Design

Manila as an Anime Setting Looks Like Somewhere We'd Like to Live In

Here's how the artist did it.
IMAGE Ralph Justin Ulep
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It’s always amusing to have the places we pass everyday presented in a way that makes us look at them with fresh eyes. And while Manila will probably never look like Tokyo, we now know how it would look as the setting of an anime.


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Adamson University student Ralph Justin Ulep repaints photos of Manila in the style of his favorite director and animator, Makoto Shinkai. Shinkai is behind award-winning animated films like Kimi no na wa (Your Name) and 5 Centimeters Per Second. 

“What I love about his style is the attention to detail when he makes his backgrounds for his anime. It’s like it really lets you feel the mood of the scene,” Ulep explains.


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Ulep’s illustrations don’t shy away from the gritty aspect of Manila—some of the soot and grime is still there. But there’s something in the bluish hues he uses that makes these typically banal settings look refreshing.

“I like to [give it a] happy-ish vibe. Like EDSA is a notorious place for commuters di ba? Kaya I just want them to reimagine the place at masasabi nila ‘sana ganito nalang kaganda ang EDSA’,” Ulep says. 

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It certainly looks like he’s succeeded—after Facebook user Remie Jordan shared his photos, the post garnered over 29,000 likes and 18,000 shares. “I really didn’t expect that my artwork would go viral kasi in the first place, I just do it every time I’m bored. So I’m really shocked,” Ulep says.

To achieve the “anime” effect, he uses a process called “paint-over-photo” or “matte painting.” He paints over a real image while leaving some subjects unedited, then he softens them up with brushes in Adobe Photoshop.


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When asked what typical anime plot he imagines taking place in his drawings, he says, “I think a drama or love story like Kimi no na wa or 5 Centimeters Per Second. As for where the meteor in Kimi no na wa would strike, Ulep says, “I actually imagine it falling in Tagaytay because they have a (somehow) similar location, hahaha!”

Ulep is now working on applying the same technique to photos of Binondo and Escolta. Given how beautifully executed Ulep’s illustrations are, we’re certainly looking forward to seeing more of his work. Thanks to him, it’s a little bit easier to imagine fantastic things happening in our ordinary lives, just like the characters of our favorite anime.

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Angelica Gutierrez
Angelica is currently Editorial Assistant for Esquiremag.ph.
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