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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
By Sam Reeve
I thought Uzumaki would be perfect for Halloween’s Japanese Horror Month entry. It has a perfect blend of truly bizarre horror and comical carnivalesque visuals and sounds which, to me, are what make up Halloween.
Uzumaki (aka Spiral) is connected to other films from Japanese Horror Month in a couple different ways: One of the screen writers also worked on the screenplay for Tokyo Gore Police, and Uzumaki is based on a manga by the amazing Junji Ito, whose work also inspired Kakashi (and numerous other horror shows and films).
Here’s the basic plot:
The story concerns the inhabitants of the small Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho that seems to be cursed by supernatural events surrounding spirals. Many people become obsessed or paranoid about spiral shapes, which starts resulting in several gruesome deaths. Eventually people start transforming into something other than human, such as snails and twisted forms.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: First, it’s very bizarre, not your average horror in any sense. The visuals are great, sometimes genuinely creepy, other times pretty funny. Second, the story isn’t bad. I have no idea what the manga is like, so I can’t compare, but I liked what the film did. Uzumaki is definitely something I could see myself viewing a few more times.
Below you can find a low-qualitycopy of Uzumaki on Youtube, with English subtitles. If you can find this film elsewhere, I highly recommend it (I was too lazy).
By Sam Reeve
In Demon City Shinjuku the evil dude, Rebi Ra, defeats Genichirou and causes an earthquake that destroys the Shinjuku part of Tokyo. The area is invaded by demons and becomes a post apocalyptic hell for the inhabitants. 10 years later is when Rebi Ra plans to finally resurrect the rest of the demons to turn the entire world into hell.
After a decade of chaos in Shinjuku, Rebi Ra is back, kidnapping President Kozumi (who had ushered in world peace). Some floaty ghost-like guy who seems to be Kozumi’s protector asks Kyoya for help in defeating Rebi Ra. Kyoya also happens to be Genichirou’s son, and he teams up with the President’s daughter Sayaka.
They enter the demon city, fight off bad guys on the way, are joined by a child side-kick and then finally get to battling with Rebi Ra.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Demon City Shinjuku is a good anime for the Halloween season. It’s filled with demons, angry spirits, and bloody battles. I found the art to be better than most of the anime I’ve watched this month, and the story wasn’t terrible (although after watching Wicked City I see they have lots of similarities).
The best part was probably the setting. I love post apocalyptic stuff, and the demon city was pretty cool. You never knew what would pop out next!
Here is a trailer for the movie that’s set to some mildly annoying metal music.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The final battle was a total let-down. Very boring and brief, which sucked pretty bad since I was expecting something epic like at the end of Akira.
Below you can find the full movie with English subtitles. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
When I watched Ju-on for Japanese Horror Month, I thought I would be watching what had inspired the American remake (which I still haven’t seen). Turns out there are two movies called Ju-on: one which was made in 2000, and one made in 2002 called Ju-on: The Grudge, which has a totally different plot and a very confusingly similar title. Ju-on actually translates to “grudge”, so you can see how this might not make the most sense. Click here for a full break-down of the Ju-on series.
The plot isn’t so much there, honestly, but here it goes: Jumping around to different characters and different times even, it tells us about the people affected by the curse of a house and those who’ve inhabited it. The curse started with a husband who murdered his wife and son because he was jealous (but that’s also not super clear in the film). The son has missed school so his teacher, Kobayashi, goes to investigate. We also see a family living in the house, and due to the curse a tutor and girlfriend are both killed. The last part of the film is fairly uneventful, just the real estate agent enlisting the help of his psychic sister to check out the place.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: If this series wasn’t famous and possibly worthy of viewing just to check it off your list, I would say to steer clear. It was a little creepy at some parts, most certainly in the way you would always think more would happen than what did, but that was all. The famous “crawling down the stairs” scene was pretty freaky at least.
