The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat

No, this anime is not hentai despite the title. This is a fluffy rom-com that centers on the antics of Yoto Yokodera, the Hentai Prince, Tsukiko Tsutasukakushi, and a trickster god. The trickster god lives in stone cats. When a person wishes on the cat and gives it an offering, the god grants the wish. Only the wish is not granted as expected. The god also gives any personality traits a person wishes gone to someone who needs it. Well, Yoto loses the ability to lie and Azusa loses the ability to show emotions. The pair work together to find the people who gained the traits wished away in order to regain them.

hentai-prince-tsukikoYoto becomes a larger perv without the ability to lie and filter what he says and does. This leads him to be called the Pervert Prince. Of course, he is absorbed in ecchi, dating sims, and splutters out his views of boobs and more. Most of the comedy centers on misunderstandings and his perversity. Some of the other antics works in other problems the trickster stony cat causes for the people around Yoto and Tsukiko.

Hentai Prince is pretty standard fare. Yoto is a pervert who is a nice guy inside. He eventually develops relationships with the popular golden hair girl, Azusa along with 2 more girls. Tsukiko’s older sister falls for Yoto through his lie of having a younger identical twin. Again, pretty standard harem fare. Expect the usual “oops I walked in while she was taking a shower” scene. There are plenty of flat chest jokes and references to Yoto’s porn collection. Yoto has zero pride or dignity. He often publicly acts as Azusa’s dog because he cannot hide his true feelings.

tsutsukakushi_tsukikoThere isn’t much else to say about this 12 episode run. The animation isn’t stellar. It often deforms for comedic purposes. Yoto is annoying. I find most perverted harem protagonists that way. Each episode had a moment that was amusing. Most of the time I found these scenes inadvertently amusing. Scenes that were not meant to be funny struck me as funny, in other words. Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat is alright for some light laughs.

I wonder if the pervert antics of this genre started with reality and started a feedback loop or if the genre influenced reality first. Judging by the perverse antics we see in American culture, I suspect reality (though at first limited and rare) started the antics found in these comedies. I doubt these types of behaviors are common, however.  Some otaku mistake fictional behavior for real behavior. Or make these fictional behaviors real.

I am not a fan of these type of comedies. That was the main reason why I try to watch them. So far, they seem to follow certain patterns and jokes: shower/hot spring scenes, the mistaken up-skirt scene, and other patterns.  I am not one to judge this genre of anime. I prefer serious stories. In any case, if you like fluffy lighthearted comedies with cute female characters who don’t tolerate a pervert, Hentai Prince might be one for you to watch. Because of the sexual jokes (there isn’t any real nudity), fan service, and other sexual references this anime is not suitable for everyone’s sensibilities.

The Kamikaze–Japan’s Three Divine Winds

Mongol fleet destroyed by the divine wind. By Kikuchi Yōsai, 1847.

Mongol fleet destroyed by the divine wind. By Kikuchi Yōsai, 1847.

Japan’s turbulent history was marked by a series of internal wars among various noble factions, vying for the title of Shogun. While most of its history was spent fighting itself, the greatest threat to Japan came from outside, in the guise of Kublai Khan. Grandson of the infamous Ghengis Khan, Kublai succeeded to the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260. He focused the wrath of the Mongol hordes against the Sung dynasty in China, using a combination of Mongol warriors and Chinese defectors to turn the tide against Sung defenders.

Even as Kublai Khan was wreaking havoc across China, he turned his eyes to Japan. The Japanese had long been trade partners with the Sung dynasty, and this financial support was vital to continued resistance in China. Kublai Khan sent envoys to the Japanese in 1266 and 1268, demanding them to become part of the Mongol Empire and to cut all trade ties to the Sung. The Shogunate rebuffed the Mongol offer and summarily executed the Khan’s representatives.

Kublai Khan could not let this insult go unpunished. The fury of the Great Khan was aimed squarely at Japan.

The First Divine Wind

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan

Kublai ordered his vassals in Korea to construct a great fleet to punish Japan for its insolence. Some 900 ships strong, the fleet would transport 23,000 Chinese and Mongol soldiers and 7,000 Korean sailors.

