World’s Largest Auction of Anime Animation Art Breaks $2.1 Million Record at Heritage

The world’s first auction dedicated to the art of anime set multiple world records at Heritage Auctions, June 25-27, 2021, as bidders drove sale prices of animation cels from the genre’s most iconic and award-winning films to more than $2.1 million.

The Art of Anime and Everything Cool Auction attracted a record 2,853 bidders from around the globe and they were impressed with what they found: The sale boasted sell-through rates of 100 percent by value and 99.8 percent by lots sold. Record-breaking prices were set for collectible cels from films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery ServiceAkira.

“The hits and big moments in this sale came from all over,” Heritage Auctions Animation Art Director Jim Lentz said. “Record breaking prices were seen for lots from Astro Boy, Dragon Ball, Ghost in the Shell, Pokemon, Vampire Hunter D, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and all the films from Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki. We are already planning ‘The Art of Anime and Everything Cool II!'”

Outside of Japan and in English, “anime” is colloquial for Japanese animation and refers specifically to animation produced in Japan. This cornerstone of the inaugural auction was the famed Glad Anime Museum Collection, created by Mike Glad, the photographer and Oscar-nominated film producer who amassed original art by some of anime’s greatest creators.

A perfect cel setup with key master background from My Neighbor Totoro (1988), depicting characters Mei and Satsuki drew 69 bids before it went for $84,000 – nearly 17 times its pre-auction estimate. The hand-painted original production cel setup can be seen at the 48:13 mark of the beloved Studio Ghibli classic. This stunning piece is rendered masterfully and attributed to the acclaimed art director Kazuo Oga, who was challenged by director Hayao Miyazaki to raise his standards for the film.

Also racing far beyond its pre-auction expectations was a production cel setup from Akira, featuring a pulse-pounding scene featuring the character Kaneda (Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1988), which brought a winning bid of $78,000 against a pre-auction estimate of $5,000. This extremely rare key master setup from the sequence depicting Kaneda on his iconic red motorcycle, can be seen at the 1:52:48 mark of the film and on page 25 of the German Film Institute’s gallery exhibition book Ga-Netchu! The Manga Anime Syndrome. Attributed to art director Toshiharu Mizutani, these vivid and rich futuristic urban backgrounds are a defining feature of the film, and complete Key Master setups like this one are extraordinarily rare.

Bringing the same $78,000 result was Akira Kaneda Production Cel Sequence of 4 with Key Master Pan Background (Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1988), a hand-painted original production cel sequence presented on its jaw-dropping Key Master pan background from the masterpiece Akira. This incredibly rare sequence, a crown jewel in any anime collection, can be seen on page 52 of the German Film Institute’s gallery exhibition book Ga-Netchu! The Manga Anime Syndrome.

My Neighbor Totoro Mei, Satsuki and Catbus Production Cel Key Master Setup (Studio Ghibli, 1988) prompted 45 bids before it reached $72,000 – nearly 29 times its pre-auction estimate. This cel captures the unforgettable moment from the climactic scenes of the film, in which Satsuki finds her missing sister, Mei, with the help of the Catbus from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.

An Akira Kaneda Production Cel Setup with Master Background (Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1988) drew a winning bid of $63,000 against an estimate of $5,000. The cels are presented on a detailed Master background showcasing an elaborate and futuristic cyberpunk urban sprawl prevalent throughout the film. The background is rendered in gouache on two layers, and the vivid and atmospheric settings and backgrounds of the film are attributed to Toshiharu Mizutani.

Other anime highlights include:

  • My Neighbor Totoro Mei, Chibi-Totoro and Chu Totoro Production Cel with Production Background (Studio Ghibli, 1988): $48,000
  • Akira Kaneda Production Cel (Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1988): $48,000
  • Akira Kaneda and Kei Production Cel Setup with Key Master Background (Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1988): $31,2000
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service Kiki Production Cel Setup with Key Master Background (Studio Ghibli, 1989): $30,000

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