Tokyo Scum Brigade have now posted 4 out of 5 parts of their long-waited Umezu Kazuo (classic horror manga artist: Drifting Classrom, Orochi Blood, etc) interview. You have to check this out!: http://tokyoscum.blogspot.com/search/label/Kazuo%20Umezu
Another baffling episode of the mindfuckery that is Umineko…it was pretty entertaining, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s really going anywhere, considering that there are only a couple of episodes left, and DVD sales in Japan are so poor that there may not be a second season. After this season is over, I’m going to play the visual novel, since I’m sure it’s superior, and it may be the only way to get answers.
Those imprisoned in Lord Goldsmith’s dungeon escape, thanks to Kanon’s glowy sword arm. There’s another exchange between Kanon and Shannon that suggests that they remember previous arcs: Shannon vows to fight on now matter how many times it takes.
Jessica and George struggle to defeat Ronove and Gapp, but in the end, Gaap sucks them into black holes that send them to the same spot, causing George’s foot to be introduced to Jessica’s head, and Jessica’s fist to plunge through George’s belly. Apparently, they were sent toward each other at quite a velocity, considering the resulting carnage. The fact that Gaap “borrowed” Virgilia’s goat-furniture during Gaap’s fight with George results in one of the more humorous moments of the episode, with Virigilia exclaiming “Gaapgaapgaapgaap!” in a squealing curse.
Even without the goats, the dungeon escapees are killed (although we don’t see them, I think it was the Siestas’ arrows that killed them), although Kirie manages to make it to a phone and call Battler. She tells him that he should consider any demon that appears before him to be as real as it seems to be. This seems like it may be one of Beato’s tricks.
Maria passes her test, Beato kills Lord Goldsmith (combusting him in the usual manner, presumably because he annoyed her), and then tests Battler. The second option (of killing the one most dear to you) on Battler’s test is blank, since Beato doesn’t know who he likes. He tries to substitute her name so he can choose her death, but she laughs it off, and changes the test. She says that Battler committed some sin 6 years ago, involving Rokkenjima in some way, that resulted in people’s deaths, and demands that he remember it. He’s unable to, and Beato says that she’s tired of the game and wants to leave the gameboard. Battler follows her to the Metaworld, and asks if it involved her in some way, because of the hurt look in her eyes. But she says that they had never met at that time. Bernkastel and Lambadelta show up. Bernkastel doesn’t really mind if the game ends, and says she’ll see everybody again someday, but Lambadelta is quite miffed.
The high point of the episode is what comes next: Beato says that she’ll remain if Battler proves that he’s qualified as her opponent, qualified meaning that he’s Ushiromiya Battler, grandson of Kinzo. She tells him to say, in red, “The mother of Ushiromiya Battler is Ushiromiya Asumu.” He’s able to say that, but when she tells him to say “I was born from Ushiromiya Asumu”, he doubles over and chokes on the words no matter how many times he tries. He disappears in a cloud of golden butterflies, having denied himself out of existence.
Since he’s still apparently the son of Rudolph, why should it matter? As long as that isn’t disproven, he’s still the son of Rudolph, right? What’s being implied could be that he was not a legitimate son of Rudolph. Battler may have been able to make the first red statement because Asumu raised him as a mother, but someone else gave birth to him. Maybe Kyrie.
But I really suspect something else.
The two red statements could be taken another way: let me draw attention to the slightly different phrasing of the red statements. Perhaps Ushiromiya Battler was born from Ushiromita Asumu, but the Battler we see who cannot make the second statement is not really Ushiromiya Battler, even if he thinks he is. Beato probably demanded that Battler remember the incident 6 years ago as his test, because the real Battler would have remembered the incident 6 years ago, but this Battler does not.
Did the real Battler die in the incident 6 years ago or sometime afterward? Is the Battler on Rokkenjima in 1996, in fact, furniture?
