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World Horror Cinema: Japan

By Sam Reeve

Occult_film_2009_1aTitle: Occult

Year: 2009

Language: Japanese

My rating: 6/10

Some of you may remember that last October was Japanese Horror Month. I saw a lot of great films, but the one that scared me the most and has stayed on my mind was Koji Shiraishi’s No-roi (The Curse). Today I bring you Occult, a “found footage” mockumentary by the same director.

Koji plays “himself” in the film, and is making a documentary about an incident at a seaside resort where a man stabbed two people to death and carved strange symbols onto the back of another. The film floats out to stranger tides when the crew uncover weird, supernatural elements that link several players in this tale. Eventually the focus is solely on the surviving victim, a man in his 30’s who stays in cafes overnight and can’t hold down a job. Since the attack he’s been seeing supernatural “miracles”, as he calls them, and the filmmakers continue to find more bizarre, creepy clues.

This might sound a bit confusing or vague, but it’s really best if you go into it with little expectations. That’s what I did, and was pleased that is was a bit disorienting.okaruto 2009 koji shiraishi

Made with a handheld camera, the film had low quality visuals at times. The “miracles” witnessed were often these weird ghost/alien things that floated around in the sky, and they resembled blurry jellyfishes drawn in MS Paint (see above). The acting on the other hand was always good, and Shiraishi really knows how to concoct some disturbing scenes. Unlike most “shaky cam” movies, Shiraishi’s never annoy me. The acting is great enough that it doesn’t ruin the suspended disbelief in the way so many other mockumentaries do (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity).

I do recommend at least one viewing of Occult, though I can speak more highly of No-roi. I couldn’t find a clip or trailer that included English subs, but below you’ll find the full movie. If you’ve seen it, let us know what you think in the comments below!


Strange Scribes #3: Yukio Mishina

By Gabino Iglesias

Some writers are strange not necessarily because they write weird things, but because what they do in real life makes them as bizarre as any fiction out there. At last year’s BizarroCon, Brian Keene gave a fantastic workshop on developing a persona. When you think of mythical literary figures, their persona is as powerful as their writing. Hunter S. Thompson’s antics, looks, and guns, for example, are as much a part of his legacy as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In any case, doing strange things in real life is why I chose to write about Yukio Mishima this time around.

Yukio Mishina was the pen name used by Kimitake Hiraoka. Mishina was a very well-known Japanese author, playwright, poet, actor, film director, and even occasional model. Today he’s recognized as one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century and his work, which has been translated into a plethora of languages, is as popular as ever (trust me, I checked the magical Amazon numbers). He was also very prolific. Between novels, plays, and short stories, you could say he was productive on a Carlton Mellick level.

When it comes to themes, Mishina was obsessed with love, the ocean, Japan, politics, culture, sex, and death. All those subjects are featured in his fiction in ways that would appeal to lovers of weird/dark fiction. For example, in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, a small boy watches as his mother has sex with another man in the presence of his dying father. The trauma turns him into a hopeless stutterer who eventually becomes infatuated with a temple in Kyoto and can’t stop thinking about it even when enjoying the company of prostitutes. Nice story, isn’t it? Oh, and you might also enjoy The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, which tells the story of a bunch of angry thirteen-year-old boys who reject the adult world and eventually kill the boyfriend of one of their mothers because they feel he’s soft and too romantic and not the hard sailor they’d imagined.

Despite that fact that he was a bodybuilder who posed for pictures dressed as a samurai and that his work deals with things like murderous teenagers, watching your mom have sex with a stranger, and trying to deny the fact that you’re gay, what makes Mishina a very strange scribe is the way he left this world. He was a very political individual, but I won’t get into all the details here (there are plenty of solid online biographies and about six books about his life, so you can do that the next time you’re bored). To keep things short, here’s the Wikipedia version:

“On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai, under pretext, visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Inside, they barricaded the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and a banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the soldiers gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup d’état to restore the power of the emperor. He succeeded only in irritating the soldiers, and was mocked and jeered. He finished his planned speech after a few minutes, returned to the commandant’s office and committed seppuku.”

For those of you less knowledgeable in Japanese culture, seppuku is also called harakiri. Yeah, disemboweling yourself and then having someone chop your head so you don’t suffer for too long. However, unfortunately for Mishina, he chose an idiot to be his kaishakunin, the fellow that does the head chopping. If you read a few online biographies, you’ll come across phrases like “failed attempts” and words like “unsuccessful.” What they mean to say is that Mishina exposed his intestines to sunlight and the guy that had to chop his head off had awful katana skills and repeatedly had to whack him in the neck with the sword. Finally, a more apt individual stepped in and finished the job.

If that story is not enough for you, consider this: Mishina got up early on the morning of November 25, 1970, and, loyal to his never-miss-a-deadline attitude, finished the last chapter of Decay of the Angel, the last book in his Sea of Fertility Series. Enough said.

——–

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


Crazy Asia: Helldriver

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By Scott Cole

Recently, some Bizarro Central staffers gave their picks for filling that Walking Dead-shaped hole in your heart. Inspired by that post, I wanted to recommend the outlandishly fun and very weird Japanese zombie film, Helldriver.

Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl), Helldriver is just one drop in the current wave of hyper-bizarre films coming out of Japan, but oh what a drop it is.

