Evil rusted wormwood lungs lying on the floor all day. Itchy eyes, people trying to break into my head, runny nose, running away from America. Bathing in red sundown Shimokitazawa. It’s a weird little diorama from the front of the magazine.
Flashback to something we had nearly forgotten about because the years are getting on now: Aspiring biological entity Pedro Edogawa doesn't know anything anymore and prolonged exposure to different time zones, never ending jet lag, extended periods of isolation, crowded narrow spaces, languages he can’t fully speak or read supplemented by a short list of phrases that get him through the day without any incident, spinning forward on purity café time hoping the staff has forgotten about him so he can stay forever, avoiding eye contact deliberately and instinctively, legs and feet always walking, always hurting, pretending he is invisible, just a fixed point of sensory input that glides through the tunnels and sidewalks of Tokyo3 like second hand smoke that no one seeks to pinpoint anymore, mixing in as it does with a light mist of human odor that is inescapable when he’s pressed flat against a door and window on the Doubutsu-sen with others like himself speeding backwards on tracks to a fixed series of destinations and transfers like this one right here.
Hiroyuki Takahashi is a Japanese artist whose eye-popping work is supercharged with the influence of anime and manga. Now, he is teaming up with Crunchyroll for a series of exclusive new projects. Read an interview with Takahashi and enjoy his art via an image gallery, after the jump!
Tease + title reveal for my upcoming web comic collaboration with Hiroyuki Takahashi… He draws, I write, you get HYPERSONIC. Spoiler for deep readers: although radically different in style and content, this will be the second part of the Mystery Frequency saga following Paranoia Girls. More in early 2015.
Her lace glove hand holding a tightly folded McDonald's bag containing hot apple pie within for warmth, Luna Kobayashi is wandering on high heeled sneakers down a cold rainy day shotengai towards the JR station, frayed and torn pitari cold mask plastered across her mouth, medical bandage for a right eye, her ruined face a masterpiece framed by an imitation fur cheap down jacket hood. From her strange gait alone comes the rapid switch of weather which takes effect as soon as we get on the Shonan Shinjuku line at 4:27. We go from passing through mere clouds and drizzle to miles of cold hard stone above our heads, asphyxiated dead blue colors like the whole world under polar icewater now; nothing left to see except dying sun, fluorescent office light, and LEDs all blurred by moving train windows like this. And then she stops walking / stumbling long enough to finally lay down and die, last breaths clearly visible, but seen by no one, as steam mingling and twisting with evaporating mositure from the runied city below.
I am gathered here today to pay tribute to Bunta Sugawara whose death marks the end of the modern movie yakuza, the last shot of the machine gun dragons, and the final police sweep of the Showa era...
Discovering Bunta’s 1970s output on dozens of VHS tapes at SF’s Japan Town (egged on by Chris D.’s pioneering reviews in Asian Trash Cinema magazine) pretty much changed my life. Gendai Yakuza – Hitokiri Yota (AKA Street Mobster) in particular wound up a primal scene, and without it, I might never have wandered into the deep end of Japanese pop culture beyond the boundaries of anime and kaiju flicks.
Back then, it was impossible to find a subtitled copy of any of the Kinji Fukasaku / Sugawara films, but Bunta’s hellfire persona was more than enough to go on. There was THAT FACE, twisting and contorting with overclocked emotion. Then there was THAT VOICE, which could go from a deep menacing rumble to something I can only equate with the sound of an entire room filled with beer bottles breaking and ramen bowls shattering (usually over someone’s head). I needed to write about it. I wound up writing books about it...
Looking back, I think I was seeing something of my own father when I saw Bunta and many of the yakuza movie tough guys mixing it up. While he wasn’t an abusive person by nature, explosive rage mixed with remote coolness was something I did experience up close on several occasions. I think I was trying to understand what masculine violence was and where it came from. I wound up looking for answers in post-war Japan; both in real history and in the exploitation “true document” films in which Bunta and directors like Kinji Fukasaku relived their own past traumas in.
