Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maniac Mansions: Part I

Otaku and Maniac are both derivatives of the obsessed fan. The distinction between the two is as murky as that between pornography and art—you know it when you see it—though clearly drawn down behavioral lines. Are you a mindless consumer, or a mindful connoisseur? Is the expression of your passion crude or refined? Do you feel entitled to take your share without ever giving back, or do you feel obliged to give back and share? The former are symptomatic of the Otaku; the latter a strong indication of a Maniac.

Our Maniac Mansions series will explore the lifestyle and loot of individuals whose collections mean more as a whole than their individual toys and manga. Like Ackerman with his Famous Monsters of Filmland, they find a way to be charitable while hording, and balance their extreme pursuit with moderate shame.

Gokicchi in his element rocking a homemade mask of Mokume, the demon doll from Negai, the short story from Umezu Kazuo.

Growing up forces us to relinquish the rights allowed only to a child—innocence, dreams, hidden bases—yet some of us manage to sneak through the rite of passage and emerge on the other side with an enviable part of our juvenile selves intact. Gokicchi, with his secret library that he still hides from his parents, is one such person.

Gokicchi lives with his wife and two daughters in the quiet suburbs of Chiba, an hour removed from Tokyo and its concrete anthills of activity. His home is pleasantly non-offensive in its sterility and adherence to prescribed societal norms—Giant flat screen TV roosting over the Wii (fun for the whole family), wooden silverware (much more welcoming than metal), muted colors and the sweet aroma of home cooked curry (savory and never overpowering). Yet like a Lynchian headtrip, the more idyllic the scene, the more stark its secrets.

One unassuming door in the back bedroom is all that stands between family life and a hidden life. Throw it open and step inside to a Showa-era time capsule that puts 20th Century Boys’ Tomodachi to shame. 

Umezu room

Red and white and insane all over, this room stands as a cultural bomb shelter, its shelves lined with classics from Tezuka, Shirato Sanpei, Yokoyama Mitsureru, but this is par for the course, the sort of titles that give balance to the eclectic pieces. And no one offers a better mix of the eclectic than horror master Umezu Kazuo, hence the artists’ trademark red and white striped motif lining the walls. The custom wallpaper, produced by the same interior designer behind the lawsuit-worthy funhouse in Kichijoji, hypnotically draws your eyes around the pill box and its bottomless bowls of hallucinogenic candy.

Drifting Classroom original run

Manga anthologies are printed in an oversized phonebook format that is shrunk down to a pocket sized trade paperback, the difference between the two being the experience of enjoying a movie on a panoramic theater screen or making due with your cramped computer monitor. This fan-made collection of The Drifting Classroom represents the entire early 70’s run in Weekly Sunday transplanted and rebound so that the reader can drink in the series as it was originally serialized, complete with colorized pulp pages and politically incorrect dialogue which was edited in future releases.

Gokicchi gwash

When the world can't cater to your tastes, you have to do your own cooking. Handmade T-Shirts are also a must for any Maniac. Gokkichi cribbed his name from the cockroach-human hybrid in Umezu Kazuo's dysotopic Sci-Fi thriller, Fourteen, who has been transferred from a signed shikishi to something closer to the owner's heart. Like any self respecting super hero, Gokicchi layers his trademark character under a button-up shirt and out of sight at public events, but is ready to bust it out at a moment's notice. Yeah, I'm that Gokicchi. Bam!


Gokicchi’s secret life has brought him together with the elite blackguard of the underground. He’s hobnobbed with Iwai Shimako, author of the novel that inspired Imprint, the Miike directed episode of Masters of Horror, had a cameo in Orochi as an audience member during the sisters’ singing recital, and served as a prop-making homunculus on the set of Tokyo Gore Police. Watch for him as the screen right skin grafter during the DVD extras commercial for an Ed Gein-style interior decorating service.

Akanbo Shojo script
Being a popular schmoozer helps to get your hands on signed scripts, like this copy of Akanbo Shojo (Tamami: The Baby's Curse).