The low-budget quality of the film could appeal to some people, since it did make it seem like you were watching a creepy home video at points.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The plot was just all over the place and left really unfinished in the worst way. If it had had more substance in that sense, I could have easily gotten past the lack of scariness.
Below you’ll find the famous staircase scene, and below that is the full movie with English subtitles. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
Horrors of Malformed Men (aka Horror of a Deformed Man) is a mystery horror directed by Teruo Ishii. It includes the ero guro element found in many Japanese horror films. Ero guro (erotic-grotesque) combines sexuality and eroticism with the deformed or abnormal. A modern example of ero guro would be the tentacle rape stuff, which started out through ero guro films. H.R. Giger‘s work is also considered ero guro.
The plot is a bit convoluted and you don’t find out what’s going on until the very end (like most mysteries), but here it goes: Hirosuke wakes up in a cell, not remembering anything. The jail/crazy house is mostly populated by half naked crazy bitches. He escapes and meets a girl from a circus who sings a song he thinks he knows, and finds out it’s a unique song that came from near the coast of Japan. The girl also mysteriously doesn’t know where she came from but was told she might be from there.
Hirosuke heads there, finds out information from a masseur about the rich Komoda family in the area and that their son Genzaburo had a scar on his foot exactly like his. The son was recently deceased, so like any normal guy who wants to get close to the family, he digs up the body, sees that it looks just like him, and then pretends to be Genzaburo who’s come back from the dead.
From there things get crazier as Hirosuke balances trying to keep up the appearance that he’s Genzaburo, and also deal with his “wife” and mistress. Eventually he gets to the mysterious island near the family’s estate that is apparently being turned into a “fantasy land”.
By fantasy land they really mean an island non unlike the Island of Dr. Moreau, where the insane father of Genzaburo has turned normal people into deformed monsters, and raised ugly messed up kids to be his evil slaves. I won’t continue to describe the plot, since it would give away the ending and it gets more confusing from there, but wackiness ensues.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: I can say that you probably won’t be able to predict the ending of this movie. The plot takes many turns, which kept it fairly interesting, though sometimes it seemed to get a bit lost in itself. The second half has a very circusy feel to it with all the freaks on display, parading around and even spinning fire.
It’s very bizarre and beautifully shot, often reminding me of Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain.
Not convinced? Here’s a trailer. If you’ve seen this classic film, or do end up seeking it out, let us know what you thought about it in a comment below!
By Sam Reeve
Today for Japanese Horror Month we have the anime short film Blood: The Last Vampire. It was directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, who also was a key animator of Akira. In 2009 a live-action version of this movie was made, but I can’t comment on that one since I haven’t seen it. This movie is doubly appropriate for this month because it takes place just before Halloween!
It’s 1966 and Saya, the last true vampire, is handled by some American suits. They use her to destroy bat-like demons that can take on human form. It’s suspected that one of these creatures has infiltrated an American air base, so they send Saya undercover at a school next to the base to find them. She does, which of course leads to some awesome demon fights.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: I was most impressed by the animation, but the story itself wasn’t bad. It’s by no means original, but at 48 minutes long, it’s just an entertaining, well-animated ride with plenty of monster action.
Still not sure? Watch this trailer!
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month is another Takashi Miike masterpiece. The Happiness of the Katakuris is a farcical horror-comedy-musical that is both live-action and claymation.
A family has moved out to a house in the country to start a bed and breakfast near where a highway is proposed to be built. They’re discouraged at first because no guests are coming, but eventually a few start coming in. Unfortunately they all die in their rooms in bizarre ways, which leads the family to bury them in order to save the reputation of the inn. The highway plans change, which means they have to move the bodies, and lots of craziness ensues.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This movie is sure to make you laugh, and it’s always entertaining and surprising. Besides an already ridiculous plot, there are insanely cheesy and hilarious song and dance sequences (including one with DANCING ZOMBIES), a compulsive liar love-interest who regales us with tales of his links to the British monarchy, and an explosive volcano!
