The BUDDHA 2.0 exhibition was a response to the tragic events of March 2011, when Japan was afflicted by a major earthquake and tsunami. The project brought together Japanese comic artists specializing in various genres: novels for young people, thrillers, love stories, tales of yakuza, sports, or big robots. Contemporary artists of all ages took part, including winners of such prestigious awards as Shōgakukan Manga and Kōdansha Manga. Many tackled the subject for the first time, and the outcome of their effort is a crazy eclectic collection of illustrations depicting figures of the Buddhist pantheon (and more).
While some of the deities are portrayed in accordance with traditional iconography, taking on the poses and attributes associated with them, others use laptops, wear flip-flops and eat rāmen. Some are joyous, some pensive, or angry, but above all they are considerate and caring.
Contrary to what might be expected, the figure drawn by the artists more gladly than any other is not Buddha but Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion to whom all the worries and concerns of this world can be entrusted. Many illustrations portray the kind-hearted bodhisattva Jizō, protector of children, as well as the Seven Gods of Good Fortune (Shichifukujin), such as Benzaiten, the patron goddess of artists, Kisshōten, the goddess of beauty, or Bishamonten, the granter of good life and well-being.
In this unusual, humorous project the traditional manifestations of Buddhist art are replaced by a form that is completely modern: manga. The artists play with styles and conventions, proving that it is even acceptable to joke about Buddha for a noble cause.
The project was initiated by the Committee for the Exhibition of Buddha Illustration by Manga Artists (Mangaka ni yoru hotoke no sekaiten jikkōiinkai), formed specifically for this purpose. The exhibition BUDDHA 2.0 is the first foreign presentation of the project.