Tokyo Damage Report

gekiteki 3: literary bands

Literary bands  – for some reason all metalheads – use old-timey Japanese authors for their lyrics. Usually horror or surrealist writers from the Modernist period of the '30s.

Literature is a big part of ANGURA (underground) culture  . . .even if your band isn't metal, even if you don't  have literary lyrics, you're supposed to  know about 4 or 5 guys if you're any kind of hipster at all: Mishima Yukio,  Edogawa Ranpo, Dazai Osamu, Yumeno Kyuusaku, and Yoko Mizo.


And of course many "literary" bands take lyrical inspiration from even further back: traditional folk tales, yuurei (ghost stories), noroi (curse stories), and so on.

人間椅子 (ningen isu)


MEANING : : human chair – The band name translates as ' The Human Chair', it's taken from the title of one of Rampo Edogawa's novels
CITY . . : Aomori (many songs are in the Aomori dialect of tsugaruben)
ERA . . . : 1987~
SOUND . . : doom with folk melodies
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : fashion (often cosplay characters from folk tales or old horror novels) and lyrics, some Japanese instruments, and the authors Yumeno Kyusaku, Rampo Edogawa, and Yoko Mizo,
CLIQUE . . . :
STYLE . . . : literary
ALBUM TO GET . . . : first alb (ningen shikkaku) and kaijin nijuu mensou (man with 20 faces, based on the Yoko Mizo novel of the same name)
HISTORICAL ATMOSPHERE : taisho era, edo era.

WEB . . . : , myspace


The two major literary influences are Yumeno Kyusaku 夢野久作 and Yoko Mizo, as well as – to a certain extent – Ranpo. Mix this with Black Sabbath and a little King Crimson, and you've got Ningen Isu.

Yoko was kind of the Flannery O`Connor of Japan. Ranpo’s stories were set in the cities, but Yoko’s were set in the deep countryside where every small town had terrible secrets and the traditional ghosts/monsters lurked round every corner. In other words, Yoko’s novels- although at the same time as Ranpo’s and in the same genre – were much more Japaneesy.

Also this band is one of the bands that got embiggened by mainstream TV talent show IKASU BAND TENGOKU – an example of how a mainstream TV show stimulated underground music in Japan at that time.

Because of their TV fame, they were able to kick off a whole "bunkei" (literary nerd rock) movement, which was a sort of counter-reaction to the more jock-ish metal and visual kei scene which had dominated the '80s.  Even non-metal bands such as Strawberry or Inagumi cite Ningen Isu as an influence.


Here's a video for a song called KAIJIN NIJUU MENSOU (The Beast-Man with Twenty Faces). Not only is it based on a horror novel, but each band member is cos-playing a different character from the novel.






ニンゲン・カクセイキ (ningen kakuseiki)


MEANING : : : it’s a pun ? they deliberately use katakana, forcing the reader to imagine the two possible kanji combinations which both sound like ‘ningen kakuseiki’: 人間覚醒記 (chronicles of human awakening), and 人間拡声器 (the human megaphones). But which is it really? Neither! The name exists perpetually in an in-between state of ambiguity and double-ness. This Hisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Shondigger’s-Cat-like property of the Japanese language is also a big part of the lyrics, which are also full of such kanji puns and double-MEANING : : s. Epistemological prog!

CITY . . : Tokyo
ERA . . . : 2000-2006
SOUND . . : fast metal
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : literary Kanji puns, Terayama, Natsume Souseki (author), Evangelion, Yukio Mishima
CLIQUE . . . : : jr. high school grave, Magdalena, 人間 かくせいき
STYLE . . . : literary
ALBUM TO GET . . . :

WEB . . . :

In the beginning, there was a big Terayama influence. They were called ニンゲンカクセイキ・CaptorCrat, and they wrote an entire new set-list of songs for every performance. The songs were playful and philosophical, full of puns and palindromes. For example, one time they'd do a Shakespeare parody. Another show would be about 人動説 戦争 論争戦 : the belief that humans make the stars revolve around earth (geocentrism?!?)

Then they got a new drummer, and made a stable setlist, mostly about “what-if?” scenarios involving famous historical people, both real and fictional:

Natsume souseki (author)
Kafka’s cockroach tale
Yukio mishima.




マグダラ呪念 (magudara junen)

MEANING : : : the curse of mary magdalene
CITY . . : Tokyo
ERA . . . : 2003
SOUND . . : doom
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : kimono, kayoukyoku melody, kabuki voice/kobushi (vibrato)
CLIQUE . . . : chuugakuseikanake, magudara junen, 人間 かくせいき
STYLE . . . : literary
ALBUM TO GET . . . :2 eps 何の因果でこうなった and 念の音

WEB . . . : ,myspace

Lyrics similar to chuukauseikanake, but more abstract. They do sing in different characters for different real literally or theatre influence.





中学生棺桶 (chuugakuseikanake),now known as 例のK.

MEANING : : : jr. high school casket
CITY . . : tokyo
ERA . . . : 2004-5??? ~ present
SOUND . . : doom
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : kayoukyoku melodies, difficult, old-school Nihongo, Osamu
CLIQUE . . . : chuugakuseikanake, magudara junen, 人間 かくせいき
STYLE . . . : literary
ALBUM TO GET . . . : 神頼みの似非不良に抗う

WEB . . . :, myspace


Big GG Allin influence attitude-wise, and big Sabbath influence in the riffs, but both filtered through this Japanese occult Showa-era filter.

Vocalist’s name is ようぞう, a character from an Osamu novel. The white kimono covered in chinese letters is a thing some of these gekiteki bands do. Is that a Terayama thing ???
The songs have a GG-ish theme of cursing society and having a huge grudge against everyone. But the songs are structured like stories where the singer isn’t “Me” , he’s a character who is literally placing a hex or curse on the world, and the lyrics are often invocations or chants. うらみぶし。


In the photo above, the singer is wearing a white kimono, called shinishuuzoku. The kimono dead bodies are buried in. The kimono is covered with writing. This sort of graffiti-ed death kimono is worn by several other geki-teki bands, such as Soshiki Bouryoku Youchien.  Mr. Mochi says there are two origins for this kimono;


1) a "kaidan" (ghost story) called Miminashi Houichi. About a demon that likes to eat people in the village. But a buddhist priest advises a villager to wrap his whole body in white cloth covered with Buddhist sutras, which will make him invisible to the demon. But the man forgets to wrap his ears, so the demon  says, "Hey look, two floating disembodied ears! I'll take them!" and thereafter the villager has no ears.

2) the funeral custom of writing buddhist sutras on the shinishuuzoku to prevent yuurei (evil spirits) from corrupting the recently deceased and enlisting them in the yuurei's campaign of revenge on the living. Also the family of the deceased would write good things on the kimono – things they'd miss about the deceased. Like a written eulogy.


Of course, the bands here write fucked up stuff instead.


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