But don’t just take my word for it, watch this trailer!
By Sam Reeve
Carved, aka The Slit-Mouthed Woman, is today’s film for Japanese Horror Month. I first came across this when reading about Koji Shiraishi, who directed Noroi, another film to appear this month that I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately Carved is not as good, but still not an utter failure.
Carved is a paranormal slasher flick with child abuse being one of the major themes, as every main character is either a current or past abuser or victim. An evil ghost, the slit-mouthed woman, possesses women’s bodies and kidnaps children so she can abuse and murder them. Two teachers are solving the mystery so they may save the children, but are put in danger themselves.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Mostly I found Carved to be pretty average and not very spooky or jumpy. What I did find disturbing was the scenes of child abuse (there are quite a few), and the one brutal flashback scene where a little boy has to kill his own mom. The makeup and special effects were a bit creepy, but nothing to swoon over.
The film was most definitely watchable, so if you’re looking for something just average, not terribly gory, or just want to see more j-horror, give Carved a try.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: What annoyed me the most were things that are apparent in pretty much all slasher flicks – the characters in peril don’t seem to understand the concepts of “go out the way you came in” and “be quiet when the killer is near”. Of course, maybe slasher flicks just couldn’t exist without that kind of crap, but one can dream.
Below you can find the full movie with English subtitles. One more week until Halloween!
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month was another one that has been misleadingly titled by many as a horror film. Hausu (House) is about 10% horror and 90% surreal comedy, but still one of my favourites from this month and one I’m sure you bizarros can get into.
Gorgeous (yes, that’s her name, they ALL have retarded names) was supposed to go on vacation with her father, but upon learning he would bring his new fiance, she decides to go to her estranged auntie’s house with a bunch of her girlfriends. In classic horror fashion, the girls are picked off one by one by the house and the aunt (who’s actually a hungry ghost).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This is campy, hilarious and surreal with a very heavy dose of 70′s style. It won’t scare you one bit and probably won’t even creep you out, but it will make you laugh and say “what the fuck” about every five minutes.
Instead of describing one of my favourite scenes, I’ll show it to you:
What’s not shown here, but a bit later at the end of the film, is this:
If you’re still not clear on what Hausu is all about, I suggest you watch this trailer (which shows many of the best parts) or check out the film itself. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month is the ugly child that would be produced if the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had sex with Conan the Barbarian. Kibakichi, also known in English as Werewolf Warrior, was made in 2004, though you’d never know it with the terrible special effects and big hair.
Kibakichi is a werewolf samurai who wanders around looking like a caveman with a silly hat. He ends up in a village of yokai, monsters that take on human form. Being a yokai himself, but one who thinks he should trust humans, he’s not too pleased at first.
Yakuza men with an old machine gun decide to take out the yokai people in the end, and that’s about all there is to this tale.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: If you like schlocky 80′s horror, then step right up. The yokai in this are totally ridiculous, the fights include plenty of slow-mo and exaggerated kung-fu moves, and there’s a rad scene where geishas turn into evil bee/spider monsters.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The only thing that got consistently on my nerves but also made me laugh and enjoy it just as much was the dubbing. It was the worst, silliest shit I’ve heard all week. The mouths kept moving for up to two seconds after they stopped talking, but that’s not even the worst part. The voices were silly, like bad guy voices from Saturday morning cartoons, except for every single character.
Follow this link to watch a trailer, or watch the full movie below dubbed in English. Cheers!
By Sam Reeve
I hadn’t heard of Trevor Brown before, but a friend suggested him to me, so I looked him up. I was sold when I saw this:
Trevor Brown, originally from England, likes to explore pedophilia, BDSM and innocence through art. Guess where he lives now? The most fitting of countries: Japan.
His art can be seen on the album covers of Venetian Snares, Deicide, and Crystal Castles. Crystal Castles actually used his art without permission, so he sued them.