Cels: Ukiyo-e of the Modern Era

There are some surprising similarities between the renowned Japanese art of ukiyo-e and the anime cels that have been pivotal to the growth of Japanese animation. First, they share a common expressive technique. Both art forms involve outlining the main figures, coloring each part separately, and layering them to create a flat and cohesive image. It can be said that Japanese anime cels have been able to evolve in their own unique way because of the artistic sensibility they have inherited from Japanese culture, which can be seen in ukiyo-e prints as well.

On the other hand, there is also a sad similarity between them. Ukiyo-e prints were traded at low prices, similar to the cost of a bowl of soba noodles, and were often treated as disposable. However, overseas traders and artists began to recognize the artistic value of ukiyo-e and traded them at high prices, leading to a significant outflow of ukiyo-e prints overseas. A similar situation is now occurring with cels today.

The Growing Cel Market. Some pieces are even valued at tens of millions of yen!

In the past, cels, which were used in completed works of anime, were considered a byproduct of the creative process and were often discarded. In Japan, cels themselves did not carry much value. However, there has been a dramatic shift in recent years.

In the year 2000, the Louvre Museum in France recognized anime cels as a form of art, changing perceptions about their artistic value. As a result, cels started to be actively traded as investments, with some pieces fetching prices in the range of tens of millions of yen. What is more, with the rise of digital technology, the introduction of NFT marketplaces has allowed cels to now be sold as digital collectibles. This development has attracted attention from investors around the world and has led to the growth of a thriving market.

All cels are one-of-a-kind physical works.

Cels are created by skilled artisans, who painstakingly craft each frame using paint and brushes. It is not simply a routine task but a conscious act of "creating a work of art," infused with love and artisanal spirit. Since the disappearance of cels from anime production studios in 2003, this technical tradition that supported the growth of Japanese anime over the years, as well as the cels themselves, have become ever more precious.

Another special value of cels is the fact that they were actually used in broadcasted anime. Cels allow us to see a part of the anime, which we usually only observe on screen, in their physical form rather than in a digital format. We can see them directly and even touch them with our own hands. In today's digital era, the value of unique physical objects is truly immeasurable. These aspects, along with the fact that cels allow people to possess a part of Japanese anime as a form of art, contribute to their great appeal to people around the world.