When a meteorite crashes, and the resulting cloud of ash devours the northern half of Japan, anyone caught outside without a gas mask becomes infected. An hour later, they rise from their comas, sprouting Y-shaped antlers from their foreheads (which, by the way, can be ground into a powder and sold as a dangerous, illegal narcotic), ready to attack and devour anyone in their way.

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Before long, a wall is built across the center of the country, dividing the relatively safe southern portion of the nation from the infected menace in the north.

But not everyone agrees on how the situation should be handled. There are groups defending the rights of the infected, and others who want to destroy them. Politicians argue both sides of the issue. Eventually it’s decided that the infected must be eradicated for the good of the country, and a woman named Kika is charged with leading a group into the north to hunt down and destroy the Zombie Queen.

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Luckily, Kika is armed with a chainsaw sword, which happens to be powered by her artificial heart (her real heart was stolen by her mother, a homicidal maniac whose own heart was taken out by a meteorite that crashed through her chest, starting this whole mess). Her mother also just so happens to be the Zombie Queen.

Among other things, you’ll see chainsaw fights, various mutations, a samurai pincushion, decapitated cannonball zombie heads, a pregnant woman who uses her unborn-and-still-attached zombie child as a projectile weapon, a car made from assorted body parts, and of course a tsunami of arterial bloodspray.

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It goes without saying that Helldriver is deliriously absurd, and a whole lot of fun. But it also stands as one of the weirdest zombie films ever made (at least, so far). If you’re in the mood for the undead, but looking for something Romero never conceived of, give this one a shot.


TETSUO!!! – A review of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira

By S.T. Cartledge

Big explosions! Motorcycles! Clown gangs! Drugs that give you telepathic powers! Children with old-people faces!

Akira is a bizarro cult classic through and through. It’s a six-volume manga series and anime film. If you read comics, I highly recommend the manga. If you watch cartoons, check out the anime.

http://bizarrocentral.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/akira.jpg?w=603&h=430

It’s about this teenager, Kaneda, and his motorcycle gang, as they tear their way through the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo and discover a strange conspiracy concealed within the remains of old Tokyo. The military have in their possession a group of young children with telepathic powers that are dangerously destructive. After an accident, gang member Tetsuo finds himself undergoing tests and force-fed drugs and developing telepathic powers of his own.

What results is a complex battle between motorcycle gangs, military, strange cults, and telepathic street children. The military is trying to control their child-weapons, Kaneda is trying to control Tetsuo, and Tetsuo is trying to control and increase his powers. Underneath all that, there is another child hidden away by the military, the cause of the destruction of Tokyo – Akira.

http://r1.goodmanga.net/images/manga/akira/4/1.jpg

It is complete chaos as Tetsuo’s power spirals out of control and threatens to destroy the city again, and everyone else, fighting each other, trying to stop him by whatever means necessary. The manga goes into incredible depth, plotting out the stories of all the different factions at work, where the anime focuses more on the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo, but either way it’s raw and chaotic. It’s a cyberpunk masterpiece.

The characters are desperate, angry, and aggressive. The art style is cool, with that distinct ’80s/early ’90s feel you get with things like Dragonball/Dragonball Z and Ghost in the Shell. The story, however, is in a class of its own. It’s got the cult feel of the Warriors, but with powerful political and social complexities that are terribly frightening when read within the context of a culture that, less than half a century prior, fell under attack by atomic bomb.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ff_8hMtkh6s/T7opYHjHHNI/AAAAAAAAE7k/dG7gk1ttzX0/s1600/Akira+(1988)+Japan+2.jpghttp://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Gojeuqdp-1g/T7oPf9J9dCI/AAAAAAAAE6Y/vDR4c_K7sow/s1600/Akira+(1988)+Original+2.jpg

You can enjoy the film for the action-packed thrill ride that it is, but if you want to read more into the apocalypse/post-apocalypse representations, there’s that too. On a side note, if you want to read more about that aspect of Akira, I wrote an essay about it a few years ago for uni. The point is that if you haven’t seen it/read it, you should. Right now.

S. T. Cartledge comes from the fabled Land Down Under. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012’s New Bizarro Author Series. He enjoys making potatoes act out his fantasies.


Weekly Weird Art: Shintaro Kago

By Sam Reeve

Shintaro Kago is an ero-guro manga artist. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically a style that plays around with the grotesque (in the malformed, bizarre sense) and eroticism. I feel like my description may not be doing it justice, so go right ahead and click that link.

Kago, a Tokyo native, has been a major contributor in the area of scatological manga. In an interview with Vice ge admitted that though he draws a lot of messed up sexual acts, he really doesn’t have an interest in pursuing those things in real life.

I’m a much bigger fan of his satirical, brightly coloured work, but I’ve also included stuff from some of his mangas. Enjoy!

shintaro_kago_5_large kago shintaro shintaro kago plane shintaro kago shitting girl

the power plant kago shintaro kago brain girl kago hole


Butoh

Butoh – a weird kind of Japanese interpretive dance. See it for yourself!

butoh_1

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Day 14: Satoshi Sakamoto

By Sam Reeve

Satoshi Sakamoto‘s detailed style and use of bright colours really reminds me of Alex Grey‘s work, only it’s much more abstract. He was born in Aomori prefecture in 1970 and studied art in Tokyo. He now lives in Hirosaki city.

ROENGI

the head cutter temple

thyutoyken

yoim

vankimazma

IBAKI

CaccouRoengi20093

Codama - satoshi sakamoto

NAPPLE


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