Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Guess who has now most definitely heard of Same Hat? The king, our spiritual uncle and pretty much favorite dude on the planet: Kazuo Umezu!!!

Today on his Twitter and Blog, Umezz (or perhaps simply his webmaster Demerin) name-checked Same Hat and the recent series of guests reports by the TOKYO SCUM BRIGADE boys. I have talked briefly online to Demerin before via YouTube, and passed along the latest posts hoping she'd give them a look. It also sounds like the TSB guys spoke to Umezu's people while at the Rock Event this past weekend!

Regardless of how exactly it came about, getting Same Hat name-checked on is a dream come true. Now to meet the man! You can check out the original post here. Many, many thanks again to Tokyo Scum Brigade for sharing the wealth with all us Umezz fanatics.

For new folks, you can check out all my earlier Kazuo Umezu posts here!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


[This is the third in a series of three guest posts by the awesome guys from Tokyo Scum Brigade! Dr. Senbei and Voidmare attended the Umezz Carnival 2009 this past weekend and are guest posting here with reports. Please enjoy, and many thanks, guys!! -Ryan]

The latter half of the discussion kicked off with a showing of a rare Geki-mation from the mid 70’s. What is "Geki-mation"? Too stilted to be considered animation but still far enough over the poverty line to entertain the kiddies, its Reading Rainbow-esque production is charmingly rudimentary.

Yokai Den: Nekome Kozo (Legends of Japanese Monsters: The Cat Eyed Boy) was one of the rare gems to use this style of animation. Little is known of its twelve episode run from back in 1976, though it still purportedly exists on a Laser Disk in someone’s attic. Thankfully someone had the forethought to archive it on Youtube before disk rot set in. While this isn’t the episode shown at the event, it does a better job of conveying the mix of live action props over painted backgrounds.


Umezu is infamous for his manga, but few fans outside of Japan, or inside for that matter, are familiar with his musical career. He is an active lyricist, having penned the words for the Nekome Kozo theme song seen above, among others. He is also one hell of a showman.

Kurobe, Umezu’s guitarist, sauntered onto the stage, doing his black cat strut while his cherry red Gibson hollow body mewled out a wah-wah intensive version of the Nekome Kozo theme. Mic in hand, Umezu sprung into action, delivering a non-stop flurry of punches, kicks and jumps in time to the music while belting out his lyrics. For a man of seventy-three, Umezu still has the moves and he’s not shy about showing them off.


Umezu’s work has brought him into musical circles across all genres. He has written songs for Haruo Chikada, a progressive musician who was always one step ahead of the curve during his prime in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s when he collaborated with major players such as ELO.

The two met thirty years ago when Umezu drew Haruo, along with other famous musicians, as a guest character in his serialized manga Makoto-Chan. When Haruo caught wind of his unlicensed appearance he paid a visit to find out what Umezu was up to. Haruo played right into Umezu’s hand—The manga had been a viral marketing scheme to find musicians to record the Makoto-Chan theme song Umezu had written.

The honor eventually went to folk singer Kanbe Toshie of Iruka fame, but Umezu was taken by Haruo’s rambunctious onstage antics—Jumping off amps is right up Makoto-Chan’s alley. Likewise, Haruo was impressed by Umezu’s dreamy, doleful lyrics. The two teamed up to produce hits like Lady Hurricane and Electric Love Song, and in 1977 went on to destroy Japan’s image of the manga artist as a sullen homebody with their legendary Makoto-Chan live at Kyoto’s Doshisha University.

Of course, a concert poster isn’t going to do us any good by itself! Umezu had one last trick up his striped sleeves for us. The staff lined up on stage while Demerin and another assistant, wearing Mushi costumes, flanked Umezu.

Who's ready to do the Makoto-Chan dance!?

We wish that you, the reader, could have been there to experience it firsthand with all your senses. Umezu used musical notation to instill silent pictures with the tension one would find in the soundscape of cinema. We’re taking that one step further. Load up this YTMND VoidMare lost all of his hair trying to make and dance along at home! Originally we had the entire show as one big animated GIF, but the internet just couldn't handle it. If you scan through the Picasa album fast enough you can get the same effect, but don't cry to us after you have an epileptic fit!

Dance steps courtesy of Demerin

Umezu Kazuo is an artist in the truest sense of the word. His voice, both on paper and in song, is peerless in its strength of expression. His words pull you into a weird world that is not unlike your own, one veiled in the darkness of a child’s innocence warped by the realities of adulthood.

Umezu will be unleashing his voice to the world on the 23rd, where he promises to perform Electric Love Song live with his band. TSB will again be on site to bring the spectacle to you! See you after the break.

Umezz Carnival Music Discussion and Presentations

Umezz Carnival Dance 1


Friday, September 18, 2009


...the one & only KAZUO UMEZU!

Most likely it's his webmaster Demerin, but how cool is this? Looks to be announcements from the blog, here's hoping that they respond to @umezz tweets :)

[Also: I post Same Hat and Electric Ant Zine news, random crap, etc here: @remoteryan.]