Wikipedia Synopsis: “Jessica and George are about to land their final blows on their opponents when Gaap teleports the two into each other, killing them both as their magically-empowered attacks collide. Temporarily resurrected by Ronove as a favor, Jessica calls Battler at the guesthouse to warn him of their enemies’ magic. Meanwhile, the hostages are able to break out of Kuwadorian, but are killed off one by one on their way to the mansion until only Kyrie remains. Before she too is killed, Kyrie calls Battler as well and tells him to believe in witches. Afterward, Maria is sent off to take her test when Battler receives another phone call, this time from the newly revived Beatrice, and heads off to confront her, discovering Gohda and Kumasawa dead in the storehouse along the way. Beatrice gives Battler his test: to remember a sin he committed six years ago. However, Battler is clueless as to what that may be, much to Beatrice’s frustration, prompting her to take her anger out on Kinzo by spontaneously killing him. Having lost her interest in the game, Beatrice decides to abandon it by deeming Battler unqualified to be her opponent, revealing that his birth mother was not Rudolf’s first wife Asumu as he had believed, and claiming that he is not Kinzo’s grandson Battler, the only one eligible to fight her. Questioning his own identity, Battler fades away, and Beatrice retires to the newly opened Golden Land with Maria. “
Yeah, these bento look cute, but that’s just a device to lull you into complacency. Truth is, they’ve come straight from the depths of hell, intent on subverting you through nefarious gastronomical means.
Scariest of them all, Krausser from Detroit Metal City:
Wikipedia Synopsis: “In 1998, Ange interrogates relatives of the Rokkenjima murder victims and hires a boat captain to take her to Rokkenjima, discovering Sakutaro’s torn remains as well. In 1986, the cousins are informed of Kinzo’s test from the hostages in Kuwadorian and are forced to lock Gohda and Kumasawa in the storehouse to keep them from interfering. Jessica and George are individually tested by Ronove and Gaap, respectively, and instructed to choose which of the islanders will be next to die: themselves, their true loves (Shannon for George and Kanon for Jessica), or everyone else. Jessica chooses herself for Kanon’s sake so that he may live his life to the fullest, while George chooses everyone else as he is willing to go so far for his love for Shannon to be accepted. Unwilling to leave the hostages in the dungeon, however, Jessica and George defiantly engage their respective demons in combat. “
I found these adorable and well-executed yokai illustrationsn in the midst of prowling through a Google.jp image search (my favorite pastime!) for yokai I’ve got no idea who the illustrator is, but there are tons more on their site, and you can sort of understand it with Google Translate. It’s really worth a look around!: Youkaitama.Seesaa.net
A new thing I’ll be doing is a series of posts about Ukiyo-e master Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s (芳年月岡) New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts series. When I see ukiyo-e prints, I always wonder about the story behind them, so I did a little research on these, to see which kabuki play or folklore they’re from. It was really interesting, so I decided to share what I found with everybody. Enjoy these beautiful, spooky masterpieces!
The Enlightenment, February 1890. From the Thirty-six Ghosts series. 9.25″ x 14.25″. The print depicts Jigoku-tayū, a former courtesan, who is shown the errors of her past occupation by a parade of ghost courtesans. Here’s an interesting article about the Hell Courtesan: http://www.mazikeen.com/2009/11/hell-courtesan.html
The Yotsuya Ghost Story, 1892. From the Thirty-six Ghosts series. 9.25″ x 14.25″. The print depicts the beautiful Oiwa resting, arm around her son.
From the 1825 kabuki play Yotsuya Kaidan.
The Foxfires, 1892. From the Thirty-six Ghosts series. 9.25″ x 14.25″. The print depicts the Princess Yaegaki following the magic foxfires of Nijushiko.
From the 1766 puppet play Honchô Nijûshikô, adapted to kabuki a few years later.
