Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So Long

Longtime readers will have noticed that our output has exponentially decreased from weekly to monthly to quarterly to worse. Like all good chunks of nuclear waste, Tokyo Scum Brigade's half-life has expired. Five years and over 200 posts later, the blog has run its course.

And oh, the strange places it has taken us. Stalking Umezu Kazuo led us to interview our hero at his Kichijoji fun house. Writing about brutal manga brought us close to likeminded creators that still inspire us today. Our social circles are supported by spokes that radiate from the blog, and even our new jobs stem from this connection.

But that doesn't mean that the TSB crew has retired to whittle away its remaining years as salarymen. We're just breaking the roof off the Tokyo underground to make room for our new project, Ceiling Gallery. Viewings are open to the public. We hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bomb the Con

Comiket bomb threat
Comiket crisis averted. On December 15th police apprehended the man suspected of menacing Kuroko’s Basketball events with potentially lethal hydrogen sulfide gas from October of last year. The timing couldn’t be better for dojinshi circles. Kuroko and his teammates will ship in time for winter Comiket 85 after a year-long forced sabbatical. But despite being the most publicized terrorist threat in Comiket history, the potential body count pales in comparison to the Tokyo Big Sight Bomb Threat of summer ‘98.

As if to mark the third anniversary of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult’s sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, a group of radicals identifying themselves as the Japan Purification Federation released a chilling ultimatum--they would blow up Comiket 54 and anime fandom with it on August 15th, 1998. Their warning:


“Stop! And consider the amount of disgust and repulsion that the otaku race create within society. Otaku--those who can only articulate themselves in terms of anime, those who crowd cafes after anime films for heated discussions, those who are introverts that can only love anime characters, those who flush billions of our nation’s precious currency into the toilet known as the ‘anime industry’--they must be exterminated with extreme prejudice.”


Most Comiket attendees plan a route to navigate the 35,000-plus dojin circles exhibiting during the three-day event. The Japan Purification Federation was no exception--except their itinerary was optimized for maximum death and destruction. They would begin the cleansing at midday when the otaku population was at its peak and the winding lines around popular tables made moving--and escape--an impossibility.


Phase I: Begin Cleansing

Initiate attack in the West Hall with daisy-chained M18A1 claymore mines along wall from Point A to Point D. Anyone within the 50m kill zone will be ripped to shreds by shrapnel before they can react. Deafening explosions will create mass panic among survivors who will naturally flee towards the exits and into another set of linked mines (Point E to Point G, then Point H-K, then Point L to Point N). The anti-tank mine at Point O will put any survivors out of their misery. 

Phase II: East Hall Search and Destroy Operation

Simultaneously detonate claymores at Point P in East Hall 1 and East Hall 4. The stampeding crowd will form a gridlock to be pushed forward by sequential explosions from Point Q through Point W. Once the otaku are corralled into the central hallway, ordinance along Point X will detonate, eliminating 90% of the target. Those outside of the kill zone will be left to stumble through bodies, blood and steel ball shrapnel to reflect on their wasted lives until the anti-tank mines at Point Y bring down the roof and release them from existence.

Phase III: Grand Finale

Targets who make it through the carnage of the East Hall may try to escape via the parking lot. They will be greeted with a mine field. Here they will be forced to take responsibility for their fate for the first and last time. Explosions will ignite surrounding vehicles, creating a sea of flame.

Based on previous attendance figures we can expect 250,000 otaku to gather over the day. If even one quarter are present at the time of the attack, that means 50,000 vermin will be exterminated. Shrinking the market will in turn cripple publishers reliant on otaku business and suspend future Comiket and dojinshi events, creating a downward economic spiral.

We will destroy Comiket by expunging the creators.


A terrifying voice of absolute madness.

Had their plot succeeded, it would have been the largest act of domestic terrorism in Japanese history. Their diligence was their downfall--they released an ultimatum to keep curious innocents out of the line of fire, but failed to consider that doing so would alert the authorities. The MPD came down on the would-be mass murderers with impunity and dismantled their munitions plant, a shoebox apartment in Tokyo’s Nerima ward.

