Auction Review: The Art of Anime and Everything Cool

Shreeya Maskey
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The anime artistic movement offers a glimpse into Japan’s vast culture and history. Heritage Auctions honored this craft with over 900 lots during its recent The Art of Anime and Everything Cool auction. Many featured lots came from the Glad Anime Museum Collection, which was founded by West Coast collector and film producer Mike Glad. The timed event ran from June 25th through June 27th, 2021. Collectors had the opportunity to view excerpts from culturally-influential anime films and television series.

Astro Boy, Astro Boy and Dinny production cel setup. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Astro Boy, Astro Boy and Dinny production cel setup. Image from Heritage Auctions.

Known as the “godfather of anime,” modern artist Osamu Tezuka built his career around manga and anime. He helped popularize animation art during the 1960s, which profoundly shaped Japanese art culture. “Tezuka Osamu, creator of a great cultural asset and gifted with an unbeatable pioneering spirit combined with an enduring passion for his work and a consistent view to the future, lived out his entire life tirelessly pursuing his efforts,” states the artist’s website.

Tezuka was mainly recognized for the revolutionary manga and anime titled Astro Boy. It captured the hearts of many, launching the animated movie to great success in Japan. Through the series, the artist addresses important issues such as war and intolerance.

Heritage Auctions offered several lots from the classic Astro Boy series in the Art of Anime auction, including a hand-painted production cel from the mid-1960s. It depicts Astro Boy and other lead characters such as Astro Girl, Dr. Packidermus J. Elefun, and Victor Percival Pompous. The piece sold for USD 18,600.

Pokémon: The First Movie, animation drawing. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Pokémon: The First Movie, animation drawing. Image from Heritage Auctions.

Also among the notable results was a production cel from the feature film Pokémon: The First Movie. The cel sold for $18,600. The film focuses on Ash’s attempt to save the world from the rarest Pokémon, Mewtwo, after it reveals its plan for world domination. With a long history, the Pokémon franchise revolutionized the world of anime. The offered hand-painted animation drawing shows Ash and his team of Pokémons, including Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Pikachu, as they slide down the road on a rock.

My Neighbor Totoro, Mei and Satsuki production cel setup. Image from Heritage Auctions.
My Neighbor Totoro, Mei and Satsuki production cel setup. Image from Heritage Auctions.

“He’ll be on the next one for sure,” says Satsuki as she and her younger sister Mei stand in the rain, optimistically waiting for their father. An excerpt from the iconic bus stop scene, this production cel setup can be seen at the 48:13 mark of the film My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Lead character Totoro is known as one of the most popular anime characters. The production cel setup depicting Satsuki and Mei in the rain had a final price of $84,000, landing well above its $7,500 high estimate.

The Art of Anime auction also brought in strong results for American cartoonist Charles Schulz. An original Peanuts comic strip art featuring Charlie Brown and Snoopy netted the auction’s highest price of $102,000. In December of 2020, the auction house marked a record-breaking price for Charles Schulz’s character sheet, which sold for $240,000.

Charles Schulz Peanuts comic strip. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Charles Schulz Peanuts comic strip. Image from Heritage Auctions.

Recently, anime auctions have sparked the interest of many collectors. Jim Lentz, Vice President of Animation Art at Heritage Auctions, said in an interview that the category continues to grow: “With baby boomers hitting retirement and millennials coming of age, we’re starting to see modern day sports cards, Pokémon cards, and video games hit record prices.” Results from The Art of Anime sale support this trend and point to a bright future for the category. 

Searching for more auction reviews? Read Auction Daily’s coverage of Phillips and Poly Auction’s dual-location contemporary art sales.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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