Finding What Makes Gokicchi Tick

TSB (T): What was your first scrape with horror?

Gokicchi (G): I was always a weird kid, way into grotesque books and movies, though it never led to me torturing animals or anything like that. My parents grew up with off-kilter authors such as Edogawa Rampo, so they never gave me any grief. If anything, they’re responsible for the way I turned out!

T: How did you get into Umezu Kazuo?

G: When I discovered Cat Eye Boy in the pages of Shonen King back in 1968 I become a fan. But I didn’t become a follower until 2006. After one of his events, his hand bumped into mine on the way out the door. He turned and apologized with the sincerest smile that I’d ever seen. I was stunned. Famous people always put their best face forward for the camera, but how many of them make that extra human effort?

Homemade collection
Following the example set by the rebound Drifting Classroom featured above, Gokicchi hunted down and binded several other original runs of Umezu manga himself.
T: What initially brought you to the event?

G: My daughters, inadvertently. They begged me to get a computer and I finally broke down in 2006, where the Internet brought me together with other fans. was a huge boon, and its message board helped me enter the fold. There’s other manga-ka that I like, but none of them have an official homepage to the same degree. Who knows? I might have ended up obsessing over a different author if they had gotten to me first.

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Shonen Magazine featuring the first issue of Devil Man. Gokicchi's latest project is scraping together the entire serial to rebind.

Have you pursued other famous people to the same degree as Umezu?

G: One of my buddies is a red carpet hound. He’d camp out the night before just for the chance to get a signature from a big foreign star. One day he called me up and asked if I wanted to join. Next thing I knew, I was hooked. You get sucked in by their star power. The rush you get in fighting other fans for the signature is exhilarating.

You need a game plan—Something to draw the actor’s attention. When Keanu Reeves came, everyone was waving copies of The Matrix. He was deadest on ignoring the crowd until I caught his eye with a copy of Point Break. Artists get a kick out of seeing their under-appreciated works recognized, especially in a foreign country! 

The sad part is not being able to interact with them on a personal level. I mean, they’re celebrities, so it’s to be expected, but still. That’s why following people like Umezu is great. The artists know me, the other fans know me—It's a whole sub-community held together by a common interest and dedication.

Mokume mask

That's the key: Have a game plan. Have a way to stay relevant in an increasingly homogenized world.

Gokicchi's collection contains many more oddities, the best of which are too damning to those who appear in them to be made public. I don' dare mention their content. Even if I did, the information is locked under such iron-clad protection by its keepers that it would be unsearchable. This is a mind-boggling concept in our modern society where the collective knowledge of mankind is at your fingertips while the thrill of discovery sleeps at your feet, sedated by the convent complacence of E-shopping.

Some information is still off the grid. The past still waits to be discovered. And as long as there is interest in the bizarre and unknown, we will need people like Gokicchi to light the way.

Find more photos of Gokicchi's awesome collection on our Flickr page.


  1. Great interview, and a really interesting (and spot-on) definition of the difference between Otaku and Mania. Its ironic that while the means of production (both material and intellectual) are more available than ever before it seems like so many people are only interested in consumption alone. Its really interesting to look at Otaku in the 80's/90's where there was so much of a focus on fan-produced material (garage kits, doujinshi, PlaMo customs) whereas now almost everything is sold complete and finished and even the model kits are no-paint snap-fit deals. Not saying there's anything wrong with that (I definitely don't have time to scratch build kits just for kicks myself), but that attitude shift doesn't seem to bode well for a vibrant fan community.

  2. I like people like Gokicchi. He's smart to keep his hobby separate from his regular life. It's the same with me. Collecting comics/merchandise always gives me a thrill. I keep all my comics I ever collected in shoe boxes stored in a foot locker. On an off topic I found a couple of collectible old horror comic books that are very good.

    Check out this one too.

