THE BEST OF: Okō – Hoozuki no Reitetsu

Hoozuki no Reitetsu’s Okō, my new favourite female character. I love her class and power on top of her awesome look and the fact she’s a demon. Traditional geisha meets modern lolita, class and innocence meets the devil, she’s the ultimate ying/yang character. Although being fairly new she’s picking up a following already…

Rato (Cosplay, South Korea)
Lozi (Cosplay, Hong Kong)
Yoki (Cosplay, Japan)
yuuko708 (Cosplay, Taiwan)
MIRA (Cosplay, Japan)

Tokyo Special 2/10 – Sakura by phantastic420

For every day I spent in the greatest city last year I will be writing a post on either a Tokyo based photographer or a series set in the metropolis. An ode to the city.

This is part 2 – Sakura by phantastic420 – Exactly one year ago I had just woken up in Shibuya, ready to take on Tokyo. The smell of Sakura wafted through the city streets and in through my hotel window, it’s a smell that will forever remind me the great city.

phantastic420‘s instagram feed is one of my favourites, abundant with beauty and colour – every day allowing us to escape to the nature of Japan, travelling through the seasons and weather from snow to sunshine. Make sure to follow! 

THE BEST OF: The Powerpuff Girls

“The City of Townsville…” there lived three superhero girls made from sugar, spice and everything nice… The Powerpuff Girls. I always thought I would grow up to be bubbles, maybe I still can… If not I can always make an awesome Coplay like these guys and pretend for a few hours.

Harmony (Cosplay, Australia)
RadClawedRaid (Cosplay, Australia)
Kiarakirameki (Cosplay, Australia)
mtknotP (Photography, Australia)
ISHIKO (Cosplay, Japan)
Miho-Shizue (Cosplay, France)
Sayu (Cosplay, Taiwan)
Shi Shi (Cosplay, Hong Kong)

THE BEST OF: Mawaru Penguindrum

Usually I focus on one character for my posts, but whilst researching Himari cosplays I realised that with this story the main characters are too vital to each other to not feature them all – these are the best of the best.

THE BEST OF: Misa Amane, Death Note

Our favourite gothic lolita die hard Kira fangirl, Misa Amane combines cute and dark – she’s the perfect cosplay for those with edge, who don’t want to dress in pink wigs and bows. These are the best cosplays of Misa.

Escape on the Pokémon with YOU train

Escapism has always fascinated me, even before technology developed to its current state today people used to escape through music and spoken word stories dating right back to the ancient Greek and Roman times. This idea of whether we really are constantly needing to escape from reality or if the world we escape to has become part of our reality is always on my mind. So when I see something like the Pokémon train I can’t resist singing it’s praises, most of us are wanting to escape from our jobs or our daily routine, but for the riders of the Pokémon Train they are given a unique opportunity to escape from the still destructive and mundane aftermath of 2011’s Tsunami in Tohoku, Japan.

The train is called the ‘Pokémon with YOU train’ and journeys between Narutō and Chōshi. Such a simple idea and a few licks of paint and cushions could make such a difference to any child or adult who really needs to escape from reality but has no means to. 

Funky Bunny for Cosmo Girl by Martin Sweers

As I finally start gathering equipment and ideas for my project ‘Everyday Heroes’ I came across the work of Martin Sweers, his great use of coloured backgrounds and lighting compliment and contrast the texture and colour of the wigs.

Before I go to exhibitions and ask cosplayer’s to pose for me I will do a few test shoots, this lighting is beautiful I’ll attempt to get something similar with basic travel equipment.

‘Badass’ fan art by Tohad

deviantArt legend Tohad has been creating ‘Badass’ fan art, taking pop culture icons and turning them on their heads, it’s an idea that has been done but never in this way. Tohad keeps the cartoon nature and bright colours, creating a collection of badass characters presented in similar ways. Props to Tohad, I love this series.