Another Yoshitoshi print in which Sakurachan has died instead, and Seigen obsesses over her: http://www.sinister-designs.com/graphicarts/seigen2.html
From the 1817 kabuki Sakura Hime Azuma Bunshô, synopsis here; http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ft20040714a1.html
I’ve had high hopes for this episode ever since I saw the preview, and I think it lived up to those hopes pretty well. Kinzo gets his star turn as Lord Goldsmith, the badass-est grandpa around, announcing that his children are all failures, and he will test the grandchildren instead, to see if any of them are deserving of the inheritance. Although he disposes of the epitaph as a condition for winning, he still plans to revive Beatrice, and still requires the sacrifices for each Twilight. To this end, he summons the Siestas, who randomly polish off the first 6 sacrifices (Natsuhi, Hideyoshi, Rudolf, Genji, Eva, and Rosa) in a extremely gory massacre, and then summon Ronove, Virgilia, and Gaap (one of the 72 demons of hell). The latter sends Gaap is an interesting new character, and rather sexy as well, with her knowing way of speaking and her side-boob revealing ita outfit. Siesta 00 makes her debut in this scene. She’s cute, but she hasn’t made a big impression on me yet. Kinzo then summons Ronove, Virgilia, and Gaap (one of the 72 demons of hell). Gaap is an interesting new character, and rather sexy as well, with her knowing way of speaking and her side-boob revealing ita outfit. Gaap causes hole to open up in the floor, sending Nanjo, Kyrie, Krauss, Shannon, and Kanon to an underground dungeon beneath his secret home (where he imprisoned Beato in the past).
Following this is a sequence where Maria kills Rosa over and over as punishment for her cruel, neglectful treatment. Rosa certainly doesn’t do much to make us feel sorry for her in this scene: she tells Maria that she’s never loved her, and that she was always in her way. The beginning of the next scene has Maria waking up in 1986 Rokkenjima, implying that her murderous rampage was a fanciful dream. I’d guess that it probably was, since it took place before the family conference, where Rosa is always alive at the beginning of the first arc and isn’t as afraid of Maria as she would be if the 100+ murders had actually occurred.
After this, we see Nanjo, Kyrie, Krauss, Shannon, and Kanon imprisoned in the aforementioned dungeon. They find a telephone there and ,call their children to let them know what’s going on. The most interesting part of this sequence, to me, was the exchange between Kanon and Shannon about the Golden Land, with Shannon saying, “I wonder if we’ll make it to the Golden Land this time”. This is suggestive that perhaps the furniture remember the various arcs, which reminds me of Yuki in the Endless Eight sequence of Haruhi. Shannon says that she has been to the Golden Land once before, briefly. Whatever that means.
Kinzo shows up in the dungeon to taunt them, announcing his plans to use them as sacrifices for upcoming twilights, and that he plans to “test” the grandchildren.
I’ve theorized, as part of a pro-fantasy theory, that before Kinzo’s death, he made a new body for himself (as we have seen him do repeatedly, with his “furniture”, and when he put Beato’s soul into a body he’d created during his imprisonment of her), and performed a spell that would transport his soul to the new body at the moment of his death. Perhaps his early death in all of the arcs was just his no longer needed body, since he’d already been reborn as Lord Goldsmith. He may have also had human accomplices, perhaps Dr. Nanjo, to help him. I kind of lean toward a pro-fantasy AND pro-mystery interpretation.