The Japan Purification Federation was the tail end of a hate wave directed at otaku. 2004’s Densha Otoko, the bestselling (purportedly) true story of an otaku who wins the heart of a girl with the help of the Internet message board 2chan, romanticized otaku as a misunderstood subculture of pure-hearted and loyal underdogs. It won the sympathy of the nation in the same way Rain Man made autistic into savants overnight.

The otaku label became simultaneously self-deprecating and self-affirming. It makes you part of a much larger whole. Granted, your peers are losers, but aren’t we all losers in the post-bubble economy?

The cottage industry exploded into an industrial complex. Now we have multiple magazines dedicated to voice actors, cosplay and Vocaloid. Hell, there’s even a publication to cover the “utatte mita” amateur karaoke singers on Nico Nico Douga.

If there’s money to be made in the ongoing recession, it’s from otaku. The government’s Cool Japan initiative is their attempt to strangle a few more golden eggs out of this goose before slaughtering it for the foie gras while leaving the content creators to starve. Consider otaku a farm-raised protected species.

A prank Comiket bomb threat like the one above is unfathomable with the current public mindset. Oh yeah, if it wasn’t obvious from the illustration of cosplayers being blown sky high, the Japan Purification Federation and their plot is a complete fabrication. Not that they were trying to pass it off as legit.
Comic Gon! cover
The article ran in the November 1997 issue of Comic Gon, the anime and manga-centric sister publication of Monthly Gon, a Z-grade trash rag that broke stories on where to buy high school prostitutes and recreational drugs, plus features on the standard mix of murder, urban exploration and porn.

Gon was part of the Million Shuppan family of publications that include Pulitzer Prize winners such as the gyaru style bibles Egg and Men’s Egg, as well as Jitsuwa Knuckles, one of many “true story” magazines focused on crime, celebrity scandals, MMA and sex parties on Enoshima beach--imagine Weekly World News and The Huffington Post tied together with barbwire. Now substitute the yakuza exposes for OCD lists of diecast robot release dates and Yamato animators organized by scene, and voila! Comic Gon.
Kogal as Gundam
Comic Gon was brilliantly subversive. Aside from info dumps with print so small as to require a magnifying glass, they printed street snaps of kogal that compared school uniforms to Zeon mobile suits, a Cribs-style photo essay of a porn game mogul’s million dollar mansion and an otaku fetish family tree that reunites lolicon and shotacon on the same branch.

Not so long ago otaku could still laugh at themselves. It was a defense mechanism. They understood why the public may loath them. As the media infamously reported in the early 90’s, Comiket was “home to one hundred thousand Miyazaki Tsutomus,” the serial child rapist and cannibal. Maybe they even felt that they deserved to be blown up.

In the years following Densha Otoko, otaku have come out of their shells to grow from "nekura," the quiet weirdo in the back of the class, to "upper-kei," the upbeat socialite that is aggressively forgiving of themselves and their hobby.

This post-Eva generation of otaku can’t stop having a good time, be it by reflexively retweeting memes, flooding Nico Nico Douga live streams with waves of “wwwwwwwww,” or flocking en masse to “Holy Spots” for the privilege to buy souvenirs that are only tangentially related to the current flavor of the season. If there’s one thing an otaku hates, it’s missing out.

Which is why overpriced Blu-ray box sets sucker you in with invites to exclusive fan events, the voice actor industry stays afloat by selling lottery tickets to talk shows disguised as CDs and anime movies continue to dominate the box office despite poor reviews. Otaku just have to be there, if not because they want to be, then so they can have something to post to their SNS.

American otaku get a bad rap for being fat and wearing fedoras, but at least they caught on that the latest Evangelion and Madoka films were unnecessary, self-indulgent and worst of all, once you cut through the misdirection and flashy fights, boring. But in Japan, being an otaku means being part of a never ending feel-good party. Nobody wants to be the turd in the punchbowl. Criticism is frowned upon--and will get your Twitter account flamed into ash--unless you’re arguing that a show is ironically good. But fandom wasn't always so stifling.

