With Japan’s blazing summer selfishly deciding to continue, the entertainment tastes of Japan’s capital have been turning towards things that can send a chill down your spine. That would certainly explain why this last week in Tokyo pop culture has been rife with “darker” TV shows, movies and music. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Japanese Performers Unleash Their Dark Sides
On August 16, Fuji TV released a remake of their 1985-1986 series Janus no Kagami (“Janus’ Mirror”). Based on a comic by Akiko Miyawaki, it tells the story of timid high school student Hiromi Ozawa (played by Hinako Sakurai) who is being raised by her controlling and often cruel grandmother. One day, after knocking over a bottle of perfume, Hiromi experiences a flashback that releases her second, hidden personality, that of the cold and dangerous Yumi. While the series might seem like just a retelling of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the original was actually a somewhat layered examination of Japanese society mixed with social commentary.
In the ‘80s version of Janus no Kagami, Yumi wasn’t a monster. She embodied the hidden, often vicious parts of Hiromi’s personality, but she wasn’t all bad. She stood up for herself, she physically fought off people wanting to hurt her, and she was always free, as opposed to her strict and traditional grandmother. In a way, she symbolized the new generation of Japan, and although it wasn’t always presented in the best light, the show also wasn’t a complete hit job against the Japanese youth.
Fuji TV has chosen a great time to bring the show back as Japan can’t seem to get enough of sweet, lovable characters going dark. Take the Japanese comedian Piko Taro for example. You might remember him from the viral PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen) single that he released in 2016, which currently has been viewed nearly 280 million times on YouTube. Well, on August 14, Piko Taro released a new, slightly different song, this one called “Everyone Must Die.”
The video, which recently accumulated 500,000 views, shows Piko Taro standing amidst darkness with a halo over his head, as he briefly explains the facts of life before announcing, to quite unsettling music, that everybody will die. But he does it in a cheerful way, almost as if to say that, hey, death is just a part of life, which unsurprisingly does little to make the entire song sound not totally creepy.
Japanese Encephalitis Is Sickeningly Adorable, According to Taiwan
There is a phenomenon in Japanese pop culture known as “gijinka,” which can be best described as “humanizing” things like cars, software, browsers or even Earth itself. In practice, they are drawings of cute human girls representing some non-human thing because the internet has way too much time on its hands. As does the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, apparently, because at the beginning of August they released a bunch of colorful gijinka illustrations of some pretty serious diseases. Japanese social media took notice of it was realized that some illustrations depict Japanese encephalitis as a trio of cute girls.
Japanese encephalitis, by the way, is a viral infection of the brain that can lead to serious seizures, vomiting and fever. Admittedly, some do associate idol girls in miniskirts with projectile vomiting.
Recalibrate with the Ni no Kuni Movie
If this week in Tokyo pop culture has gotten you down, cheer up by catching the brand-new Ni no Kuni movie, which premiered on August 23. Ever since the first Ni no Kuni roleplaying game was released in 2010, the franchise has made a name for itself with its anime art style produced by Studio Ghibli. Unfortunately, they are not behind the 2019 film. Ni no Kuni also seems to have strayed from its original story by introducing all new characters. However, the core idea of a fantasy kingdom existing parallel to our reality and being populated by doppelgangers with whom we share a mysterious link is still there. We’ll see if it is enough to satisfy both the fans of the games and casual movie goers.