THE BEST OF: Madoka Kaname

Want a character that combines cute and badassMadoka Kaname is your girl, from the series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Her pink colours and cute outfits mean she is cosplayed  A LOT! So here are the best of the best – people who have payed close attention to detail and transformed into this magical girl


“Can I ask one more thing? Don’t let… me turn into a witch. There’s awful, horrible things in this world, I know that now. But there’s a lot of things worth protecting too.” – Madoka Kaname

Interchangeable Icons

TOKYO, 2013

21st Century Geisha, Magical Girl and Product Placement. These are all “looks” of our protagonist. Female pop cult icons change their visual identity in order to comply with whichever product or theme is in demand.  They become like dolls boundlessly changing whilst simultaneously being branded as unique and liberating. Consumers are led into a false sense of empowerment, told we are free to choose how these icons look, when really we are being drip fed options. Our so called freedom is choosing from a series of pre-selected branded looks which demand we pay before getting access. This transcends into all aspects of consumerism surrounding these transmedia icons, figures, photos and trading cards all offer different variations, we buy into choices in order to show we don’t conform. When the act of needing them suggests the opposite.

M.A.C X Nick Knight continued

I suddenly remembered this advertising campaign I found, and decided to re-look at it. It could be used as one of the consumerism examples of a cute and sexy representation of women.

The image below in particular uses the iconography of hello kitty, cute dickie bows and pink throughout the image. But this is harshly displayed against black latex corsets. And a  bowl of white liquid (strange for a makeup ad) which connotes questionable material. The style of lighting also resembles a cheap singular flash. The kind of lighting used by amateurs which emphasises the colours and makes the image almost trashy. The great thing about this as an example is it’s advertising a Western product via a Western photographer. Much like my already existing example of Nick Knight’s shoot of Brittany Spears is.

Supporting the idea of sex and cute, connoting Otaku culture the models appear at the product launch with a plastic look, and appear to be standing in a giant box. Reflecting the idea of figurines/ barbie.

Cuties in Japan by Sharon Kinsella

Cuties in Japan

by Sharon Kinsella

http://www.kinsellaresearch.com/new/Cuties%20in%20Japan.pdf

This text was referenced in Emily Jane Wakelings writing “Girls are dancin“. In that text Kinsella’s writing is reference in relation to “Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood.” I intend to explore this, it is an area I am already aware of, however for academic reasons it would be good to read other peoples take on the idea, and see if their are any key quotes that could be used within my presentation.

Key:
Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Quotes are screen grabs from the document.
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories

pp220


pp221 This is the first time I’ve seen an argument which opposes Murakami’s idea that kawaii is a reaction to the war.

Cute handwriting and slag

After reading chapters titled, Cute goods, Cute food, Cute, clothes it seems that this article is the go to place in describing Kawaii culture. However I don’t want to get to carried away with this as I have to define the culture within minutes, I don’t have time to explore each avenue. I know in the future if I need to know anything about cute culture to come back to this article, but unless that time comes it is not relevant.

Symposium Proposal…

This is my proposal for our end of year symposium. Let me know what you think, and if you have any relevant practitioners I can look at, or if you can help me in any way 🙂


TITLE OF RESEARCH PROJECT
An examination into contemporary (1980-2012) Japanese photography that challenges Japan’s Post-WWII adolescent culture.

MODE OF PRESENTATION SELECTED
Symposium Presentation

DESCRIPTION OF SUBJECT TO BE INVESTIGATED
The main subject I will be examining within my symposium is how Japan’s Kawaii (cute)/Otaku (geek) culture came about as a reaction to the events during and post WWII (including Hiroshima, Japan’s surrender and the peace constitution), and how contemporary photographers are trying to challenge this culture through their work. I define contemporary as being from 1980 as this was around the birth of Art influenced by Kawaii culture and mass consumerism in Japan, it’s also the time the term Otaku became synonymous with a particular group. Defining this time frame allows me to avoid discussing documentary photography post hiroshima and lets me focus on a specific 30 years of culture shift rather than the 70 years since Hiroshima which would be too broad and has been looked at before. 