Compare the reception of Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer to Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie--Rebellion. Dreamer was a radical departure from the source material that was praised by critics, dismissed by fans, and disowned by the original author. It wasn’t a financial failure but was also far from a success. We now regard as a classic for the cinematography, storytelling and establishment of the Loop trope. Rebellion likewise goes off the rails, in this case by rewriting the ending of the TV series and simplifying the character’s personalities into parodies of themselves--except fans were happy to dance along with the betrayal to the tune of a two billion yen, making it the highest grossing film based on a late-night anime in history.

Twenty years down the road, what will Rebellion be remembered for, aside from its massive earnings and totally sweet Demon Homura scale figures?

Twenty years down the road, the kids of today will have their own axe to grind with the new crop of otaku. Weekend right-wingers raised on KanColle will drown out the PMA of the happy-go-lucky upper-kei, holographic idols will kill the Vocaloid star, sexaroids will defile the purity of H-games. Japanese fans will always have their own unique defects that ruin the end product. You can’t hope to fix them, only try to understand them.

Some argue that the industry isn’t getting any worse, that there’s always been more chaff than wheat, but things certainly aren’t getting better, and I say that nothing smothers creativity like stability--in this case, stability being the grind of creating anime according to production committee specs and fan demand.

Some animation studios seem to agree. Production I.G. dipped their toes into the whole crowdsourcing thing with Kick-Heart, and if Little Witch Academia is any indication then Trigger loves to break the rules as much as they love receiving foreign capital. Consumers vote with their wallets and Kickstarter is turning into the third-party outside the corrupt system.

Studios that want to challenge the status quo now have the option. When ambitious creators push the envelope, consumers will push it further. Fandom could become edgy once more. Go ahead--give society a reason to bomb the con.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Otaku Fetish Files: Ikabara, the Sexy Distended Stomach

Pigtails. The perfect ratio of flesh to fabric between the top of the stocking and hem of the skirt. Speech impediments. Otaku can masturbate to anything. To paraphrase pop culture pundit Azuma Hiroki, you too can learn to become sexually aroused by cat ears with the proper conditioning. Today we’re taking a look at ikabara(イカ腹), another 2D fetish that has everything to do about conditioning--or rather, the lack thereof.
Otaku are interested in one very specific type of abdominal spillover. Namely, a bit of a paunch that hasn’t developed into a full-blown potbelly. This gives the girl an unbroken and sloping silhouette, like a pair of parenthesis. Or, you know, a squid. Hence the phrase ikabara, literally "squid stomach."
So what makes a protruding tummy so goddamn kawaii? Conventional Japanese wisdom may have the answer. Word on the street has it that kids don’t develop the core muscles needed to hold their GI tract in place until puberty, so that extra baby fat is actually the abdominal cavity being pushed out by their low-hanging guts. Like the Bambi eyes and apple cheeks before it, ikabara is another visual prompt that sexualizes children.

Woah woah woah, put down your torches and pitchforks for a moment and pick up medical science journal. A distended stomach is a real condition, albeit one more likely to affect adults than kids. Your stomach is held snugly in place thanks to muscle and fat, so a lack of physical activity coupled with anorexic eating habits can lead to your digestive organs sagging in an affliction known as gastroptosis.

Symptoms include a loss of appetite, ulcers, indigestion and bowel blockage, not to mention the telltale protruding belly. If not treated, gastroptosis can lead to gastric atony, a sort of pre-turd constipation where the stomach muscles become too weak to push food into the intestine. Self-inflicted gastroptosis may seem like the fast track to buttoning up a pair of size 0 jeans, but it’s not worth the risk. Your large intestine might get snagged in the zipper.

