We keep our eyes open just long enough to photograph the 50th-anniversary Sazae-san exhibition, The Real.

Sazae-san isn’t just Japan’s longest-running anime, it’s also the world’s longest-running animated TV series. The story of modern woman Sazae and her family life premiered in October of 1969 and has just kept going ever since.

With over 7,500 episodes, plus a new one every week, it’s pretty much impossible to watch every single one. But the constancy of Sazae-san on TV has made it part of life in Japan, so much so that a recent 50th anniversary exhibition, dubbed Sazae-san Exhibition The Real, decided to see what the Sazae-san cast would look like if they were indeed part of the real world.

The event (which runs until September 1) is being held at the headquarters of Sazae-san’s broadcaster, Fuji TV, in Tokyo’s bayside Odaiba neighborhood. After buying our ticket, we took the elevator up to the section of the building where the event is being held and found ourselves in front of a an extremely authentic recreation of the Isono family house, where Sazae lives with her husband, parents, and children.

Near the entrance is also a poster introducing makeup artist Amazing Jiro and his Amazing Studio JUR, who contributed their expertise to the Sazae-san Exhibition The Real project.

Now we realize that while Sazae-san is a cultural institution in Japan, it hasn’t established the same scale of international fandom as many flashier, edgier, or sexier anime series have. So in case you’re not familiar with the cast of Sazae-san, here’s how they look in animated form.

▼ Top row (left to right): Sazae, her dad Namihei, mom Fune, husband Masuo, little brother Katsuo
Bottom row: Little sister Wakame, son Tarao, pet cat Tama

OK, let’s look into the living room of the Sazae-san Exhibition The Real Isono house and see how Fune, Katsuo, Wakame, and Tara look.

Ah, yes, traumatizingly disturbing.

Debuting in the 1960s, and based on a manga that started in the ‘40s, Sazae-san doesn’t have the same sort of hyper-stylized character designs that later come to define Japanese animation’s aesthetics. Still, Sazae and her family have simplified, cartoonish features in their original artwork. Rather than take those features as a starting point for an approximation, like you’d get with an actual human being cosplaying as an anime character, Sazae-san Exhibition The Real simply retains as much of the original designs as possible while adding uncannily realistic skin, wrinkles, eyes, hair, and teeth.

▼ Oh, and also fingernails.

▼ Alarmingly realistic anime kids in the foreground, but tantylizingly realistic pancakes in the background!

But you can’t call your event Sazae-san Exhibition The Real without a real version of Sazae herself, can you? Of course not, though the star herself is found in a different scene, chasing down her husband Masuo, who forgot his bento boxed lunch, at the bus stop on his way to work.

Slightly embarrassed Masuo is probably the least unsettling looking of the “real” representations.

His father-in-law Namihei, however, is on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum, with an extremely tall patch of flesh between his nose and upper lip, long strands of unshaven lip hair that look like the dark tentacles of a sinister sea god, and tiny ears that are smaller than even his eyeballs.

Oh, and then there’s the confusing rush of emotions that comes from seeing Sazae, who appears in-anime with blocky proportions, stretching her back in a way that shows her real version is sort of busty.

▼ A special “thanks for the tip/night terrors” to friend-of-SoraNews24 Mototaki (@motoyaKITO on Twitter) for recommending the exhibition to us.

In the end, Sazae-san Exhibition The Real is probably more suited to avant-garde art buffs than ordinary otaku, but we can’t deny that it’s an experience like no other. And if you need something to get the images of real Sazae and her kin out of your mind, the 1,200-yen (US$11) exhibition ticket also includes access to Fuji TV’s 25th-floor observation floor, which offers beautiful views of Tokyo Bay and the city skyline.

Related: Sazae-san Exhibition The Real
Sazae-san illustrations: Sazae-san official website
Photos ©SoraNews24
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