    Dick Briefer's Frankenstein (Library of Horror Comics Master)

    The reason I'm so optimistic about the youth bill that is it similar too what happen to horror comics in the 50's. The funny part in horror horror clip was the lecture about the "Evils" of comic books. To me it has a more of political overtone to control what youths should read and how they want them to think instead. What bothers me the most is how like back then many would be artists never came to be and that their stories nor art would be never known cause something never let it happen. - Different Anonymous

  3. great post i'd love to read more. Makes me wish they brought out those phone book sized editions in the states.

  4. Velocitron: Tickled pink to see that you liked this series, because we've got your place in our sites next!!

    I am really out of touch with the nerd scene in the states, but I wonder if the same downtrend is occurring?

    Different Anonymous: You may want to get your hands on a copy of The Weird World of Eerie Publications. It's one of the best books I have bought in recent memory.

    This may not be popular opinion, but the recent Tokyo manga ban doesn't really bother me. If anything it should challenge creators to actually get creative and find ways around it, (hopefully) pushing the medium forward and out of the long funk it's been in. Take music, for example. Lyrics used to be much more poetic and clever before you could say any damned thing you wanted to. I personally can't wait to see how ero-manga artists try to convey exploding vaginal fluids and cross-species gang rape within the new restrictions. We might end up with the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or Mr. Tambourine Man of porn comics, which is more than enough for me to look past other more serious ramifications that come with it. Dr. Senbei does not see eye to eye with me on this, for the record.

    Loof4r: Some madman has been compiling and rebinding the original runs of a slew of classic series and selling them at Mandarake for reasonable prices, usually 20,000-50,000 yen.

  5. I agree. I only saw the ban as a way to change manga. Cause we already know the formula to manga is anyway. You know cultural festivals, firework festivals, the beach, romantic confessions, becoming the best fighter, being a homicidal manic, etc. I think what will happen is that more comics will be self published meaning no editors, no rules, no limits. Even someone who is not a horror artist like Ken Akamatsu and what he's doing with his J-comi website. Thanks for the mention of the Weird World of Eerie Publications. I can't believe I missed that one. You know dark horse made new versions of Eerie. I think recently someone did a new tales from the crypt.- Different Anonymous

    If I posted to many times it's cause my internet is lagging.

  6. Velocitron- I agree with you 100%. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of people producing things: Just look at the popularity of Toho and Ryukishi 07's When They Cry series. But it's all niche dojin manga and games. Even with the barriers of entry to figure making lowered, manga is probably a better way to hedge your bets, though you'd know more about that than me.

    Different Anonymous- Yeah, the Tokyo Manga Ban seems highly politically influenced in its attack on "non-standard sexuality". How this will all shake down is yet to be seen. I'm waiting for anecdotes from authors and editors about how "we couldn't publish X in magazine Y" before I get offended, though I'm afraid of it seeing a precedence.

    The Comic Code killed the truly grotesque horror comic, though from a historic perspective I'm glad things shook down the way they did. The market was over-saturated and the reason many of these titles are remembered today is precisely because of the controversy. Every boom needs a bust to provide the time to sift through the remains and discover the true gems for preservation.

    Thanks for the links! I'll have to pick up Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! if just for the PSA.

    In terms of Indy manga: I'm conflicted on this! On one hand, like you said, the author is free to create, unfettered by the man. But on the other hand, editors do a lot to educate artists about panel layout, pacing, etc. Will this lead to a drop of quality across the board as authors are left to discover how to write "good" manga themselves, or a rush of creativity from a generation freed from the yoke of serialized comics?

  7. Yeah, you're right on independent manga. Editors do coach/teach manga artists. Some editors do give bad ideas like humanoid cellphones to soda cans, panty shots in every scene, and I swear there are more girl/women characters in manga than boys/men. If a manga artist has creativity then their work will be okay. If not it'll look like something from tokyopop's oel manga's (I've yet to buy anything from them). Viz has surprised me with their listings lately. I was more surprised with dorohedoro being licensed here. Oh, I hate spoil a series but the guy in caiman's mouth is not caiman himself but a man he killed which put a curse on him. I always keep my eye out for anything different art wise. - Different Anonymous