If only gravure idols would take my advice. Turns out that pedophiles aren’t the only ones who are into hyper-extended stomachs. Flip through any gossip rag or manga pulp and you’ll find spreads of full-figured swimsuit models with the same belly bulge that drives otaku wild. And the girls know exactly what they’re doing with this oblique set of curves.
Though the English term gastroptosis is limited to medical textbooks and articles on moe tropes, the Japanese ikasui (胃下垂) is a household word and the most common self-diagnosed physiological ailment for females after yaeba (snaggle teeth), daikon-ashi (cankles), and hitoe-mabuta (single eyelid). For example, being ikasui helps the 31-year old gravure idol Sugihara Anri (seen above) stand out from the crowd--her G-cup doesn’t mean much amongst a generation raised on french fries and growth hormone-enriched beef. “I can eat and eat without getting fat,” she regularly boasts on her blog. This translates to totally rockin’ hipbones that burst through bikini bottoms and are offset by the soft slope of her melon belly. Leave it to a wide pelvis to dispel any pre-pubescent ickiness.  

Joe Public finds the ikasui sexy for the contrast between firm and flab. Isolated otaku worship ikabara as a magic symbol that infantilizes characters, even those with an adult physique. And Westerners consult with Google at the first sign of gastroptosis. Somehow the disease has become a fetish in Japan. But before we roll our eyes at another example of “wacky Japan,” I ask that you turn your accusative gaze towards the trove of SFW porn that Westerners have accumulated on YouTube.

The first video shows an anonymous woman take her stomach from toned to second trimester in the time it takes to chug two gallons of water. In the second, another bikini model gives herself a serious case of belly bloat, this time by stuffing an air compressor up her butt. Judging from the comments, the self-inflicted nature of these these stomach stretching fetishes caters to very different sets of fantasies than ikabara, ones that involve physical discomfort in the subject or a sense of fullness that only comes from gorging. Do you like to feel the liquid sloshing inside the stomach like a meat thermos, or are you more into seeing the gas painfully stretch her flesh before it’s expelled in a massive windfall that makes a cake fart look tame by comparison?
Ikabara isn’t the first trend in anime that made sickness sexy. No, that dubious honor goes to the 1995 television series Neon Genesis Evangelion. The titular mechas display emaciated ribs and suffer from osteoporosis. Character personalities are defined by their personality disorders. It’s no coincidence that the first garage kit of Ayanami posed her on a hospital bed complete with arm cast and eyepatch.

Tracing the roots of ikabara is like trying to find the patient zero of camel toe, but it couldn’t have been earlier than the ‘90s. Based on extensive research thumbing through stacks of Uchiyama Aki, Hayasaki Miki and back issues of Lemon People at the National Diet Library I can confidently state that early lolicon did everything it could to eliminate curves from the developing female form. The authors were more interested in drawing little girls to look like little boys, a trend that has come back around with the otoko no ko(男の娘) crossdressing shotacon boom. If you subscribe to the theory that purveyors of lolicon manga project themselves onto the girl who is being penetrated by a faceless third party, then replacing the girl with a boy (dressed as a girl to maintain a comfortable level of emotional detachment) closes the loop of voluntary feminization into a one-man circle jerk.
In any case, it seems that ikabara emerged from the otaku hive mind in the mid-’90s, right around the time that Evangelion fever was at its peak and digital coloring techniques began to cover the market in a shiny veneer of specular highlights on skin. After all, the essence of ikabara is in the subtle shadow, the mere suggestion of a tummy that vanishes under the wrong lightning conditions. It's the belly equivalent of a blivet.

Now that you’ve seen the ikabara you can never unsee it. You will begin to notice its singular shape undulating softly in places that are otherwise familiar. The sloping Windows XP background now tapers off into unspoken delights. The drop off may seem safe, but trust me--it's a long way down.

Scummy Manga Reviews #10: Homo Homo Seven

Homo Homo Seven by Minamoto Taro Cover
Title: Homo Homo Seven (ホモホモセブン)
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Magazine, Volume 30  1970-Volume 13 1971
Art and Story by: Minamoto Taro (みなもと太郎)
Genre: Hetauma gekiga gag
Seven, we've got
a real mess on our hands.
Leave it to me, Chief. 
Homo Homo Seven is on the case!
What It’s About:
In a political environment where feminism threatens the God-given privileges of every being with a Y chromosome, the all-male Homo Homo Bloc unites to sabotage the emasculating machinations of the all-female Les Les Bloc. Except the rag-tag spy ring is horribly outgunned, outclassed and outsassed by the deadlier sex. Their only hope--and only agent, for that matter--is Homo Homo Seven and his lady killing charms. There’s no whip crack too severe, no boot heel too pointed, no dame too unmountable. Our hero always comes out on top, even if it means playing the bottom.