The basis for this idea came from a quote by Takashi Murakami (founder of the superflat movement) “It would not be an exaggeration to say that the American-made constitution prevented the nation from taking an aggressive stance… it cast Japan in the role of a “child” obliged to follow America’s “adult” guidance, and the nation willingly complied.” Recent exhibitions such as ‘Bye Bye Kitty’ have directly opposed the assumption that Japanese art is commercial and cute, and Adrian Favell has given a lecture on the new art movements within Japan, one being a group of women photographers who challenge the role of japanese women in otaku culture and Murakami’s work. Obviously this offers a whole new research project so I intend to use these photographers within my research without focusing on the gender aspect.  My background study for this project will consist of analysing the Superflat manifest and it’s practitioners, questioning why photography was rarely involved unless advertising a product? researching more on Kawaii culture and the acceptance of child-like obsessions like figurines, cosplay, animation, comics etc. and presenting and interrogating contemporary photographers work who point out flaws in this culture and are aiming to change the Japanese art scene. I am approaching this debate in a way I didn’t intend, I am a lover of Japanese pop culture and artists such as Murakami and have been for years, my original intent was to explore this culture in reaction to Hiroshima through photography, but I quickly came to realise the only photography involved with the superflat movement is commercial, and that fine art photographers are trying to push through the dominating mass culture production of art and create more politically and socially challenging work. At the moment I consider myself worried that the culture I have so much admiration for holds no place for fine art photography, however this is just a reflection it may have on me personally rather than me as a practitioner, so is something I will avoid swaying my research, it’s just interesting to note it now and see how this changes.

SOURCES TO BE UTILISED
I expect that the main source for my work will be within book and articles. Finding photographers who have directly and purposely used their work to oppose Kawaii culture, rather than finding work and applying my personal reading onto it. I have also learnt that there is an English speaking J-Art expert called Adrian Favell, who has written books, given lectures and made videos on Murakami’s work as well as the anti-Kawaii art. I will interview him and any other people I find relevant to do so, including at least 1 photographer. At the moment exhibition catalogues seem to be providing me great quotes and insight, so I will continue using these, as well as Films, Newspapers, TV programmes. Any qualitative source I can find. The broader my method of research the greater knowledge i will gain.

METHODS TO BE USED IN ACQUISITION OF SOURCES
Using the Coventry University ‘locate’ system, I will broaden my resources from just photography but other applicable areas. In terms of interviews I wish to understand whether Murakami’s theory on Japan using the child state of mind as a reaction to WWII is something they have experienced and agree with, whether they believe that superflat has had it’s time and needs to let less commercial art forms like Fine Art photography have a say on cultural matters, also whether they agree with Kawaii cultures view on the world or if it’s just shallow. A difficulty will be the language barrier, as I am looking at Japanese practitioners and don’t speak any Japanese. Another difficulty might be that I find no one else agrees with Murakami and that they believe photographers had a big part of the superflat movement, It wouldn’t ruin my project, but it would mean some re-considering and researching would be in order.

METHODS/FORMS OF INTERPRETATION/ANALYSIS TO BE USED WITH THE INFORMATION AND SOURCES 
I will organise my data through categorising the areas I want to talk about and placing each practitioner’s, theory or interview into each area, I will then analyse how much information I have and how much more I need to get.

PLAN/ SCHEDULE OF WORK

November – Researching, create contact with people to interview, write interview layout for each individual. More background researching.

December – Conduct Interviews, Continue  background research, provide an overall analysis, trying to break it into categories, work out from that what’s missing, research missing areas. Filter down research to key points and artists to go in symposium. Start writing Symposium.

January – Finish writing first draft symposium early on, proof read and re-write at least twice. Write final symposium & make power point, work out how I will best remember it, full text, notes, symbols. Rehearse Symposium over and over.