The force set sail on October 3, 1274, only 120 miles of the Korea Strait between them and the Japanese home islands. Their first target was the island of Tsushima, situated in the middle of the strait. Its tiny garrison was easily overwhelmed. The garrison at the island of Iki, closer to the main islands, was also soon overwhelmed. By October 14, the fleet attacked the port of Hirado, positioning itself to launch the invasion of the main island.

Spies among the Koreans had warned the Japanese that the attack would come at Hakata Bay. Samurai and their retainers rushed to the area, some 6,000 forming up in a hastily assembled army, ready to fend off the foreign invaders. It wasn’t long before the samurai and the Mongol invaders clashed on the battlefield, and their differing approaches to warfare soon became apparent. The samurai, motivated to seek honor, attempted to instigate individual duels, while the Mongol and Chinese forces fought as a unit.

Even so, the samurai fought well, despite being hugely outnumbered. Over the course of a week, the invaders pushed them back from the beaches of Hakata Bay. By the 20th, the Japanese were forced to abandon their position and retreat 10 miles to an abandoned fortress at Mizuki.

Samurai, facing Mongol arrows and bombs.

Samurai, facing Mongol arrows and bombs.

The wounded Japanese gathered their strength at the ancient castle, with reinforcements pouring in from the countryside. Meanwhile, the Khan’s army failed to press its advantage. Perhaps they feared a Japanese ambush if they pressed further inland. They certainly feared the weather, which was deteriorating quickly. Korean sailors, familiar with the fickle nature of weather on the Korean Strait, believed a typhoon was on the way. The Great Khan’s fleet would be helpless moored in the rocky waters of Hakata Bay.

Mongol leaders then decided to withdrawal, but they were too late. The storm struck, scattering the mighty fleet and grounding some 50 ships. Samurai promptly boarded the stricken ships and killed anyone they found on board.

Kublai Khan’s invasion was defeated, but barely. In fact, the aborted invasion was a success, as it succeeded in its objective to cut Japanese trade with the Sung.  For its part, the Shogunate was made painfully aware of how woefully unprepared it was to stand toe to toe with the world’s largest empire. Knowing that the Khan would not forgive or forget, Japan’s leaders prepared for a second invasion of the homeland. They ordered a 5-9 foot stone wall built along the 25 mile stretch of the bay, set back 150 feet from the beach. Locals were levied to serve on the wall, while fishing boats and their crews were forced into service as an ad hoc navy.

The Second Divine Wind

Meanwhile, the Khan consolidated his hold on China. He sent envoys to Japan again in 1275. The Shogunate had them executed. Four years later, as the Khan finished off the last of the Sung resistance, he sent still more representatives. These were summarily executed on the beach at Hakata Bay, before even meeting the Shogun.

Furious at the insult, Kublai Khan ordered two massive fleets assembled. The first consisted of 900 ships, manned by 40,000 Mongol and Korean warriors and 17,000 sailors. This was dubbed the Koryo Eastern Route Division. The second, the Chinese Chiang-Non Division, consisted of 3,500 ships and 100,000 Chinese soldiers. The world would never seen another sea borne invasion force this large again until World War II.

The Eastern Route Division struck out for Japan on May 3, 1281. They took Iki within a week. The original plan was for both divisions to meet at Iki and strike Hakata Bay as one. But Eastern Route commanders grew impatient, and by mid-June decided to attempt an assault on their own. However, the defensive wall did its work well, and the Japanese defenders shoved the Mongols back into the sea.

The bloodied invaders withdrew to Shika Island. Their pain did not end when they took to the sea. Japan’s re-purposed fishing and trade ships proved to be apt raiding vessels, and the samurai’s skill at close quarters combat proved deadly among the confines of a ship. So harassed, the Mongols were forced to withdraw back to Iki, with their Japanese pursuers not far behind.

Samurai boarding enemy ships.

Samurai boarding enemy ships.

When the Chinese Division finally arrived, they combined with the bloodied Eastern Route Division at Hirado. The combined force made for Imari Bay, 30 miles south of Hakata, hoping to bypass the formidable defenses at Hakata. The Japanese were waiting. The forces met on the beach, beginning a two-week long battle. While the land forces fought, the sailors chained their ships together to form a floating fortress. The Japanese coastal navy could do little against the massive armada. Meanwhile, both sides suffered mounting losses in the hard fighting ashore.