Why It’s Awesome:
Heta uma gag manga Homo Homo Seven
Minamoto Taro invented hetauma. You know, the so-bad-its-good style where everything looks like scribbles on a cocktail napkin? Of course there’s been lousy artists since man first committed pencil to paper. But Taro was the first to make bad drawings part of the joke. His characters oscillate between hardboiled gekiga crosshatching and superdeformed chickenscratch depending on the punchline, relying on the juxtaposition of techniques as a visual pratfall. Subsequent generations of surreal gag writers including Hanakuma Yusaku (Tokyo Zombie), Yoshida Sensha (Utsurun Desu) and  Koizumi Tomohiro (Life is Dead) owe Minamoto a beer for legitimizing grade school doodles as a means of expression.

It helped that Minamoto could actually draw. Born in 1947, the Kyoto native was a member of Sakuga Group(作画グループ), one of Japan’s first dojinshi circles. Formed in 1962, the collective kept their circulation in-house and rarely published anything commercial, save for a few breakouts such as Locke the Superman author Hijiri Yuki. Sakuga Group caught the overflow of Minamoto’s creative output while he was writing for commercial magazines. His big break came in September 1967 when Cheers to Big Brother(兄貴かんぱい) ran in Ribbon, a publication aimed at girls young enough to still believe that maho shojo were real.

Minamoto’s bizarre sense of humor bled into his work. Although Homo Homo Seven was serialized the kid-friendly Weekly Shonen Magazine alongside manga Gods such as Ishinomori Shotaro, Tezuka Osamu and Mizuki Shigeru, it flew over the heads of his audience to be caught by bemused editors.

Discounting the sight gags, a majority of the humor and plot setups come from sendups to spy pulps and classic cinema. Homo Homo Seven steals a camel from Ueno Zoo and flies to the Middle East to secure an oil supply route in a parody of Lawrence of Arabia. Another chapter set on the island of Lesbos--Les Les Bloc HQ, of course--has sword-and-sandal action that culminates in a chariot race straight out of Ben-Hur. And don’t forget the tragic cabaret girls dripping with French Noir cliches or the female yakuza bosses fresh off the set of a Pinky Violence double feature.

Homo Homo Seven was a manga for adults that ended up in a publication for children. Minamoto originally submitted it to Big Comic whose top titles at the time included Golgo 13, Ode to Kirihito, and Umezu’s sci-fi epic Iara. There it languished as an emergency alternate for a year before being rescued by an editor for another Sogakukan serial, Weekly Shonen Magazine. The film and pop culture references were one thing--the lampoon of women’s lib further skewed it towards an older demographic.
The feminist movement gained traction worldwide during the 60’s and even made inroads amongst the patriarchy of Japan. Tanaka Mitsu fired the first shot for equality in 1970 with her manifesto Liberation From the Toilet(便所からの解放). It argues that men oppress women by holding them to conflicting standards--that of the the tender caregiver (mother) and sexual outlet (toilet). Tanaka reasoned that these labels were arbitrary constructs and women must cast them off in their pursuit of happiness. The call for both domestic and sexual liberation would become core tenements of Japanese feminism, with Tanaka's shocking rhetoric setting the tone for a generation.

