J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Kyari Pamyu Pamyu through the Looking Glass of Lacan

A super cute character-girl, wearing a dress and gloves decorated with eyes, performs a highly choreographed song and dance routine ina room cluttered with the paraphernalia purchasable in her favourite fashion area. This is Kyari Pamyu Pamyu singing her world wide hit single "Pon Pon Pon". Just one of the several YouTube streams for this video has been viewed (as of 21 November 2012) 29 million times. The things that Kyari purchases, and even her dramatis persona, is not atypical for young girls that frequent Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping district where fashionista's go to parade their manga and anime inspired outfits, especially on Sunday afternoons.

But Kyari Pamyu Pamyu's music video, created by a team of Tokyo’s finest set designers, song and music writers, producers, animators, and the "air:ma"choreography team, goes a lot further way out, or way in, to the technicoloured mindspace of the Harajuku girl, and perhaps even to the heart of contemporary Japan.

Some of the features of this video are the inter-penetrating and strangely reversed duality of Kyari in her room, and pink Kyari shown in the mind outside her room. That her mind is outside her room, is indicated clearly by the descent of a red scull-less brain (0:15) that starts d dance.
The inside of the room is phantasmagorical enough with its mountain of consumer kitsch including glove puppets (0:11), a stuffed unicorn, plat-form shoes, many different stuffed characters, Christmas decorations, a tiger-cub decorated shoulder bag (0:25), a plastic elephant, plastic chains, knocked over chair (0:29),my little pony, 6 dolls, bags (0:32)

Kyari's mind, outside and occasionally overflowing inside her window, is even more outlandishly psychedelic nature of her pink persona that populates, together with one or more dancing fat old ladies, further serves to emphasise that, contra our expectations, outside is in, the psychological world seems to stand outside and encompass reality, rather than felt to be trapped within it.
Karyi's mind is very much in control. The psychedelic fantasies in Kyari's mind have been recreated in consumer purchases inside Kyari's room.Kyari's pink mental persona with even more virulently bleached blonde hair and even longer fake eyelashes only needs to speak in images (such as an apple,eyeballs, birds and a microphone – emerging from her ear) for these objects to appear inside the room.

Kyari in person is very much on stage, controlled, posed, forward facing, jittering, on strings, where as her celestial pink mental self revolves sublime, produces the microphone (0:7) to allow her to sing, and regurgitates the eyes that watch her dance. These eyes are perhaps the true protagonists, appearing everywhere, even after Kyari disappears after the final credits.
The words of the song appear to mean very little. The singer says in an interview that she is unaware of the title’s meaning, it having been presented to her on the day of her performance. None the less it is the words that hold the two worlds (mental and Harajuku) together: Kyari's persona’s sing in unison.

And, just as Kyari’s pink mental personal can produce things from often computer generated images, Harajuku Kyari can produce things by clapping, since the sounds in Japanese onomatopoeia is the same as that for the word for the slices of bread that appear.

Far more than the words, however, the images, symbols and gaze, the whole ocular structure of the video, speaks far more. Pink Kyari's computer generated simulacra, of strawberries, ducks, heart, scull, wasp, flowers, bones, banana, mask, pterodactyl, merry-go-round, red tank, fish, tortoise, dinosaurs, and especially the apple seem to represent her thoughts and desires. When Pink Kyari gets hungry she regurgitates a computer simulation of an apple from her mouth. The Kyri's mind speaks in images and watches her avatar, her character, through her bedroom window and TV set. The eyeballs that she spews surround Harajuku Kyari’s dance and adorn her dress. When pink Kyari arrives in the form of video tape played on a TV set, Harajuku Kyari’s head transforms into an amorphous pink mass.

So, what does it all mean? I shall argue that the video illustrates the Nacalian -- reversed-Lacanian-- theory of Japanese culture proposed by this blog.

I would like to draw attention to two things.

First of all that there are a lot of pretty creepy things going on. The aforementioned microphone appear from an ear, the dancing brain, regurgitated eyeballs (2:24),floating giant eyeball (2:28) , amorphous melty-head (2:42), are not gross enough, there are plenty of things that are conventionally accorded a negative valence, grotesque and horrifying things often associated with death, such as chequered one eyed skulls(0:40, 1:12) that come through the mirror into the room accompanied by a giant skeletal hand (1:17), a fossilized dinosaurs (0:41), giant bones (1:13), black birds flying out of pink Kyari’s mouth (1:18), melting eyes (1:23), a wasp (1:28) and a shark that again protrude fly into the room (2:47), Nightmare on Elm Street style mask (2:57), and what appears to be snot (3;32) . At least Pink Kyari does not attempt come through the window, our out of the TV set into the world. All these rather disgusting things, that originate in the external mental world are kept from being horrifying due to the consummate Harakuju cuteness of the heroine. Harajuku Kyari is so cute (kawaii) that she can turn even the most scary (kowai) into smorgasbordia of candy, flowers and bubblegum.

Secondly, I think it is important to ask, who is the dancing fat lady?

To be continued.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.