February – Rehearse Symposium. Do symposium.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Emag:

Adrian Favell, 2011. Bye Bye Little Boy.[online magazine] Art in America: Brant Publications. Available at: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/features/bye-bye-kitty/ [Accessed on: 5/11/2012]

Jill Connar, 2011. Japan’s New Breed: Bye Bye Kitty. [online magazine] Art in America: Brant Publications. Available at: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/news/2011-03-29/bye-bye-kitty-japan-society/ [Accessed on 5/11/2012]

Lucy Birmingham, 2011. Bye Bye Kitty: The Dark side of Art in Japan. [online magazine] Time entertainment: Time inc. Available at: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2069261,00.html#ixzz2BMS825iw [Accessed on 5/11/2012]

Adam Millar, 2011.  An Editorial: The bomb in popular culture. [online magazine] axiom magazine. Available at: http://www.axiommagazine.jp/2011/08/06/an-editorial-the-bomb-in-popular-culture/ [Accessed on: 2/11/2012]

E-Book/PDF’s:

RoyalTevent, 2008. Tokyo Tremors. [PDF] UCLA. Available at: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/favell/RoyalTevent.pdf [Accessed on: 5/11/2012]

Books:

Murakami, Takashi., 2005. Little Boy. London : Yale University Press.

Holborn, Mark., 1991. Beyond Japan: A photo theatre. London : Barbican Art Gallery, in association with Jonathan Cape.

Murakami, Takashi., 2000. Superflat. S.l. : MADRA

Blog:

Admin, 2011. NYAB The event – “Bye bye Kitty!!! Between heaven and hell in contemporary Japanese art” Exhibition. Gaia Gallery. [blog] 7th April 2011. Available at: http://www.gaiagallery.com/artists-self-representing/prints/contemporary-prints/nyab-event-bye-bye-kitty-between-heaven-and-hell-in-contemporary-japanese-art-exhibition/ [Accessed on: 5/11/2012]

The Kawaii project, 2012. The kawaii project.[blog] Available at: http://kawaiiproject.tumblr.com/ [Accessed on: 3/11/2012]

Lawrence Eng, 2012. The Politics of Otaku. Digital Melodies of Dispair. [Blog] October 28th 2012. Avialable at: http://digimero.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-politics-of-otaku.html [Accessed on 3/11/2012]

ARIELAMAZING, 2010. Britney Spears and Takashi Murakami collaborate for Pop magazine. The Vine. [Blog] 25/8/2010. Available at: http://www.thevine.com.au/fashion/news/britney-spears-and-takashi-murakami-collaborate-for-pop-magazine/ [Accessed on: 3/11/2012]

Mark Stevens, 2005. Toxic Cuteness. New York Art. [Blog] 21/5/2005. Available at: http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/11707/ Accessed on 3/11/2012

rwpick, 2010. Pop Psychosis: the Influence of the Bomb on Superflat Art. Post Bubble culture. [Blog] 19/4/2010. Available at: http://postbubbleculture.blogs.wm.edu/2010/04/19/pop-psychosis-the-influence-of-the-bomb-on-superflat-art/ Accessed on: 2/11/2012

Website:

Ryoko Suzuki, 2012. Ryoko Suzuki Website. [website] Available at: http://www.ryokobo.com/ [Accessed on 3/11/2012]

James hamilton Butler, 2012. JHB. [website] Available at: http://www.jameshamiltonbutler.com/jhb-gi [Accessed on 3/11/201]

Number 1 Gallery, 2012. Number 1 Gallery. [website] Available at: http://www.number1gallery.com/exhibition-item/otaku/ [Acceseed on: 3/11/2012]

Publication available on website:

John Roco Roberto, 2000-2003. Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb. the History Vortex. Available at: http://www.historyvortex.org/JapanGodzillaAtomicBomb.html [Accessed: 2/11/2012]

Ryoko Suzuki – Anikora Kawaii

Japan is a country submerged in“cuteness”.
I have been surrounded with“cute”things since childhood and thus they seem natural,but I have come to believe this“cuteness”is unique to Japan.
ANIKORA series Three takes“cuteness”as a sub-theme.
Along with ANIKORA series 1 and series 2,the purpose of these works is to investigate the desire of men to see“anime”or cartoon characters of young women with child-like face and improbably voluptuous bodieis. It is easy to see how men’s desires are reflected in these characters, but less so how this way of seeing women is expressed in Japan’s culture of“cute”things.
Women who are immersed in the culture of “cuteness”define themselves and present themselves to society as objects of “cuteness”. Being“cute”is the most important value for Japanese young women. But aren’t they losing themselves and their own identities and personalities by trying to become objects of masculine society’s desire for“cuteness”?

