By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Murahachibu and Zuno Keisatsu are two Japanese punk rock bands who helped form the punk rock music scene during the 70’s. Although the former shifted focus, and the other remained, to consider how their sound evolved to what is heard today, trying to discover what works has been described by some music journalists as hard to penetrate and it’ll take a documentary like Danger Boys: Punks in Osaka to break down this scene.
Theis world, according to a 2014 article in the Japan Times, is “notoriously difficult to penetrate. What’s there is said to be tucked away in the basements and upper floors of anonymous buildings, often in seedy parts of town, where the neighbours will be less likely to raise complaints against noise and loitering, with websites that update schedules only a few days before the actual events and that rarely link to any of the artists performing, live venues are like a hidden world open only to those who know the secret handshake.”
Seattle-based pseudo-punk band Tennis Pro entered this realm when they hit the road less travelled to gain recognition in their documentary Big in Japan (2014), but to penetrate Japan’s current scene within a world buried in another one is just as tough to uncover. Enter Danger Boys: Punks in Osaka, a documentary by Nick Romi (director) which is set to release December 11, 2017. This video can be pre-ordered at foreverunholystore.bigcartel.com and early birds will get a limited edition poster for a fantastic price of $10. This video will also be available on select streaming video services on the same day.
The work-in-progress print I got to preview looks at a small part this genre’s influence in the land of the rising sun. Names like Kaoru Merde Hayata from Flat Sucks discuss where the music is headed. He says the punk rock scene was really hot in the 80’s and reveals the music his group plays is all about emotion. His insights stand out in this documentary and he talks a little about his band’s music video Ohirune (おひるね) from their album “Osoru Osoru.” The visuals make for a great look at an atypical life of a Japanese household, and when contrasted with the edgier parts of the video, it makes for some obvious statements. Though my understanding of the language is limited, I got the sense of thinking this song is extolling the need to bust out of complacency.
Also included are brief thoughts and full performances from the bands SK8NIKS, Pipi, CW and Bypass (links go to either the Bandcamp or social media page). The emphasis in this documentary is to spotlight the bands than to provide a complete historical discourse. Not all of them have an online presence, so you have to attend their shows. A study can be made about the entertainment scene that’s unique to this metropolis and that is best left to scholars than documentarians. To examine what is reverent of this city’s past is gently covered since it comes through in the arts scene. The fact this city is an economic hub for the entire country and is known as “the nation’s kitchen” (天下の台所) makes for a perfect milieu for punkers to emerge from.
Hayata says the local scene is very manly. There are more male bands in Osaka than female. In a wider perspective, a fair number of female groups do exist, but they arer scattered across the country. They do not outnumber the crazy number of J-pop performers which dominates the general music scene, but maybe one day the numbers will increase. When recalling the influence the punk sound has on anime, there is a favourite title this author fondly recalls. Furi Kuri (フリクリ) is a crazy original video series which uses the punk aesthetic to entertain; Cartoon Network Toonami announced a sequel is in the works (set for 2018 release) and Japanese studio Production I.G. will be producing.
This documentary ends with a lengthy performance by TokoTokoTonntoko after the credits. This band blends J-pop sounds with punk, and this segment which will no doubt be a video extra.
Further edits are expected before this title’s eventual release. I hoped to see subtitles on the songs, so I could understand what’s being sung, and the producers of the Danger Boys Team at Unholy Spirit Productions plan on it. The initial cut clocks in on the short side, running about 35 minutes, and I wished for more. Perhaps further material will be added. I enjoyed watching an entire song performed in its entirety. I wanted to hear more from record label producers, but in a scene where you have to be at those basement juke joints, they are not always there to be interviewed. Perhaps with this video, these bands will see further recognition they all truly deserve.