At this point, legend and history meet. The Mongols were preparing to launch their final offensive against the vastly outnumbered Japanese. The situation looked impossible. Emperor Kameyama, descendent of the goddess Amaterasu according to legend, pleaded with his divine ancestors to save his people from destruction.

On July 30, they answered. A typhoon struck the gathered Mongol ships with hellish fury. The invading armada, moored together as it was to defend against attack, was unable to maneuver in the gale force winds and massive waves. Ships slammed into each other as they tried to escape the narrow bay, sinking into the restless waters with their crews trapped aboard. Only the lightest, most maneuverable craft were able to escape the natural massacre. Japanese legend claims that some 4,000 ships sank that day, drowning approximately 100,000 men. Those who survived and washed ashore were executed. The bay entrance, it was said, was so clogged with debris that “a person could walk across from one point of land to another on a mass of wreckage.”

Even if the extent of the devastation was exaggerated by the Japanese, it was enough to drive back the invaders for good. The defeat was so stunning that Kublai Khan could not muster support for a third invasion.

 

The Third Divine Wind

The second kamikaze, and the first to be called a “divine wind,” marked a change in how the Japanese saw themselves. The storm could only have been the act of a divine hand reaching from the heavens to influence the affairs of man. The Japanese began to see their islands, and thus themselves, as favored by the gods. This belief in Japanese exceptionalism would later fuel Japanese isolationism and, in the 20th century, the extreme nationalism the characterized Japan during World War II.

Zeroes, being prepared for suicide attacks.

Zeroes, being prepared for suicide attacks.

This extreme nationalism depended on co-opting history and culture to serve the ends of a fascist regime. When Japan found itself on the defensive in World War II, the leadership hearkened back to the storms of the 13th century that saved the homeland from foreign invaders. But, as with everything touched by their nationalistic fervor, they took a formative event in the Japanese national identity and twisted it to their own ends. The “divine wind” that would save the Japanese from the Allied invaders would not come in the form of a well-timed typhoon, but as young men willing to die for their family and country.

The concept was advanced by Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro, who recognized by the latter part of the war that the Japanese Air Force could no longer compete with the technologically and numerically superior Americans. So, he proposed using planes as manned missiles, the advantage being that the pilots of the suicide planes would be easy to train. They’d only need to learn how to take off, not land. The Vice Admiral believed that the suicide bombers would terrify the Allies and boost morale among the Japanese populace.

USS Louisville hit by a kamikaze.

USS Louisville hit by a kamikaze.

Oddly enough, the Japanese were not the originators of the term kamikaze as suicide pilots. The pilots were dubbed Shinpu. It was American translators who saw the characters forming the word as being an allusion to the nation-saving storms of the past. This slip in interpretation eventually got back to the Japanese, who adopted it as their own.

The third divine wind damaged or sunk 300 US ships and was responsible for some 15,000 US casualties. Thousands of Japanese died executing suicide attacks. Thousands more were ready to die, should Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan, be executed.

In many ways, the third divine wind not only failed to drive away the American invaders, but it helped hasten the Japanese defeat. Qualified pilots died by the hundreds during the program, not to mention the destruction of precious planes. Also, the kamikaze attacks hardened American resolve to defeat the hated Japanese. Finally, the kamikaze attacks factored into Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On September 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered. No divine wind, man-made or otherwise, could save Japan from bearing “the unbearable” burden of defeat.

Sources:

Clements, Jonathan. “A Brief History of the Samurai: A New History of the Warrior Elite.” Constable & Robinson, Ltd. 2010. pgs 302-303.

Delgado, James P. “Kublai Khan vs. Kamikaze.” Military History. July 2011. Vol 28 Issue 2. p.58.

“The Kamikaze Threat.” pbs.org. 2003. Public Broadcasting System. October 25, 2014. http://www.pbs.org/perilousfight/psychology/the_kamikaze_threat/

Lannom, Gloria W. “Beware the Kamikaze.” Calliope. March 2012. Vol. 22. Issue 6. p.15-17.

The End of Bleach…for now

BleachThere is something to be said about how anime can hold our attention for years on end. Bleach managed to hold my attention for over 7 years. Only Star Trek managed to come close. I watched Bleach on Adult Swim and looked forward to each Saturday night. It was my night to relax and forget about being an adult.