http://www.ryokobo.com/contents/anikora3.html

In this series Ryoko Suzuki takes photos of figurines and then imposes an image of herself onto them. The effect is quite strong, instead of seeing a fiction character we are seeing a real face, making us question the reasons for these figures. Wether it is only having this effect on me as an anime fan, because I recognise some of these costumes so know the faces aren’t right.

 

 

 

See the rest of her series here.

 

 

JHB/GI

James Hamilton Butler X Georgie Ichikawa AKA JHB/GI is a collaboration project between the two fashion designers. The collection draws inspiration from Tokyo Pop culture, Otaku in particular.

(All Images & text / COPYRIGHT © JAMES HAMILTON BUTLER & GEORGIE ICHIKAWA 2011)

RESEARCH INTO WESTERN OTAKU (OBSESSIVE GEEKS) AND THEIR SOCIAL HABITS, FORMED THE BASIS OF THIS GRAPHIC DRIVEN CAPSULE COLLECTION, WITH A FOCUS ON A T-SHIRT BASED LINE THAT IS WEARABLE BUT STRIKINGLY ILLUSTRATIVE. NIGHTLIFE SCENES IN AKIHABARA LED TO A SPECTRUM OF COLOUR PALETTES TO USE, DRAWING ON CONTEXTUAL REFERENCING FROM CONTEMPORARY OTAKU ICONS TO PROVIDE INSPIRATION FOR PLACEMENT SHAPES. JAPANESE ELECTRO-POP MUSIC VIDEOS AND DANCE ROUTINE CHOREOGRAPHY INFLUENCE THE BEAUTIFULLY INTRICATE IMAGERY OF A FANTASY WORLD THAT FORMS THE BASIS OF THIS CONTEMPORARY STREET STYLE COLLECTION.

– http://www.jameshamiltonbutler.com/jhb-gi

Toxic Cuteness

Toxic Cuteness

At the Japan Society’s “Little Boy,” Hiroshima leads directly to Hello Kitty.

By Mark Stevens. Published May 21, 2005

http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/11707/

On display are dozens of sappy-sweet toys, examples of anime and manga, and many depictions of monsters and adolescent cutie-pies. Works of art based upon this material are also on view, but no strong distinction is made between art and artifact. The key argument here is that, far from being just sugary kitsch, Japanese pop represents the strange, even psychotic response of a population traumatized by World War II, and then made impotent and infantilized by occupation. Fantasy can provide an escape from history. Art averts. Art anesthetizes.

Another example of how modern art and culture has been directly influenced by the bombings. The problem I am facing at the moment is that it’s easy to find Super Flat art but not so much photography, living in the UK means it’s hard to find access to japanese photographers work, other than online, After finishing reading this article my next mission will be to stray away from the artists and instead look at photographers who play part of this extreme escapism method in reaction to the actions of America.

From this vantage point, the firebombing of Tokyo evolved into the city stomp of Godzilla. The mushroom cloud became a pretty flower rising into the sky at the conclusion of a children’s TV show. Fantasies of power are irresistible to the impotent. Little Japanese boys (of all ages) love robots and space suits, and have a kinky obsession with girls who play peek-a-panty. Fashion and shopping provide bits of distracting and addictive glitter. Murakami calls this culture “superflat,” by which he means, in part, that the interior life of the nation has been ironed into an ahistorical and decorative field of games, melodrama, apocalypse, shopping, and cuteness. Everywhere in Japan, for example, you come upon that appallingly cute little figure called Hello Kitty. It has no mouth and no developed limbs—an image of powerlessness and, Murakami suggests, sublimated hysteria.

