obtaining an object can be increased by adding a "one of a kind" touch to a product. This is more conspicuous in Japan than in any other country. Just with the booms of figure making, cosplaying and the recent goth-loli fashion (which had an influence from Anime or Manga), there are many doll-molding artists, figure creators, as well as users who customize their own dolls in Japan.
The ball-jointed doll and figure scene
Ball-jointed dolls (A doll with ball-jointed limbs, able to swivel in all directions, as opposed to stiff-jointed) are originally a Western tradition. When Hans Bellmer(German born French Surrealist, 1902-75), produced a photo book showing a doll with it's parts rearranged daringly in 1935, the shock was introduced to Japanese surrealists such as Shibusawa Tatsuhiko. Since then, ball-jointed doll have been propagated in the Japan with a twisted feeling.
The scene really began with Simon Yotsuya who was intensely influenced by Bellmer's works. Other artists after Yotsuya, include Katan Amamo, Ryo Yoshida, and more recently, Koitsukihime who plays an active part as a famous doll artist in Japan.
On the other hand, separate from the art scene, as Japan passed through the bubble economy of the 80's-90's, otaku culture led to figures and garage kits based on animation.
Beautiful figures of girls from anime became more popular during the middle of 90's, and technique of the molding creators and the custom-making doll skill of fans greatly increased.
Around 1995, there was a stylish figure magazine called S.M.H. from Hobby Japan publishing. It seemed to be an art magazine rather than a figure magazine for otaku. S.M.H. contained many wonderful photos of artists' and sculptor's work. But there was one work that looked very different from the others. It was beautiful and had a deep Otaku essence. This work ignited a mysterious feeling we now know as MOE.
All of them were works by a figure artist Gentaro Araki. (He has various talents. As well as a modeling artist, he also does illustration, writing, photography, and paint. He had been working in the industries of Anime and Manga for a long time.) His main figures of shojo characters were engaging with a wonderful feel of material and a color (the thing which amazed me most was the shine of the fingernails, the brightness of the eyes, and the lifelike skin), an expression and the balance of the body. His work was not only realistic, it seemed to be from a super-ideal world that was better than reality. It was the quality of Japanese Eros = animation. The combination of wonder and vulgarity in his work was fresh. His foolish sense of humor enhanced its mystery too. His work was outstanding in the magazine and in every way. [*Photo from S.M.H vol.16 in 2000. Araki's work titled "Omachidou Kyabu-chan" This funny faced figure is Miss Piggy. The theme is that this is not a human, but an eatable cloned pig on the Chinese soup. ]
In 1999, the Kyoto based company, Volks (founded in 1972) which had been producing garage kits, created a ball-jointed doll named Super Dollfie (SD) made from the same material as garage kit: resin cast. With its abundant part lineup (skin types/eye balls/face paint styles/even selection of body types), Super Dollfie was a hit with fans and sales were great when it was released.
In 2000, Araki was in charge of a model for the new doll for Volks. It was a ball-jointed doll that could stand-alone, named U-noss. This 60cm size doll was sold from Volks Company, but it was different from Super Dollfie for girl age setting, there was no compatibility between Super Dollfie and U-noss for an accessory and clothing.
The doll that Araki creating after U-noss under his independent distribution root (U-noa information official site) was called U-noa. This is made out of polyurethane resin at 40cm size. He enabled a detailed part option that was not realized with U-noss. (A face change option for different expressions, hand option where you could change the fingertip style, changing the angle of eyeballs, and even a sex change is possible). Although the method of acquisition was very difficult (it was only sold on the internet and at a few shops), the rareness of the doll, along with Araki's talent as a creator, made U-noa a very popular doll. As his tendency showed already from 90's, U-noa seems to be a perfect combination of the ball-joint doll and a plastic model kit figure. Therefore it seems to be slightly difficult to handle for doll beginner. But is a world that is profound and deep once you sink in it.
U-noa continues making high quality products while being very stable. It was the doll that had a great influence on activation of the custom doll industry now in Japan. Without Araki cashing in on an easy boom or producing his work in large quantities, he has been creating the best work continually.
That is why the tailors of U-noa clothes, many personal dealers and the users of customizing U-noa are very hot in their pride for U-noa. This is not just a two-way situation between maker and consumer or an artist and a museum visitor. Araki's custom indie doll, U-noa continues to attract a core audience that ranges from Japanese otaku (Akihabara) to trendy people (Harajuku) and art scene without dividing any of them up into gender categories.
A new picture collection book "U-noa Freak" was released on May 2005 by Hobby Japan publishing. [* Photo on the right] Junko Mizuno did the cover illustration. It was a well-done package, which included collaborations between U-noa with several other illustrator including Junko Mizuno. The book also contained the history of U-noa and had some explanations of each part by Araki.
So what are the parts that go into a Japanese doll? Take a Western influence, combine it with avant-garde art, add a touch of plastic model assembly kits (usually reserved for the boys), and finally top it off with customizable fashion dolls that girls love.
PS: Araki's "Rei Ayanami figure (cast kit)" was introduced at Wonder Festival 2005. It has glass eye balls. This wonderful work of Araki is currently available for pre-order. (Sorry but only in Japanese info available)
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