Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Umezu Carnival 2010

(For coverage of last year's Umezu Carnival, see our report on Same Hat! )

Fall brings with it a crisp change in the seasons, the reappearance of oden at Family Mart, and, most importantly to fanatics like us, Umezu Kazuo's birthday and the resulting Umezu Carnival!

This year, the Kichijoji Theater provided the backdrop for a three-tiered event grounded with a talk show delving into the man's obsession with snakes, followed by an appearance by anime diva Horie Mitsuko, then topped off with a performance by his band CAPS!! and the Gwash dancers. Grab a spoon and dig in for your recommended annual value of Umezu trivia!

Part One: Snakes

Demerin steals the show in her Hebi Onna cosplay, complete with tongue-flicking action.

From black cats to phantom spiders and genius chickens, animals and the curses they bring are one of Umezu's core themes. No creature is so heavily featured as the snake, or to be more accurate, people who transform into snakes, and vice-versa. In the literary tradition of Ueda Akinari, Umezu's demons fascinate us with their beauty and slither into our homes to prey upon our children. The horrific folk tales from the author's youth followed him from his countryside home in the mountains of Nara to the urban jungle of Tokyo, and young girls followed in the serpent's wake with excited terror.

The final installment of the Snake Girl trilogy is available in English under the unfortunate title of Reptilia.

The snake, which propels itself without the benefit of limbs, is far more malevolent than Sadako could ever be. Umezu succeeded in tapping into this collective human fear and used it as the fulcrum for more than a dozen short stories and serialized tales involving man's oldest foe. Often a stepmother or likewise unfamiliar adult will prove to be a serpent in disguise, leaving no avenue of escape for the poor girl who has to share a roof with the beast conspiring to swallow her whole. Other times, the snake masquerades as a jealous friend, whose venomous heart manifests itself as scaly skin and cold blood.

If you ever find yourself about to be swallowed whole by a snake woman, just remember that they hate the smell of tar and blow some second hand smoke in their face. Be sure to stock up before the tax hike.

Super Festival host and figure maker Art Storm teased us with their prototype model from Uroko no Kao (Face of Scales). Her head twists around Linda Blair style from normal to horrible snake monster! Note the unnecessarily awesome mouth on the elbow.

Check out this segment of Orochi released in English!

The mysterious wanderer, Orochi, shares her name with the eight-headed serpent from Japanese myth, but this is more than mere allusion. Umezu explains, "Snakes were once worshipped as Gods or Devils, bringers of fortune or disaster. My Orochi has transcended her existence as a snake into something far more powerful." His character crossed the boundaries between mortality and divinity, while his work served to bridge the gap between Shojo and Shonen comics. Orochi was the first heroine to grace the pages of the boy-centric publication Shonen Sunday in 1969, a bold move against the previously unchallenged male monarchy that Demerin equates to his "rock and roll spirit."

A young Umezu cameos as the cab driver in 1968's The Snake Girl and the White Haired Witch, based in the comic of the same name (which was essentially a mash-up of Akanbo Shojo and Uroko no Kao). Take notes, there will be a quiz later.

The front landing in Umezu's Kichijoji-based live in fun house is shaped like a snake's mouth, with visitor's shoes standing in as the teeth.

Umezu shares such an affinity with his scaly friends that they have evolved to match his trademark red and white stripes! Here we see a fan's pet snacking down on a hairless mouse.

The event's MC, Kihara Hirokatsu, pulled some strings and exhumed this rare footage from the vault of Umezu's star studded past: The long lost music video for Kimura no Ni-San, a psychedelic-pop song about a vampire with very specific taste in blood, thank you very much.

Come with me on a journey into the subconscious of a grown child.

This video is proof positive that Umezu was crazy about stripes before it was anyone else's business.

...and for some reason Umezu ends up in a Tin Man costume encircled by Makoto-Mushi. This concept video was born in the wrong decade. It looks like it was created in the 70's with state of the art Obayashi Nobuhiko-style blue screen technology, but in reality is a child of the mid-90's! Umezu and his crew were on top of retro remakes and (un?)intentional camp long before stylized kitsh was so much a glint in the public's eye.