An interesting take on the meaning of Hello Kitty, I have heard before that she is emotionless therefore you can reflect your ideals and emotions onto her. I have never heard that she is “an image of powerlessness before” it’s a strange thing to suggest as she is one of the most powerful brands in the world. It might be interesting to research deeper into Hello Kitty’s origins, again she is not a photography area but all of this research is providing me context for my project. Giving me that knowledge it’s so important I have before I even start talking.

Also I want to find to superflat manifesto, get my around what it is and decide if it relates to photography or not.

The title “Little Boy” is brilliant: It conflates cuteness with the nickname of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

A major artist would have to reach in a powerful way into the sexual, emotional, and historical fear that gives rise to an impotent infantilism. But the show is utterly convincing in one important respect—this isn’t just Disney.

Unfortunately the references aren’t listed, so I can’t find out where Murakami said that Hello Kitty is “an image of powerlessness”.

Little Boy has also been made into a book, one in which I am seriously looking into finding.

Google Books offers us the synopsis

Yale University Press, 11 May 2005 – 312 pages
Little Boy examines the culture of postwar Japan through its arts and popular visual media. Focusing on the youth-driven phenomenon of otaku (roughly translated as “geek culture” or “pop cult fanaticism”), Takashi Murakami and a notable group of contributors explore the complex historical influences that shape Japanese contemporary art and its distinct graphic languages. The book’s title, Little Boy, is a reference to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, thus clearly locating the birth of these new cultural forms in the trauma and generational aftershock of the atomic bomb.

This generously illustrated book showcases the work of key otaku artists and designers, many of whom are cult celebrities in Japan, and discusses their feature film and video animations, video games and internet sites, music, toys, fashion, and more. In the process, the following questions are posed: What is otaku, and what does it tell us about contemporary social, economic, and cultural life in Japan and throughout the world? How is it related to the pervasive and curious fixation on “cuteness” evident in Japanese popular culture? What impact did the atomic devastation of World War II have on the development of Japanese art and culture?

This brilliantly designed, bilingual (English and Japanese) publication examines these themes to explore how contemporary Japanese art has become inseparable from the subcultural realms of manga and animé (Japanese animation)—a world where meticulous technique, apocalyptic imagery, and high and low cultures meet.

Little Boy concludes Murakami’s “Superflat” trilogy, a project conceived in 2000 to introduce a new wave of Japanese artists and to place their work in the historical context of traditional styles and concepts.

Although this book is priced at over £100 it is key I get my hands on in, a reviewer on amazon says that Murakami himself has written 2 essays within the book that focus on how Kawaii and Otaku are coping mechanisms with what has happened in the past, reverting Japans society to a child like state.
Another reviewer says…
Murakami’s latest curatorial effort has gained nearly universal acclaim amongst the art world. His “Little Boy” exhibition attempts to understand the origins of contemporary Japanese art’s affinity for both the horrifically violent and the frightfully cute (kawaii). Ultimately, Murakami argues that these images are spawned from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined with postwar US domination. Violent imagery becomes a sign for a fascination with the kind of power that postwar Japan lacked. Kawaii imagery is then seen as stemming from Japan’s status as a protectorate of the US. This relationship was not unlike that of a parent and child (the child/adolecent becomes a prevalent theme in Japanese art from postwar era forward.)
– By Andrew C. Raymond
As it turns out we have this book in our library. Keep your eye out for another post on this tonight.

Lady gaga X Hello Kitty

In 2010 Lady Gaga took part in a photoshoot to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 35th Birthday. Photographers Markus Klinko and Indrani shot Gaga in a Hello Kitty stuffed dress and combined the image of 2 of the biggest female icons in Popular Culture.

 

The power of Sanrio’s branding in regard to Hello Kitty is outstanding.

In the US alone, Hello Kitty has expanded into 4000 stores nation wide with more than 200 Sanrio specific shops. Created as a gift item to be exchanged between families, Hello Kitty now adorns more than 22.000 products across categories and contributes more than half of Sanrio’s USD 1 billion annual sales.

– taken from http://www.asianbrandstrategy.com/2006/04/hello-kitty-iconic-japanese-brand.asp