Don’t get me wrong, Bleach has some problems. Fillers and the fact that Kubo fails to kill any of the large cast hurt the series. But, Bleach gets enough right that I kept coming back to watch. Like most anime, it had pacing problems. Cutting into a fight with comedy or backstory is a terrible habit Bleach inherited from the rest of shonen. Bleach had painful moments, but it moments of badassery that made the slog through filler and comedy worth it.

Bleach Friends Meme

One of my favorite aspects of Bleach is the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia. The understated aspects of their relationship is actually well done. Rukia understood Ichigo as no other character does. She always has his back and Kubo suggests their share more than friendship bonds. Orihime has an overt romantic interest in Ichigo, but Ichigo treats her similar to his sisters. Rukia and Ichigo’s relationship is a matter of fact for the characters. Even Orihime admits this is many scenes. The final episode of this run cements the exclusive bonds Rukia and Ichigo share.

Some Spoilers Ahead

bleach-gang

Despite enjoying the past 7 years of Bleach, I wish the story ended back during the Rukia capture arc. The arc was complete outside of the confrontation of Aizen. While the later arcs have some excellent moments, they lacked the feel of the first arc. Perhaps having Ichigo and gang pursue Aizen immediately would have worked better. I will admit that I was disappointed in the Aizen conflict. Some or even most of the Soul Society captains should have died. This would have increased the tension of the conflict. As it stands, there is little tension or risk. We all know Kubo would not kill any of the Soul Society. This hesitation hurts Ichigo’s conflict. If Aizen killed the Head Captain by overpowering him, Ichigo would look that much more powerful when he bests Aizen. It also introduces interesting internal problems with the Soul Society. How could it exist with at least half its captains dead?

 

Despite lacking tension building, I enjoyed Bleach. It ending on Adult Swim/Toonami is an end of an era akin to when the station lost rights to Inuyasha. I look forward to DragonBall Kai taking Bleach’s slot.  However, there is a wistfulness, bittersweet, whenever a long watched anime series ends. Granted. Bleach will return when the final arc is finished. But, there is still a feeling of finality. Everything must end.

Awww... so cute

Awww… so cute

Fictional characters have as much of an impact on us as real people. We cry with them and savor their victories. Some people grow up with them. Goku is a friend and role model for many people. While I entered anime too late (in my 20s) to have anime characters be role models, I appreciate the impact they can have. For many teens, Ichigo is the new Goku. His struggles has shaped their teen years. Consider how long 7 years or so can be. A 13 year old will watch Bleach through the entirety of his teen years. She will literally grow up with Ichigo and Rukia. The character’s struggles and triumphs will sometimes mirror the teen’s. This is why people look fondly on Goku. This is why people will also look fondly on Ichigo and Rukia. These characters are a part of growing up. Both DBZ and Bleach provide moral lessons that the viewer will internalize over the years of watching. There are worse role models than Goku and Ichigo.

Bleach Friendship Meme Quote

Anime characters are easier to identify with than American superheroes. Goku, Rukia, and Ichigo fail. They have to work up to their powers. Superman is too powerful to identify with. Anime is good about providing role models that grow into their roles just as we have to go into adulthood.

Despite its problems, I will remember Bleach fondly and look forward to the finale when the manga is finished. Ichigo, Rukia, and friends have left an impact on the hearts and minds of teens all over the world. The moral lessons of friendship, loyalty, and compassion are timeliness.

An Ancient Science Fiction Story: The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child

Discovery of the Moonchild.

Discovery of the Moonchild.

Modern Japan is well known for its fascination with all things robotic. This is rooted deep in their history, when they used clockwork puppets called the Karakuri Ninyao to play out folk stories during religious festivals. Like their preoccupation with robots, the Japanese are well known for their contributions to science fiction.  Famous science fiction from Japan ranges from kaiju monster flicks of the 1950s like Godzilla to iconic anime like Akira, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Cowboy Bebop.

Not surprisingly, the roots of this genre run deep in Japan. The oldest surviving folkloric narrative in Japan, dating from around the 10th century, is widely considered among the oldest science fiction style story in the world. The story is called “The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child.”