[This is the second in a series of three guest posts by the awesome guys from Tokyo Scum Brigade! Dr. Senbei and Voidmare attendws the Umezz Carnival 2009 this past weekend and are guest posting here with reports. Please enjoy, and many thanks, guys!! -Ryan]

Having pushed our way past the merch table and made a general nuisance of ourselves by photographing anyone and everything in the vicinity, it was time for the main event— An extended talk with Umezu Kazuo himself detailing his history as a manga artist and the people he traumatized into collaborating with him, including his aloof fellow panelist and assistant, Demerin Kaneko.

The talk was lead by the face of modern urban ghost stories and V-Cinema director, Hirokatsu Kihara.


Hirokatsu Kihara (HK): You’ve been writing manga since before many of your fans were born. You debuted in 1955—10 years after the war, or to put it in perspective, right around the time Toei released Godzilla. When did you start drawing?

Umezu Kazuo (UZ): I’ve been at it since elementary school. By the fourth grade, I had my nose so deep into manga that I began to drift away from my family.

I wrote my first real manga, Mori no Kyoudai (The Brother and Sister in a Forest), at the age of fourteen in the eighth grade. I have a deep connection with the number fourteen—hence my other manga, Fourteen.

HK: How did you improve your skills to a professional level at such a young age?

UZ: Nowadays you can learn from professional manga classrooms, but at the time we had to make do with correspondence courses and books detailing what pens and techniques famous authors used. These gave me a base. You have to remember that manga was still a young and flexible medium. Weekly serials were such an insane notion that no one dared consider them. I had room to innovate.

HK: I like the way you use musical notation to supplement your sound effects.

UZ: In a scary scene of a movie, the music will go 'dun-dun-DUN!' You can’t experience the same feeling of mounting dread with just text, so I included notation to give it a soundtrack. Barring that, I attempt to compensate for the silence with blood-curdling art work.

HK: It seems like music was always a part of you.

UZ: In my second year of high school I gave up writing manga. The pay was lousy! Anyway, one of my classmates taught me how to play piano. I would sneak into the school music room through the window, even though I could have just used the door!

Years later I realized that people should stick to what they’re good at, and the only thing I was good at was manga!

HK: I’m not good at anything so I don’t know if I can follow your advice. What brought you back to manga?

UZ: I was inspired by my senior class trip. Or, should I say, by the people who went on it. I get motion sickness riding anything so I opted to stay home. When my classmates came back, they told me that they saw my manga on sale in Atami! That was news to me. I don’t know how it found its way to a hot spring resort town. I made some calls and ended up getting thirty thousand yen for my two books, Kyoudai no Mori and Betsu-Sekai (Another World).

HK: That was serious coin back in the day. Remember that items at the supermarket were priced one, five, or ten yen at the time. What did you do with your newfound fortune?

UZ: I gave it all to my mother. There was nothing a kid could do with money in the mountain town I grew up in. I had no concept of money, especially spending money.


HK: Tell me about your hometown.

UZ: I grew up in a place called Gojo City in the Nara mountainside. It looked like a tiny Edo-era villa—It could have used as the set of a period piece. As kids we were amazed at the only three-story building in town. It was unbelievable! That was a skyscraper to us.

Demerin Kaneko (DK): What did people do for fun in the boonies?

UZ: Well, it wasn’t on purpose, but a lot of us got hit by trains! The train in my village only ran once an hour, but people would still somehow manage to get hit walking along the track on a regular basis. Especially if they were walking across the bridge—no escape.

One such accident occurred by my house. I rushed to the scene to see my first dead body, unaware that the shock of doing so would change my life. The man’s torso was wedged between the tracks, his lower body nowhere to be seen. Yet the real shock was the blood, or rather the lack there of. When people get killed in movies there’s always fountains of blood, but the ground around the body was clean. Traveling down the track, all I could find were the minced remains of the lost lower body, scattered in chunks like human meatballs.

HK: How did you and the village react?

UZ: It shook me to the core. Not because of the shock of seeing a body, but because I knew the face connected to it. His death was a suicide, not an accident, and it bothered me that someone who appeared so happy and active could be hiding such darkness.


HK: You were the first to write horror comics for girls. From the outside, Shojo seems like a narrow genre.

UZ: Both Shojo and Shonen manga have their strengths. Shojo draws from everyday experiences and emotions—hate, love, fear. Shonen is more open and allows for dramatic settings and story telling. The scariest things are those closest to us, which makes Shojo the perfect vessel for fear!

HK: The real world settings really get under your skin. Where do you get your ideas from?

UZ: Most of my writing is based on hometown legends. Kitsune Me no Shojo (The Girl With Fox Eyes), for example, was a real local legend warning about a shape-shifting fox that played tricks on people. I grew up listening to these cautionary tales.

