No Music, No Message, No Meaning: Japanoise

“I wanted to compose real surrealistic music in a non-musical way. Surrealism is also reaching unconsciousness. Noise is the primitive and collective consciousness of music. My composition is automatism, not improvisation.”

Pornography is the unconsciousness of sex. Noise is the unconsciousness of music. Merzbow is erotic like a car crash can be related to genital intercourse. The sound of Merzbow is like Orgone energy– the color of shiny silver. ”

Masami Akita, AKA Merzbow [1]


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Blood-Spattered Innocents: The Cachet of the ‘Grotesque Cute’

by Gregory Ranzini

Uh, ouch?

Introduction: Attack of the Cake-Demon

At 11:56, on January 20, 2011, the popular Western imageboard 4chan’s (link not safe for work/life/anything) anime and manga board, /a/, was watching live Japanese TV. This was not, in itself, unusual- although not as (in)famous as its sister board /b/, /a/ too boasts a very active community of Internet addicts more than willing to while away a few hours in the middle of the day (or night) with scabrous chatter and streaming video. Nor was their choice of show particularly surprising: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica,, a mahou shoujo (‘magical girl’) program from the reliably competent SHAFT Animation that had been getting muted, but positive, buzz. It was not shaping up to be overly original, of course, but that was beside the point. Madoka was being marketed as a genre piece; therefore, as with many such codified forms, its appeal was one of familiarity: an ‘ordinary’ middle-school girl is offered supernatural powers, accessed through a talismanic gem and associated with a change in costume, that she might fight for her ideals and to protect others. [Read more…]

Coming to America: J-Horror

by Mary Grob

Film critics and fans alike agree that the American horror genre entered into a slump during the 1990’s that it has yet to recover from. Gone are the days of psychological thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and even the slasher film, an American horror stable since the 1970’s, has lost its appeal. Horror fans have been left wanting something new to chill their blood [1]. In the late 1990’s, a new wave of films known as J-Horror began to develop a cult following in the US. Soon after, Hollywood began to take notice of these foreign films, and the answer to America’s horror slump appeared to have been found within Japan. [Read more…]

Standing Out and Fitting In: Street Fashion and the Search for Identity and Power in Post Bubble Japan

by Tori Szczesniak

Fashion is the means of expressing identity. Dressing is a ritualistic, symbolic, everyday practice that we use to situate ourselves in the chaotic, judgmental world around us.  The simple act of putting on a piece of clothing immediately conveys one’s position of cultural power, class distinction, gender, and subculture, all while participating in the global economy. Deciding what we wear matters, especially in an urban, capitalist society where fashion is a tool to distinguish ourselves from one another. On an international scale, the fashion industry represents an interesting view of understanding national power and identity [3].

Professional Designers Dare to be Different

The early 1980s marked an explosion of Japanese fashion in the global industry. The fashion world reacted strongly to the avant-garde, radically different ideas of the country’s designers. The new garments articulated different ideas of what fashion was and the relationship of clothes and body. Japan gradually became a genuine force of change, challenging tradition and introducing new artistic contradictions [3]. [Read more…]