The mesmerist of the printed page has since turned Pied Piper. If anything, retiring from manga has given him the time to focus on his second passion: Music. Umezu began writing songs for popular musicians back in the 70's and even recorded two full length CDs, Yami no Album (The Darkness Album) and Gwash!! Makoto-Chan/Umezu Kazuo World. The Umezu Carnival is held both to celebrate his birthday and scratch the rockstar itch that has been driving him batty for the past quarter of a century.
へび少女 [Track 03]
In typical fashion we kick things off with Hebi Shojo (Snake Girl) , an Egyptian lullaby designed to pull the dreamer down to face their innermost demon that writhes within all those arrogant enough to love.
Illustrated monster manuals were all the rage during the height of the late 60’s Yokai boom. Mizuki Shigeru is remembered as the king of the ring with traditional Japanese spooks, but Umezu was undisputed champion of the Western division with his renditions of Universal Monsters and European folk creatures.
For Kimura no Ni-San (Big Brother Kimura), Umezu sheds his sultan costume for bat wings, hearkening back to the image of crumbling castles, black cats, and vampires that set him apart from the rest of the pack who were racing to catch Mizuki’s scraps. The song itself is about a vampire contemplating how to consume his victim—Plain, or with spice?
Actually, the jacket is a Creature from the Black Lagoon motif (hangyojin look, as he calls it) , complete with metallic scales, armpit fins, and fish bone running down the back. This is a prime example of the intricate gags he constructs for himself and himself alone.
サンバ・デ・まことちゃん [Track 05]
Sanba de Makoto-Chan (Makoto-Cha Samba) may not follow an actual samba rhythm, but that doesn’t stop Umezu from getting festive with his sunhat, which is purportedly left on the sill to sun the plastic flower and collect cosmic rays.
Break out your yukata and uchiwa, it's time for the Makoto-Chan Ondo! Here Demerin provides a short how-to session in an attempt to incite the crowd into joining the Edo equivalent of para-para dancing. Better take notes now so you don’t feel like a chump when the crew hits the streets of Kichijoji during the next O-Bon season.
Shinjuku Garasu (Shinjuku Crow) is the tale of a young gutter snipe (Umezu) who is discovered rooting through the trash piles of Showa-era Shinjuku by a pair of married minstrels who have hit rock bottom. The mother (Masuda from Shogakkan) can't charm the patrons like she used to, and the father (Demerin) has lost his voice at the bottom of the sake bottle, though his fingers still remember the strings.
The song was written for Orochi, one of the few faithful theatrical adaptations of his work.
洗礼 [Track 01]
Senrei (Baptism) is a masterpiece of psychological horror about a mother who raises her daughter as a walking organ bank. Specifically, a carefully plotted brain transplant is her ticket to renewed youth. Keyboardist and literal scream queen Honey K provides an operatic overture while Umezu recharges backstage.
パパ＆ママRock [Track 06]
The lyrics of Papa and Mama Rock mention Mama Momo and Papa Kazz—The former refers to the pop idol with the voice of a sukeban, Yamaguchi Momoe, while the latter is her co-star turned husband Miura Kazuhito. Of course, the song is actually about fecalpheliac pre-school student Makoto (who is either based on a young Emperor Akihito or Tamami from Akanbo Shojo, depending who you ask) and his equally demented family (whose mother is quite possibly modeled after Empress Michiko).
The next pair of songs were written by Umezu reference the locales he was enamored with at the time. Otogi-banashi no Yokohama (Yokohama is for Fairy Tales) is self-explanatory, but Electric Love Story requires some exposition. The lyrics mention the rumors of a man named George, which in Japanese sounds like Joji, or Kichijoji, Umezu's base of operations.
Electric Love Story was originally a hit song from 1979, performed by pop sensation Chikada Haruo and the YMO. Being asked to create his lyrics would be like John Lennon coming to you for song writing advice.
Chikada Haruo and YMO's version of Electric Love Story.
ビチグソロック [Track 02]
No song benefited from having a full band more than Bichi-guso Rock (Diarrhea Rock). The wet, muted bass hit those low rumbles that sound right before you accidentally fill your trousers.
スーパ—★ポリス [Track 12], オールドローキングバンド [Track 13]
Umezu enters his final form and transforms into hip-shaking rocker Kazz for the last leg of his marathon set composed of Super Police and Old Rocking Band. The sudden explosion of energy made me wonder if he hadn't been sandbagging up until this point. Super Police in particular had him far and away in his own private universe spinning cryptic gags incomprehensible to us mere mortals. Girl in love/It's written on your face/Speeding on your Saturn motor bike/Man hanging from your mouth.
Someday Umezu wants to have a hundred thousand dancers behind him, but for now he'll have to be content with what they could squeeze onto the stage. Spilling out into the crowd, their numbers are steadily growing. It's only a matter of time before he storms to Budokan.
Of course, no event is complete without Gwash!! Makoto-Chan. If you haven't seen the YTMND, do so now! Words cannot contain the madness.
Momo-Chan, the little girl scissored between Demerin's arms, is part of the new blood that are spending their formative years reading Umezu and getting a leg up on their peers. The early psychological trauma will serve to toughen them up for examination hell and similar rights of passage.
What more can be said? The Umevinz added an extra layer of distortion on top of the already eccentric proceedings and the crowd was all too happy to be swept away by the wave of frantic energy which celebrated the fans as much as the man himself. Happy birthday, Umezu-Sensei! And... Gwash!
Check out the rest of the photos here!