Coinciding with publication of Liberation From the Toilet, Tanaka formed the Fighting Women's Group (ぐるーぷ闘うおんな) and hit housewives close to him with protests in the ritzy Ginza shopping district. Right around this time pharmacist Enoki Misako was also grooming her own coalition to petition the legalization of the birth control pill. Her Chupiren--also known as the Pink Panthers---borrowed a page from the Zenkyoto anti-Vietnam War student activists by painting construction helmets pink and launching publicity stunts such as confronting unfaithful husbands at work. The mass media became the biggest promoter of the radical feminist sponsored circus, earning the movement coverage, but no respect.
Homo Homo Seven by Minamoto Taro

Any pot shots Minamoto took at women's lib were likely more topical than political. Tanaka and Enoki didn’t start sending shockwaves through the media until 1972, two years after Minamoto submitted his first draft of the story to Big Comics. In truth, the main thrust of Homo Homo Seven is the spy stories. They say write what you know, and espionage runs in Minamoto's blood.

His grandfather served under Baron Akashi Motojiro, a Japanese Secret Intelligence Services agent who established espionage networks all over Europe in preparation for the Russo-Japanese War. Keeping in line with the Japonism zeitgeist,  Akashi had an artistic streak that helped him form an alliance with British spy Sidney Reilly. In 1904 the Scotland Yard operative swiped Russian harbor defense plans, allowing the Japanese Navy to launch a surprise night strike on Port Arthur that kicked off the war and set the precedent for the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 40 years later.

This sort of subterfuge elevated the secret agent man to the stuff of legend. Ian Fleming admits that Reilly was a model for Bond, James Bond. 007 was, in turn, fodder for Homo Homo Seven. Makes you want to break out the old decoder ring so you can see if the author slipped hidden messages into the pages.

If anyone's fruity enough to attempt espionage through manga, it would be Minamoto. He's a member of Soka Gakkai International, a lucrative offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism and the closest thing to a true cult the Japanese authorities will allow following the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. SGI commands 12 million members worldwide, controls the New Komeito political party, and teaches that chanting the Lotus Sutra every morning is a cosmic cure for cancer. Members are obviously gullible, but Minamoto is downright delusional--in his fifties he started visiting Comiket believing that "otaku culture is the new international language." What a loon! Then again, the jokes in his Puella Magi Madoka Magica parody dojinshi Homu Homu Seven practically wrote themselves, so maybe he has a point.

Why It Won’t Come Out in English

What, aside from the obvious?

Back up for a second--Homo Homo Seven actually does contain a state secret. Having myself been raised in the country that birthed the KKK, NRA and FOX News, I understand that it may be hard to believe, but not everything has to be a political statement. Homo Homo Seven, in truth, doesn't have any grand scheme for homosexuals or women's lib aside from making them into convenient hooks to hang a joke. Most Japanese couldn't handle a political debate that's not multiple choice--which, incidentally, is why they will never produce a good zombie story even with all their hetauma scribes combined. Everyone's too busy worrying about how others judge them to dedicate time to publicly judge others. Any negative energy is soaked up by the anonymous Internet forum 2chan. And the outliers who do mobilize to drive out nuclear power from our daycares or Koreans from Shin-Okubo are shouted down on Twitter.

As Westerners, we can't have a good day unless someone ruins it by doing something patently offensive. Righteous anger directly stimulates our brain's pleasure center with the smug satisfaction of moral superiority that's as addictive, soothing and destructive as heroin cut with Benadryl--another American original. Homo Homo Seven would be a PR nightmare for publishers, but the title alone provides more of a jolt than your morning coffee. Enjoy it as a nice pick-me-up, but don’t expect it to send you on an equal rights crusade.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kawasaki Halloween 2013-Photos and Observations

Halloween VS Valentine's Day, who you got?
According to a recent Mainichi article, sales for Halloween paraphernalia have surpassed those of White Day and are set to overtake Valentine’s Day at this trajectory. Valentine’s Day in Japan distorts the practice into a one-sided affair where women give chocolates to men, be it out of love or obligation. Men then have a month to weigh their options and possible escape routes before reciprocating with sweets on White Day. The common denominator for all three events appears to be confectioneries. But don’t be tricked--Halloween has nothing to do with kids receiving treats and everything to do with adults being obnoxious in costume.