An old, old story, in brief

Long ago, an old bamboo cutter and his wife eked out a lonely existence. One day, the bamboo cutter was surprised to see a bamboo stalk glowing with light. When he cut it open, he found a tiny girl nestled inside. He took her home and he and his wife raised the radiant child as their own. When the bamboo cutter returned to work, he found that the stalk the child had occupied would contain gold when he cut it open again. Soon he and his wife were rich and able to buy a big house.

During that time, the child grew to become a beautiful young woman. She gave off a faint glow, and to look on her filled her old parents with joy. They named her Princess Moonlight because of her glow. Soon though word of her beauty spread far and wide, and men from all over clamored to lay their eyes on her. Five noblemen in particular were enamored with her, staying outside her house for days on end just to catch a glimpse of her. Finally, her aged father persuades the girl to at least give them a chance. She tells the would-be husbands that she would marry whoever carries out a task she gives them. Each was given an impossible task. The first was asked to bring her the stone bowl of the Buddha back from India. The second was to give her the branch of a miraculous tree growing on Mount Horai, that was said to sprout jewels instead of fruit. The third was asked to bring her the skin of a fire-rat, from China. The fourth was told to bring her a colorful jewel that a dragon carried on its head, while the fifth was tasked with finding the swallow which carried a shell in its stomach and bring the shell back to her.

Long story short, each noble failed in his task. Some tried to deceive Princess Moonlight, while others gave up when the task proved impossible. One noble was severely injured, or killed in some versions.

The Emperor heard of Princess Moonlight’s beauty, and sent Court ladies to see if she was really as beautiful as rumor had it. When they returned and said that it was indeed true, he summoned Princess Moonlight to the palace. She refused. Intrigued, he visited her home and quickly became smitten with her.

However, Princess Moonlight was not interested in any terrestrial suitor. She was gradually becoming more withdrawn, and would spend a lot of time at night staring at the moon.  One night she revealed to her step-father that she had originally came from the moon, sent to escape a devastating war (or, in some versions, as a punishment). She said that she would one day return, and she did not want to be tied down in a marriage. Her parents grieved that she would one day leave them.

The Emperor, who heard the news, was not happy at all. When the Emperor had confirmed it, he sent troops to secure the house. One thousand were stationed on the roof, while another thousand watched the perimeter. Princess Moonlight’s parents hid her in an inner room.

Kaguya returns to the moon.

Kaguya returns to the moon.

Princess Moonlight tried to dissuade the would be protectors, saying that no preparations of the Earth dwellers could stop the moon-people. But they continued to keep her under guard. The night wore on and the moon rose high. Dawn approached and the earthlings believed that they would make it through the night without incident. Then a cloud began to form on the moon. It rolled toward them, until it loomed over the house. Radiant figures stood in a giant cloud wreathed chariot. The moon people explain that they sent the girl to earth, and the gold was also sent as a stipend for her care.  The moon people wouldn’t be talked out of their purpose. They offered Princess Moonlight the Elixir of Life and a potion which would wipe her experiences on earth from her memory forever.

She took the Elixir of Life but refused the potion. She wrote a letter to the Emperor and gave him a phial of the Elixir of Life. She leaves the letter and drinks the potion before being taken back home to the moon.

The letter was taken to the palace. The Emperor refused to read it or take the Elixir. He had the letter taken to Mount Fuji to be burnt as an offering to Princess Moonlight, which is why smoke can be seen to this day rising out of Mt. Fuji.

Traditional folktale with scifi elements

While science fiction was not a genre at the time this folktale was written, the story definitely has some science fiction elements. Specifically, the idea of aliens (the moon people) coming to earth on a fantastic vehicle. It seems like a bizarre addition to what would otherwise be a fairly typical folktale for the region. A similar story, the story of Momotaro, involves a small girl emerging from a peach, similar to how Princess Moonlight was found in a bamboo stalk. That sort of story is fairly common to East Asia, but the proto-scifi elements are unique. It goes to show that the Japanese propensity for unique story telling is rooted deep in its cultural history.