Bunta’s death arrives mere weeks after the loss of fellow icon Takakura Ken (that's both of them destroying the world in the picture above). Together, they were the alpha and omega, the ninkyo and the jitsuroku, of Japan’s movie tough guys. Ken was stoic, suffering, and deeply connected to the crisis of Modernization during the Meiji and Taisho era. Bunta was something more primal: a libidinal Frankenstein monster that 20th century Japan created by proxy, but could not tame with law and order. An outsider outlaw no matter what gang he might belong to.
That both Bunta and Ken are gone means we are on our own now -- death claims victory in yet another cynical freeze frame ending – but at least we will forever have role models, real and imaginary, for how battles without honor or humanity can be fought.
So let's start everything over right here, right now.... what the fuck are you staring at?
Trying to wonder now what good it all did me. Still here in this place where I have to test it out every day. Hand out the window, neighbors wondering what’s wrong. We never ask, we never see each other. Running from sidewalk to doorway. Inverted giant triangle pointed downwards like sword point at the park, diorama sized palace where the empress lives only a few blocks away. Probably just playing a TV game, lost in SNS bullshit, giving half-attention to someone in the same room, getting older, waiting until the wrinkles around your eyes expand into frowns, upset at the fact that you are aging (which is bound to make me smile). Protests at the holy sites nearby, but who has bandwidth for that? Have to devote discipline to others, larger causes. I guess we need the money until it finally stops.
Sharp Fox Face. She is walking past ruins of burnt building behind koban, moving away from Basketball Street and towards Spain zaka and from there points unknown. Pinpoint vector lines connecting motion of muscle tissue to cloud shapes overhead. Giant hands in the sky above cupping the Yamanote line below, maintaining the tiny gardens with mass humidity, the moisture coming from you and me as we work ourselves to get on and off the trains to take us to department stores escalators, lines for theme cafes, fast food places with foreign staff, stuff to look and buy on an endless gauntlet (permanent state of construction / reconstruction) inside air conditioning jacked on high. I’m hot, then I’m freezing, now I’m crawling home to lay on the floor where I’ll be sure to find at least a bug or two hiding in the always too-small-sheets when I wake up at 2:46am thinking about what to do for the next seven hours before Shibuya opens and fills up with Sharp Fox Faces all over again.
Paranoia Girls launched a few weeks ago and we are three pages in. English and Japanese versions are available. All hail artist Yunico Uchiyama for making my psychedelic suburban surrealist daydreams a semi-reality.
I fulfilled a freelance fantasy of mine and started writing for MTV81. My latest piece for them is on THE BLOCK PARADE's epic all night club event. Read here.
We think about a world, hollowed out, surrounded by silent invisible super weapons in space. Billions of biological processes below hung on tiny first person perspectives to what end… can’t ever be shown; field of vision always too small. Draped and un-structured. The inability to execute much beyond consuming what is front of you; minefields of miscommunication, dominated by landscapes someone else made decades ago, went home to their own rabbit hutch night after night trying to pass the time without incident. Red missile outlines pouring down on us from assorted points on the compass, the defense shield lazily catching them in neon green geometric grids. Who’s to say they aren’t inside us now? I'm armor and evasion. You keep on launching more at me.
Walking to Asakusa through deserted cityscape. Stores are shuttered. Very few people streaking by on bicycle or scattering to conbini safety. It’s a holiday and the sky is heavy and grey. Time wave zero vibrations flowing out from the subways, water rushing through dark and secret passages under heavy steel manhole covers. Ghosts we can’t see in the street. Going in the wrong direction so I get a cab. Figuring Sensoji and Kaminarimon will be the last places effected by the flow, I tell Archery Bow Child to meet me at the Nakamise gate. For once we both arrive at the same time. Impermanence holding fast here in the form of fading Kodak film booth, eroding instant cameras from decades past. American Godzilla toys stacked up in the old omochaya. Corrugated gates coming down. It’s a holiday after all. We make for Rokku-za to see what happened to the movie theaters: the Toho and the Meigaza only to find construction sites. Cops and drunks still clinging to their old ways, but the parachute ride at Hanayashiki looks like a building crane now. A glittering celestial Don Quijote dominates the block now, all lights and new car smell like something out of a Las Vegas afterlife. Archery Bow Child consults her clackbox to see what the street used to look like 100 years ago, but there are no matches, no hits, and everything comes back completely and totally blank. We were just projecting it ourselves the whole time.