It's hard to make out on a third generation VHS copy being projected at double its original resolution, but here Umezu has been taken out of commission by a paper charm, Kyonshi style. Chinese vampires were a big deal at the time, and far be it for Umezu to pass up such a tasty gag.

Part Two: Special Performance by Horie Mitsuko

Our Mayan Queen takes us to El Dorado.

Horie Mitsuko (堀江美都子) is affectionately referred to as the Diva of Anime Songs for providing the vigor for such legendary opening songs as Candy Candy, Hana no ko Runrun, and Choudenji Machine Voltes V, as well as breathing life into countless characters as a voice actress. Her explosive success spurred her record company, Nippon Columbia, to invest in the first ever sub-label dedicated to anime songs, a lucrative move which other companies were soon to jump on.

How does this link her to Umezu? In the mid 70's, Umezu's younger brother, a Toei Animation employee, invited Umezu to write an anime theme song in an attempt to capitalize on the his recent success with Shojo horror titles such as Snake and Black Cat. The resulting opening song for The Adventures of Pepero, sung by no other than Horie Mitsuko, would be the first of many pop collaborations for Umezu.

The track captures the heroic essence of venturing across the Andes mountains in search of adventure while managing to avoid falling into the pitfall of modern anime songs who twist themselves into unrecognizable knots struggling in vain to match the ambiance of the series.

The common complaint with seeing your favorite singer live is that they sound different than the recording. Mitsuko, by comparison, was CD pitch perfect more than 30 years after the fact. Here the two of them perform the opening and closing themes for The Cat Eyed Boy. Shunned by his native monster kin for looking too human, and feared by humans for his monstrous appearance, the Cat Eyed Boy is compelled by his conscious to help a world that hates him. Mitsuko's clear and powerful voice was the natural choice to express the pathos of this tragic character.

Like most girls from her generation, Mitsuko has Umezu to thank for a childhood of trauma and life-saving common sense. According to Umezu, "children need to learn boundaries to keep themselves out of danger. Fear is the most easily understandable of inhibitors, and my manga is the best teacher of fear! I'm doing society a favor by scaring kids safe. The pretty lady living down the street might turn out to be a snake woman!"

Part 3: CAPS!! and the Gwash Dancers

Where does a man of 74 find the energy to pick up the mic and rock the house year after year? Having a legion of female followers willing to sulk sinuously across the stage during Hebi Shojo (Snake Girl) is a good place to start.

Is Umezu going furry on us?

Put down the torches and pitchforks! He's just getting into character for a rock and roll rendition of The Cat Eyed Boy, though he looks more like a pushy grannie from Osaka than a serial yiffer.

For today and today only this is Umezu's world, and the rest of us just happen to live in it.

In the heat of the moment he forgot his cue for wardrobe change, something he seemed genuinely apologetic about.

This thick leopard print jacket is a surefire way to give yourself heat stroke, but the fans were on top of things.

Alas, their efforts were to no avail. Umezu rocked around the clock one time too many.

The Gwash dancers took the stage in festival garb for the long awaited unveiling of the Makoto-Chan Ondo! This little girl has been preened by her parents to be the ultimate Umezu fan and made papa proud by busting out the moves during Gwash! Makoto-Chan. Once her skull gets a little bit bigger, she'll be ready to swap brains with mama.

Once the chaos of the stage receeded, Umezu sobered up and hunkered down for a somber signing event. Voidmare got his homemade De(ka)metanbo inked, thus morphing the maddening spiral of fan obsession into a self-referential Mobius strip.

Umezu was cool enough to not only sign Voidmare's stinky homemade sneakers but draw a Makoto-Mushi as well!

By now I know what to expect going into an event such as this, but they always manage to sneak in enough new gimmicks, gags, and guests to keep things fresh. I can't wait to see what they have waiting in store for us at Umezu Carnival 2011!

here for WAAAYYY
more pics!
Umezz Carnival 2010 Part 1


  1. FANTASTIC POST! Gonna x-post a link on Same Hat. I'm determined to be out there for 2011!!!

  2. @Sands: Thank you! Can you believe it's been a year since the last one? 2011 looks mighty imposing when written, a perfect year to make your Carnival of Umezu Carnage debut.

    Also, thanks for the tumblr action! I get a really perverse sense of satisfaction seeing myself be referred to as Voidmare