Sources:

“The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child: Japanese Folktale.” WorldofTales.com. 2014. World of Tales. November 1, 2014. http://www.worldoftales.com/Asian_folktales/Japanese_folktale_15.html

“Once Upon a Time in Japan.” NHK World. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/folktale/special/english/kaguya/overview.html

 

Chaos;Head

Chaos;HEAdChaos;Head is based on a Japanese visual novel.  Takumi Nishijo is a reclusive otaku who lives for 2D girls. He is essentially a hikkikomori that suffers from intense delusions. The delusions begin to crack his psyche when he imagines himself as the person behind a series of murders. Labeled New Generation Madness by the media, the murders are grotesque. Takumi is shown images of the murders by a person call Shogun (or the General) in a chat room. Takumi’s life begins to spiral out of control when he stumbles across a real New Gen murder scene and a mysterious pink haired girl.

In typical visual novel fashion, Takumi is surrounded by females. Only these girls have the strange ability to create weapons called Di-Swords. These blades are transparent until they are “real booted.” Only people with the ability to summon their own blades are able to see the sword in their transparent state. Of course, Takumi has this ability. He is the hero after all. Chaos; Head tries to paint a mystery, but you can quickly tease out what is going on. I had most of the mystery worked out before the anime did the big reveal.

What makes the anime interesting is the Takumi’ decent into madness . It does a good job portraying his increasing insanity and doubts. Although, as a character, Takumi annoyed me. He had no real fight or flight response. Situations where he just shuts down and grovels would have most people running. When people are frozen by fright, they don’t move. Above all, they don’t grovel and yammer. Of course, this plays into his lack of social abilities.

chaos;head-delusionsThis 12 episode series only has enough time to sketch the supporting cast. The characters are mostly flat stereotypes. Sena Aoi is the strong willed black haired fighting female with a father issue. Kozue Orihara is the bubbly, bumbling ditz. Ayase Kishimoto is the eccentric spiritual character. Rimi Sakihata poses as the childhood friend with a secret. Yawn.  Out of the crew, I found Ayase the most interesting. She is a singer for an indie rock band and acts as Takumi’s guide for a period of time.

Because I enjoy characters, Chaos;Head left me feeling unsatisfied. The sketchiness of the characters and reliance on stereotypes left a lot to be desired. Hikkikomori characters are quickly becoming a stereotype as well. At least Madhouse did a decent job on the animation. It isn’t spectacular, but the animation is solid.

chaos;head-ayaseSo how do I rate Chaos;Head? It held my attention long enough to finish. It had some interesting elements to it. Namely, the insanity of Takumi was interesting. Although Welcome to the NHK handles hikkikomori style madness better. The pseudo-science of the series left me cold. It tried too hard to sound scientific for themes that would be best left unexplained. The oft-mentioned “dead spot” in the brain struck me as trying too hard.  The anime also suffers from pacing problems. Takumi rises from gibbering, pathetic personality to a super-hero far too quickly- single episode quickly.

Chaos;Head is pretty much another anime junk food series. It tastes okay but leaves you unsatisfied.

 

 

Rockabilly in Japan, Baby

japan-rockabilly-sceneRockabillies – or as we call them in the States: Greasers – is a fashion style that can still be found in Harajuku district in Tokyo. The rockabilly (or rokabiri in Japanese) is a strange import from America. Despite being in the style of Greasers, the fashion has roots in country and western music, dating back in the mid to late 1950s (Furmanovsky, 2008; 2014) .  The music came with the American soldiers that stayed around after World War II.

The Rise of the Rockabilly, Baby

American Radio broadcasts to the troops gave the Japanese their first taste of American Greasers and Rockabilly music. Army Sergeant Ted Clemens introduced the people of Kyoto and Osaka to hillbilly and cowboy music in 1946-47 (Furmanovsky, 2008). This generated interest in various young musicians who started to emulate the style. The  simple English lyrics, melodies, and the American flavor appealed to young Japanese men. These men would later become rokabiri after American rock ‘n’ roll entered the mix. Yep, think Elvis Presley (Fumanovsky, 2008; 2014).

Elvis Presley – One of the slickest rockabillies

The word rockabilly comes from smashing “rock” with “hillbilly” (Tulane, n.d.). Pretty much like how Elvis smashed rock with southern American music to make the rockabilly sound.

