Having talked about the effect of the western dystopian future on Japanese fashion through the context of Mad Max, I thought I would complete the picture with a look at the Japanese apocalypse and the cyber-punk neo-Tokyo that would go on to spawn fashion giants like Julius. My first look at this world came through the seminal film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), but you cannot mention this aesthetic without mentioning the anime classic Akira (1988). A discussion of Akira will be coming in the next couple of days, but for now, meet the iron man…
Continue reading for a closer look at the film, the incoming third film in the series, the collaboration with Julius and an explanation as to why this is one of my favorite films of all time.
The film is broadly speaking a cyberpunk adventure, taking elements of Tokusatsu film making, in black and white with a thumping industrial soundtrack. But words cannot describe this film, this is a visual feast:
I admit that this is a surreal journey that ends with a phallus rampaging through Tokyo determined to rust it till it crumbles into the cosmos (SPOILER – But then again I have no respect for people who have not seen this film), but it was a film of its time and film that could not be more apacite for modern Japan. It is a film about our changing relationship with the urban world and how we define ourselves in it. On a very base level, the character of the metal fetishist starts his journey with a process of adornment that I relate to as I find ways to attach metal to my body through the means of jewelery and piercing. I find that in the same way as in Mad Max the spirit of modern armament is not only aesthetically pleasing but is also a way of interacting with an urban environment.
Hardly surprising then that the film would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon and a huge influence for Japanese designers. Namely Julius’ Horikawa who collaborated with the film company to produce a video homage, some clothes and jewelery and an installation in his Daikanyama flagship.
Above is a taste of the film and one of the collaboration shirts and pendants.
Above a look inside the flagship. Horikawa himself is a keen metal sculptor, so it was hardly surprising that he would feel such a personal connection with this project beyond the obvious aesthetic similarities to his work.
This is also an appropriate moment to highlight the obvious cross-over point with Akira, Tetsuo and Julius. AKA, Tetsuo (with different kanji!)
This is a depiction of Tetsuo from the film Akira, looking slightly different from the original manga. He too gradually starts to combine his body with the city of Tokyo which is the obvious link to the film Tetsuo, and his red cape could have come straight from a Julius cat-walk. For the record Horikawa is very open that both films were a huge influence on him although he does have an affinity for Tibetan monk’s red garb as well.
Nevertheless in a broader sense, the ideas of post-apocalyptic resourcefulness and cult-like identification are common themes in a lot of Japanese fashion, as is combining elements of industrial design in clothes. If I was an arguing man (which I am not), I would definitely argue that there is no finer example of both of those theories at work than in Tetsuo. On top of that it is a film that still gets my pulse racing no-matter how many times I see it and I thoroughly urge you to track it down, especially before you see the upcoming film in the series – The Bullet Man.
Shot in English, but still set Tokyo, I am not sure what to expect yet. To be honest I am almost nervous about watching it after the weak Tetsuo II, but I will be sure to get back to you once I have summoned the courage.