Compare and Contrast the Protagonists Ichigo and Momoko in Takemoto’s Kamikaze Girls, With the Character of Naomi in Tanizaki’s Novel, Naomi
Meet Momoko, a "Lolita" decked out to the nines in the finest (and frilliest) of Victorian haute couture. The only scion of a drunken interlude between a cowardly yakuza and an inebriated bar-hostess, Momoko's mom has since split the scene, and, after various ill-fated scams that involve imitation brand name merchandise, Momoko's dad relocates them to the boondocks of rural Ibaraki prefecture. To escape her humdrum existence, Momoko fanaticizes about French rococo, dreams of living in the palace of Versailles, and buys all her extremely lacy clothes from an expensive Tokyo boutique.
In his afterward to Kamikaze Girls, Takemoto Novala writes that “Lolita is a fusion of the spirit of punk rock with formal beauty that honors tradition. Lolitas value independence and beauty above all else. In Kamikaze Girls, the two girls are drawn to each other’s independent natures and eventually come to respect one another.” Such a lofty statement is belied by the colorful and overwhelmingly pink cover of the novel, as well as the fact that the “two girls” in question (the protagonists of the novel) are a stereotypically representative Sweet Lolita and a stereotypically representative Yanki, or juvenile motorcycle (or, as the case may be, scooter) gang member. The novel is narrated by Momoko, who describes herself in this way: “A red felt mini-hat accented with rose-shaped burnout lace is perched on my hair, which is styled in a princess cut with long ringlets, and I have on frilly white over-the-knee socks. So aside from my shoes, which are Vivienne Westwood’s Rocking Horse Ballerinas and Lolita must-haves (they go with any Lolita outfit), I am clad head-to-toe in my darling Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.” In other words, Momoko is a Lolita among Lolitas, and she peppers her story with all sorts of references to and explanations of Lolita culture. In fact, Momoko begins her engagingly chatty narrative with a pseudo-historical lecture on the Rococo era in France, which supposedly inspired Lolita fashion and its ideals. Despite the silliness of the premise, Momoko’s narrative style is one of the major attractions of the novel. An unreliable narrator par excellence, Momoko relates the often sordid and depressing details of her personal and family history in witty, toungue-in-cheek monologues that reflect teenage power fantasies (at least as I remember my own) to an amazing degree.
When Nakashima shared his view why he was interested to adapt Shimotsuma Monogatari into a movie, we then understand that the work is simply a work of creativity that"[I] start seeing images when I read a novel I know it’s filmable... I certainly had thatexperience... the images came like crazy” as it resulted a speedy,vivacious celebration of visual imagery, parallel to any Japanese films we have seen – fortifyingthe aesthetics of ‘suggestion’ and let the audience take flight in imagination (Parkes, Graham. 1993). Nakashima's take ona young-adult literary might see as a mokukuseki portrayal, but it has much kept its'Japaneseness' as traditional philosophies persist alongside the manifestations of modernity inJapan, through the contemporary iki and shoka. Kamikaze Girls has left us a cultural and cinematic experience that has appropriated theirtraditional culture through the protagonist’s journey that traversed postmodernism issues ofpopular culture, Japanese schoolgirls, and psychosocial relationships through live-action, anime even a television-like commercial. Through the understanding of iki and theprocess of shoka we therein justified how the manga, anime, fashion and Japan’s traditionalculture are transnational elements that helped attract interests from the international audience.Lastly, as the viewers leave the comedy screen in laughter and high-spirits, having to have new-found hope that the two strong and distant characters have found friendship in each other, and byall means, to be plainly enjoyed and be touched by the adolescent story of growing up inmodern-day Japan. Like a grand finale, Kamikaze Girls films and celebrates the very heart of 21st century ‘Japaneseness’ (Terasawa, Kanako. 2013).
Finally, Momoko is a Lolita stranded in the boondocks of rural Ibaraki prefecture, although she'd much rather be living in the Palace of Versailles. Ichigo is an impulsive member of a girls-only biker gang who firmly believes in honor, loyalty, and fist fighting. Together this unlikeliest of duos strikes out on a journey to find a legendary embroiderer who might just be able to make their dreams come true. Inspired by the cult-classic novel by the same name, this exclusive manga edition of Novala Takemoto's Kamikaze Girls contains several brand new stories, including a continuation of Momoko and Ichigo's misadventures that was approved by the author himself!
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Parkes, Graham. 1993. "Ways of Japanese Thinking". In Japanese Aesthetics and Culture - A Reader, edited by Nancy G. Hume, 77-108. United States of America: State University ofNew York Press.Pincus, Leslie. 1996.
Authenticating Culture in Imperial Japan: Kuki Shuzo and the Rise of National Aesthetics. United States of America: Univeristy of California Press.