Superflat is a postmodern art movement, founded by the artist Takashi Murakami, which is influenced by manga and anime. It is also the name of a 2001 art exhibition, curated by Murakami, that toured West Hollywood, Minneapolis and Seattle.
Superflat is used by Murakami to refer to various flattened forms in Japanese graphic art, animation, pop culture and fine arts, as well as the “shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture.”A self-proclaimed art movement, it was a successful piece of niche marketing, a branded art phenomenon designed for Western audiences.
In addition to Murakami, artists whose work is acknowledged to be “Superflat” include Chiho Aoshima, Mahomi Kunikata, Sayuri Michima, Yoshitomo Nara, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, and Aya Takano. In addition, some animators within anime and some mangaka are considered Superflat, especially Koji Morimoto (and much of the output of his animation studio Studio 4°C), and the work of Hitoshi Tomizawa, author of Alien 9 and Milk Closet.
Murakami defines Superflat in broad terms, so the subject matter is very diverse. Often the works take a critical look at the consumerism and sexual fetishism that is prevalent in post-war Japanese culture. One target of this criticism is lolicon art, which is satirized by works such as those by Henmaru Machino. These works are an exploration of otaku sexuality through grotesque and/or distorted images. Other works are more concerned with a fear of growing up. For example, Yoshitomo Nara’s work often features playful graffiti on old Japanese ukiyo-e executed in a childish manner. And some works focus on the structure and underlying desires that comprise otaku and overall post-war Japanese culture.