The next episode looks pretty great, too, with Gaap throwing her weight around:
Wikipedia Synopsis: “Kinzo appears at the family conference and denounces his children as being unfit to succeed him as the head of the Ushiromiya family. Deciding that his grandchildren may be more suitable successors, Kinzo summons the Siesta Sisters to select the first six sacrifices for his ceremony to revive Beatrice (Natsuhi, Eva, Hideyoshi, Rudolf, Rosa, and Genji), while the survivors (Krauss, Kyrie, Shannon, Kanon, and Nanjo) are imprisoned in the dungeon of Kuwadorian by the demon Gaap. Afterwards, Maria has her revenge against Rosa for destroying Sakutaro by torturing her with Beatrice’s assistance, and fully realizes her own potential as a witch. Gohda and Kumasawa, who had survived the slaughter and escaped capture, inform the cousins in the guesthouse about what happened when they receive a phone call from the hostages telling them to stay in the guesthouse until Kinzo makes preparations to test his grandchildren for the family headship. “
Screencaps behind the cut:
A new documentary film entitled Gwashi! Kazuo Umezu Desu, about the strange and wonderful manga author/artist Umezu Kazuo, started a limited run in Tokyo theaters on 11/23. This trailer is untranslated, but still gives a good idea of how great it will be:
Umezu has been a pioneer of horror and sci-fi manga, and his influence on these genres is immeasurable. He is well-known for his manga series The Drifting Classroom, Orochi: Blood, and Reptilia. Oh yeah, and for his fabulous red-and-white striped house that sparked a lawsuit from his neighbors (he won):
I find that I’m usually disappointed by newer deathrock*-revival bands: they often don’t have the right scratchy-spidery guitar style, tribal drum beats, and distinctive bass-line driven melodies that made the original deathrock/Batcave bands so great.
Not so, in the case of Japan’s †13th MOON† : the music sounds just right, and totally fantastic. My particular favorite is “Countdown to Suicide”. Among †13th MOON†’s list of influences are some of my favorite bands, including Christian Death (who they bear a strong resemblance to, and whose song “Romeo’s Distress” they cover), Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a variety of bands associated with the London nightclub The Batcave. Judging from videos of them playing live, whether it’s the Drop Dead Festival (held in Portugal last year) or the numerous Tokyo shows uploaded on Youtube, they put a lot of effort into pleasing the crowd with costumes and stage theatrics. Let’s hope the come play in the U.S. soon!
* Deathrock can be best described as gothic punk, emerging from the Southern California punk scene in the late 1970’s, and later influencing and being influenced by UK gothic rock bands (which in those days had a stronger punk/post-punk influence than gothic music does today. I’m not a fan of the punk-free modern gothic movement at all).
Band Website: http://www.geocities.jp/xxx13thmoonxxx/index.html
Interview from Deathrock.com: http://www.deathrock.com/features/bandprofile.php?recordID=0003
†13th MOON† playing “Countdown to Suicide”:
So scary! So cute!:
Rokurokubi (ろくろ首) are monsters (usually female) who appear as normal humans during the day, but whose heads can travel long distances from their body at night, due to their long stretchy necks. They are usually not content to merely scare their victims, and often murder them by drinking their blood or life-energy. On days that they feel slightly less evil, they may just lap up all the oil from your andon lamps.
I’m not sure that I find it plausible that Hello Kitty could thrive as a Rokurokubi. Her head looks like it’s twice the weight of her body; once she stretched her neck out in search of prey, that giant head may just drop like a rock.
Chōchin’obake (提灯お化け, “paper lantern ghost”) are a type of Tsukumogami, a classification of yokai that are born from 100-year-old objects, becoming animate.. Chōchin’obake in particular are created from the chōchin lantern, composed of bamboo and paper or silk. They are typically portrayed with one eye, and a long tongue protruding from an open mouth. I’d guess that there’s some relation between chōchin’obake and the story of Oiwa, who haunts her murderous husband in the form of a paper lantern.
I’m actually not too sure about this three-eyed beauty…I think it’s related to a tale of a three-eyed monk (secretly a tanuki in disguise) who is generally up to no good as detailed in this Pink Tentacle post (second from the top).
Karakasa (唐傘, “Chinese umbrella”), or Kasa Obake, are another type of Tsukumogami. They are typically portrayed with one eye, a long tongue protruding from an open mouth, and a single foot, generally wearing a geta. They are usually harmless.
Strapya World’s English site sells them! http://www.strapya-world.com/categories/12_28_16_5131.html