The Japanese musicians tried to emulate the sound down to southern drawl (Furmanovsky, 2008). Now, consider the challenge of this. Learning to speak (sing) English AND sing it in a southern accent. The groups, like Chuckwagon Boys, managed to become popular with both GIs and other rockabillies despite the challenge (Furmanovsky, 2014).

Just as Greasers were considered degenerate, the rokabirizoku (rockabilly gangs) were considered degenerate.  Yamashita Keijirou and Micky Curtis were among the most popular singers and made Japanese media pay attention. The two singers found themselves the target of groupies. Japanese teen boys would drag them from the stage in excitement and girls would throw stolen toilet paper on stage.  Western Carnival, the trio that included Keijirou and Curtis along with Hirao Masaaki, drew large crowds of toilet paper flingers. Ironically, the trio were shocked by the behavior as well.  Masaaki was Japan’s new Elvis-style performer. The combination of music, groupies, and stolen TP started a backlash that would kill the rockabilly music movement (Furmanovsky, 2014).

The End of Rockabilly Music, Baby

tokyo-travel-things-to-do-138Rockabilly lasted only a decade. By 1960, political changes in Japan and a crackdown on the genre because of fears of open sexuality and drugs stomped down the genre. Sound familiar? The same arguments were used against American rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis and his swaying hips were too much for many authorities. So too in Japan.

However, the element that shove the genre into a niche was the music companies.  The shifts in politics created an interest in popular culture and family friendly images. Music goes where the money is. In 1958, in an interview with Hirao Masaaki, the rokabiri star spoke with a reporter who would write a hit pop song. The rokabiri turned pop.  The song sold more than any of rokabiri song. Pop became the music genre. Kawaii also entered the fray.  (Furmanovsky, 2014). To state the obvious, kawaii won.

The Japanese covers of English songs mainly exists for fans of the 60+ age group (Furmanovsky, 2008). However, the rokabiri look continues on.

It’s all in the Pompadour, Baby

In Tokyo, there is a club where the greased hair and pompadour shine and tower proudly. For 30 years, the Tokyo Rockabilly Club gathered in Yoyogi Park to dance and sing of their love of 1950s American culture. ( CBS News, 2014).

Think the movie Grease, only Japanese. Here is a video:

The big hair style is called a pompadour, and it used to be a lady’s hair style.  The oil slick hair was just slicked back hair without much of a name to it. Although slickers was another name for greasers. In any case, the guys could change their car’s oil by rubbing their head on the engine.

The towering pompadour hair style was named after Jeanne-Antoinette Piosson (1721-1764), the Marquise of Pompadour. As a mistress of King Louis XV, Miss Pompadour created a fashion statement that involved wire and straw (or fabric). Ladies would frizz their hair and stuff it full of straw or fabric to make it tower over them. The pompadour became a symbol of wealth and status – it grew taller and more embellished over time (Sherrow, 2006).

The Marquise de Pompadour rocking an early pompadour.

The Marquise de Pompadour rocking an early pompadour.

The pompadour involved rats. Yep, rats. They would take the furry rodents and…. just kidding. Rats was the name for the padding and false hair that poofed the hairstyle in the 1800s (Sherrow, 2006). Women and men literally had rats in their hair! Maybe the fake hair was made from rats?

The pompadour, as we think of it, with all the greasy sheen was worn by Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, and James Dean (Sherrow, 2006). This is the pompadour the Tokyo Rockabilly Club rocks. Although some of the pompadours rival that of France and Victorian England:

Eat this pompadour Victorian England.

Suck it Victorian England. This pompadour rocks gravity.

Over time, rockabilly morphed from a music movement grounded in the tradition of American western to a fashion style found at Harajuku. Rockabilly styled characters appear time to time in anime, with Space Dandy being one of the most overt rokabiri.

The pompadour is still cool, baby.

The pompadour is still cool, baby.

The music of rockabilly may be mostly forgotten. Groups like the Tokyo Rockabilly Club and anime like Space Dandy will continue to preserve the style and feel of 1950s America and Japan.

References

CBSNews (2014).  Tokyo’s Rockabilly Scene. http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/tokyos-rockabilly-scene/

Furmanovsky, M. (2008). American Country Music in Japan: Lost Piece in the Popular Music History Puzzle. Popular Music and Society 31 [3]. pp. 357-372.

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