Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am getting into Tomokawa Kazuki.

My attitude to Japanese rock is pretty much perfectly summed up by Reynold’s chapter on it in Retromania and predictably it seems like the traditional music and the folk is way more interesting/exciting than the Boredoms or whoever (I was initiated into the Biwa through the Mimi Nashi Houichi section of the full length DVD release of Kobayashi’s awesome Kaidan, the Shamisen through tiny folk clubs in Okinawa.)

Actually the same seems to go for films and writers too, I can’t help but think that many of the artists who are feted in the West (I’m thinking here in film pretty much about Oshima who I have to say has made some dreadful films, Empire of Passion is a colossal turkey, innit, Realm of the Senses utterly tedious) are basically loved for being The Japanese Goddard, the Japanese Kafka, the Japanese X, when in fact most of what I’ve seen that’s really great in film (not a lot (in terms of quantity of films watched, I mean, admittedly I’m still picking my way through it) Ie Samurai Banners, Seppuku, Vengeance is mine or even the Death Note series, seem to be fairly straight forward, non-self-consciously auteurist projects.)

I’m just thinking out loud here and off the top of my head from a position of virtually total ignorance of the language, history and culture of the place so I won’t say anymore as I’m really still completely groping around in the dark re Japan (back off to Fukuoaka in September) and typically many things I had no interest in ie Manga turn out on closer inspection to be this incredibly rich and complex, multifaceted artform, with, for instance, a really strong social realist strand among other things. Actually there’s a point there about my assumptions, based on Manga’s reception, promotion, and its admirers in the West: it looked like tedious “exotic” wacky shit loved by smug or geeky “alternative” types that enjoyed a brief popularity on the back of Akira and that wave of New Tech optimism and cyberpunk Nipponophilia (remember the inconsequential and absolutely revered Tetsuo, by “the Japanese Cronenburg”?) that we had to put up with in the early 90s.

Actually I heard Tomokawa’s “Inakamono No Kara Genki” ( translated superbly as A Bumpkin’s Empty Bravado (I mean I don’t know if that’s a superb translation but it’s a great title)) and thought it was alright, but hadn’t paid full attention to him till recently only to discover that he’s done some really superb stuff and his singing style is distinctive to say the least, but without seeming contrived or simply out for empty effects. There’s a live version of a song “Pistol” from Miike Takashi’s Izo below, ( which, regrettably, I’ll now have to see, despite Takashi being among, to my mind, the dullest hack directors working on the planet today) which gives a pretty good idea of his technique. And a charmer from his earlier (1977) A Natural Voice.

Like I say, I’m groping and I’m happy to be schooled by enlightened commentators.


W. Kasper said...

Not that 'straightforward', but I'd recommend the poetic and - yes! - very HAUNTOLOGICAL film trilogy from Kobo Abe and Hiroshi Teshigahara: Woman of the Dunes, Pitfall and Man Without a Face.

Pitfall's the best one, and could have been made last week with its work/class/ghost themes.

As for manga - Yoshohiro Tatsmumi's a good one, currently being translated into English chronologically. Incredibly bleak realism full of despair (post-war Japan, so not surprising). He kickstarted a realist 'tradition' called Gekiga to in answer to the more fantastical pop-manga pioneered by Osamu 'Astroboy' Tezuka.

For modern manga, I prefer more 'cubist' stuff like Yuichi Yokoyama. It's not particularly narrative (not much dialogue), but it does whack the eyeballs a bit. Lots of playing with time and perspective. Highly 'architectural'.

I'd listen to much more Japanese rock, if I could keep up with the breakneck pace of album releases. What I've heard is awesome.

And I like In The Realm of the Senses!

carl said...

yeah, actually i turned Man Without a Face off I'm sorry to say. it felt a bit over-egged, a bit hallo, look at our deeply existentialist movie about identity desire and despair with its modernist soundtrack and nutzoid set design!

and i've always avoided woman of the dunes for the same reasons really...they strike me as being rather trite, contrived...example I was looking at Abe's latest work when i was in Naha and the central character is called Kogito.. geddit! Like a smart-arsed reference to the western philosophical tradition with which Abe is no doubt infatuated...fair enough, but really....Kogito???

Pitfall sounds interating though... I'll certainly give it a go...

yeah i need to know more about seems to be absolutely central to Japanese culture... everyone from salarymen to schoolkids seem pretty obsessed by it...

W. Kasper said...

OK point taken about 'Face' - it's probably more interesting as part of the whole trilogy. Woman of the Dunes is existentialism-writ-large, but as with a lot of other films I like for reasons hard to articulate, there's imagery and atmospheres that just hit the spot. Pitfall is the best by far. It did come to mind a lot when I read (British-based) hauntology stuff.

The thing about mainstream manga is - those eyes give me the creeps. Something vaguely unsavoury about it.

Seb said...

Japan is a country of hobbyists, and manga just happens to be an easy, affordable, and accessible hobby to get into - but it's hardly fundamental. A great many of my Japanese friends don't read it, and no one bats an eye when they hear that I've no interest in it despite however many years I've lived here.

(On the other hand, tell 'em I don't have a cellphone and they literally choke in disbelief.)

Reynolds has a chapter on Japanese rock in Retromania? Damn, now I've really got to pick that book up. Is there any way you could give me a 2-3 sentence summary of the chapter? I'll gladly reciprocate with my full take on it from a pseudo-insider's perspective...