If you visited either of the MCM London Expo events this year may have noticed a new stall - Umisen Yamasen

A small group of Japanese artists based in London, UY formed in the spring of 2006 and have completed several projects since.  Their main focus has been to produce original artwork (so far distributed in postcard format) and short manga.  Taking a trip to their stall at their Expo revealed an array of styles from the UY artists and the gentle manga The Day Dreamer which displays several abstract and sci-fi influences.  This range is not surprising as resident UY artist Sato reveals that the group is not just influenced by Japanese art but also by French artist Rene LaLoux (Fantastic Planet) and even Walt Disney's interpretation of Alice In Wonderland.  This mix gives each artist their own unique look and already guarantees a wide variety even in their current state as a small group. 

 Despite enjoying success at the Expo and having their products stocked in shops in London and Brighton, Sato says that UY will not be taking things too fast.  'To be honest', Sato answers when asked if the UK market is big enough to sustain small groups such as UY, 'we do not think it is big enough yet, not as big as the market in Japan or France.'  The appearance of small groups and independent artists is much higher then it was a few years ago though and so Sato continues 'So we believe the future is bright.'  We at Animetion believe so as well, given the large crowds independent artists draw at Expos. 

So what can you expect from UY in 2007?  They have confirmed to us that they will be attending both MCM Expos in London once again, the UK Web & Comix Thing on March 17th and will no doubt be attending the IMAF once again in November.  It is likely that they will be producing manga in graphic novel form as well as their 'monthly size' comics and expanded into prints, posters and t-shirts in the new year.  They have already had several guest artists produce work for them as well, so we could see even more contributions in 2007.  

UY have informed us that they will be launching mail order on their website soon, but in the mean time their products are available from Gosh!, Comicana and Orbital Comics in London, as well as David's Comic Shop in Brighton. 

And finally if you are wondering what Umisen Yamasen stands for, Sato says it comes from the legend 'a snake which lives by the sea (Umi) for a thousand (sen) years, and at mountain (Yama) for a thousand (sen) years, which symbolises 'magnificent beings'.  Apparently it also translates as 'a cunning person who knows a lot of sly tricks by experiences.'  Make of the translations what you will, but we hope to see UY make an impact in 2007 and contribute to a growing independent UK market. 


(click each image for full version)

Chi-tan: influences include Yumiko Oshima (A Star Over The Cotton Country) & Fumiko Takano ( Kiiroi Hon (The Yellow Book))

Hepi-Ichiko: influences include Kazuo Umezu (Orochi: Blood), Disney's Alice In Wonderland & Rene LaLoux's Fantastic Planet. 

Inko: influenced by Hinako Sugiura (Gassō, Fūryū Edo Suzume)

Yuki: influenced by CLAMP (Chobits, X/1999)

Ochi-bo: influenced by Yoshihisa Tagami (Grey: Digital Target) & Izumi Takemoto (Apple Paradise & Anmitsu Hime (Princess Anmitsu))