Halloween is Comiket for non-nerds. It’s the one night of the year where people can try out new personas without fear of public scorn. Ah, a guy crossdressing as a schoolgirl--sure, it’s a joke, whatever you say buddy. A mom pushing a baby stroller dolled up as naughty Little Red Riding Hood with a skirt shorter than Shibuya gyaru--fair enough, you still want to taste the thrill of teasing the Big Bad Wolf. Visual kei goth kids go from social pariah to the center of attention--exactly the point of their ridiculous fashion. Alright people, you're free to let it all hang loose and be yourself!

Being yourself can also mean being a complete asshole. Halloween events start out friendly enough with friends in team costumes mugging for the camera and parents offering up their children to the strangers’ shutter--an amazing lapse of prudence for a country that won’t post their own face to Facebook out of fear for their privacy. The costume transforms the wearer into a superhero whose only ability is the power to stop acting Japanese for the day. And as the night stretches on, people get bolder, drunker and ruder.

The whole thing degenerates into packs of guys either cruising for chicks or looking to start fights. Basically, it plays out like any other Japanese festival. And that’s how you know, even without the Dentsu think tank telling you so, that the holiday is here to stay. Once the public accepts the rules of engagement for a new form of mass insanity it becomes a cultural norm. Look at Christmas--somehow a health conscious and romantically conservative nation convinced itself that fried chicken and trysts at luxury hotels were the most appropriate ways to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Who knows--given enough media prodding, maybe Japan will even restart the Yamanote Halloween hijack. For the time being, adolescent Tokyoites and displaced foreigners will have to settle for the Shibuya Center Gai street party or share space with families at the 3000-strong Kawasaki costume parade. No matter where the guys and ghouls end up shuffling, TSB will be there to capture the chaos on film.

Now that you've seen what's behind the mask you can never unsee it.
This awesome group costume was robbed of the Grand Prize that, predictably, went to an Alice in Wonderland family.
Lots of high-concept low-budget outfits on display. When did The Amino Acids turn in their theremin for a shamisen?
Sign up for Amazon Prime to enjoy free shipping on creepy box man!
Grinding in Monster Hunter feels less meaningless when you're doing it surrounded by others. At least stay in character buddy.
The Romero-esque irony of a zombie schoolgirl fumbling with her cellphone during a social function is not lost on me.
Want to cosplay but your outfit isn't worthy of Comiket? Then Kawasaki Halloween is for you!
Yokai costumes are cool enough, but ones inspired by ukiyo-e prints? Get 'outta town!
No way Bowser could take pole position with his slow acceleration given all the lightning bolts and blue shells zipping about that day.

Even werewolf flashers look classy with portrait lighting.
The street performers Creepers were out in full force.
Babies and half-dressed girls have nothing on a pooch with sunglasses and the right amount of swagger.
These Dollers were all smiles as they gave out panty shots.
This JoJo-inspired copper had it going on. Check out the gekiga shadows drawn on to accentuate the, uhm, lines of her body.
This Kyonshi could be the cover of any 80's B-horror flick.
Japan does kitsch Americana better than America.
Quick, get La Carmina on the phone: Split tongues and jewelry implants are the next biggest youth craze since bagel heads!
Extras from the Japanese remake of The Return of the Living Dead.
Shironuri schoolgirls, been there, done that--now a Morrigan crossplayer, that's scary!
Yeah, this guy's hand really comes off. No, I don't know how he gets it back on.
Marilyn Manroe's bodyguard was on full alert for the Red Creeper we saw above.
Very cute father-daughter team--until you realize that Sirene is six years old and walking around in her underwear.

Unfortunately we weren't able to ask these gas-masked machine gunners what the name of their idol unit was.
Harajuku cyber rockers were partying like it was 1999.

Remember when potbellied pigs where a fad? The next big thing in small livestock is pygmy goats. Seriously.
Bloody bandages and a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu monster mouth make any girl into marriage material.
Too bad this one was already taken! Babies continue to be a must-have fashion accessory this year.
Thanks to the city of Kawasaki for another great event and to the visual effects artists for bringing some much needed gore back to my daily grind.