"To make a story convincing, the drawn and painted architecture has to support the world in the film," curator Stefan Riekeles tells Amy Frearson of Dezeen

Riekeles began visiting the studios of Japanese animators a decade ago, reports Khong. He was struck by the visual aethetics the designers projected onto their fictional cities. These films drew on the themes of "cyberpunk," a noir subgenre of science fiction that arose from authors like Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson speculating on the relationship between humanity and technology.

Each of the settings on display in the exhibit capture that promise of the future balanced with the starkness of reality. The settings also celebrate a disappearing craft—hand-drawn animation. The anime industry long resisted the shift to computer-generated art that took hold in the West starting in the 1990s, but as technology has advanced, fewer and fewer artists practice the craft traditionally, making the art on display especially striking.