My parents used to tell me, "If the village comes under attack by a monster snake, attack its tail, not the head!" Years later I saw a TV special where a team of reporters travel into the depths of Africa to tame an anaconda. The bumbling crew couldn’t get their hands around the giant snake, until one of the natives came up from behind and rubbed the serpent’s tail into submission. I remember thinking, “All that nonsense mom and dad fed me was true!”

HK: I think the tradition of frightening folklore lives on today as urban legends. You’re responsible for your fair share of those, am I right?

UZ: Oh, you mean the Omi-Chan boom. One of my early manga, Omi-Chan ga Konya mo Yattekuru (Omi-Chan Strikes Again Tonight), was about a women named Omizu who drowned in a swamp. Parents warned their children, “Don’t go near the water or Omi-Chan will drag you under with her gnarly hands!” This didn’t stop girls from swimming there, though.

The name became synonymous with “ghost” all throughout Tokyo. Mitsuko, Misaki, Miyu—Any girl with a “Mi” in her name was subject to being teased with the nickname “Omi-Chan.” Kids these day have Hanako-Chan. Back then there was Omi-Chan.


DK: There’s a certain “I heard this story from my brother’s friend” kind of quality to your stories. Do you have any real life scary stories for us?

UZ: Aside from seeing a train-mangled body as a kid? Well, I saw another one as an adult just a few years back. There was a huge crowd gathered around to get a glimpse of the carnage. But while the men looked on from a distance, high school girls formed a tight circle around the body. It confirmed what I had always known to be true —girls are horror. And no sequel is complete without a trilogy… I wonder when the next one will come out?

I do have a story, and while I wouldn’t call it paranormal, it’s definitely unexplained.

I have one of those black cat clocks hanging from the wall in my house—you know, the ones with the swinging tail and shifting eyes? Anyway, his name is Kurobe. One day I came home and Kurobe had stopped moving. At first I thought the batteries had died while I was out, but the truth was far stranger. Comparing it to the other clocks I had in my house, I could tell that it had stopped at the exact moment that I entered the house.

This odd phenomenon continued. At first it was just when I came home at night. But as time went on it would happen more frequently, triggered at times by a casual glance at the clock. I would look up from eating, or away from the TV, and there would be Kurobe, hanging still under my gaze.

DK: Maybe he’s trying to tell you something. "Play with me…" You have an affinity for cats that tends to spill over into your manga as well.

UZ: Nekome Kozo (The Cay Eyed Boy) started its run in 1960. It was my first serialized manga, meaning it had my first character designed to have mass appeal. The series focused more on the story than the characterization. The cat eyed boy that watches from the shadows…

At the time Shigeru Mizuki was gaining steam as a horror writer for his Yokai stories. I wasn’t going to let him beat me at my own game! Shigeru might write stronger characters, but Nekome Kozo gave you the chills like nothing else.

The chewing gum wrapped in mini-manga was proof of his popularity. Character goods were virtually unheard of at the time. Having a character strong enough to move merchandise was a great honor. Some say a manga has made it big when an anime version is released, but the success of its goods shows you the public’s love for your character.

The man can't GWASH!, hence the big fake hand he's always sporting.

The report will pause here for a short intermission. We’ll be back with the lost Nekome Kozo animation, pop songs penned by Umezu, and the Makoto-chan dance!

Umezz Carnival 2009 Discussion


Thursday, September 17, 2009


I got a rad and unexpected email from David, who runs the comics magazine kuš! in Latvia. He worked to curate a crazy show featuring TINY pieces of art by 150+ artists from 38 different countries. The show, from what I have read on ArtSlant, was part of Survival Kit, a series of art events in Riga, Latvia.

This included a number of European artists, some Americans and also Same Hat indie manga favorites like Kago and Ichiba. [A full listing of participating artists is available on the exhibit blog.]

Here is the show explanation from their blog:
kuš! invited artists from all over the world to create a drawing about a last match on a tiny paper which fits into a matchbox. the whole exhibition fits into several matchboxes and therefore demonstrates that out of something small you can make something big.

So that's what 150 matchbox-sized pieces looks like...

Shintaro Kago

Daisuke Ichiba

Minoru Sugiyama

Shinya Komatsu

Tom Gauld

Shaun Tan

Check out their Flickr gallery to see all 151 pieces in the show. The show runs this week Saturday (9/19/09) at Lacplesu iela 37 in Riga. Thanks for sharing this with us, David!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


[This is the first in a series of three guest posts by the awesome guys from Tokyo Scum Brigade! Dr. Senbei and Voidmare attendws the Umezz Carnival 2009 this past weekend and are guest posting here with reports. Please enjoy, and many thanks, guys!! -Ryan]

It takes a real stand-up guy to throw a party for your friends on your own birthday, but Umezu Kazuo does just that with the annual Umezz Carnival. The hundred and fifty odd fans who showed up were swagged silly just for walking through the door.

Close ups are in the Picasa album!

Guests were immediately greeted by a merch table decked out with the latest editions of manga in addition to wind-up figures and various odds and ends. It seems fairly standard until you reach the end…

…and your wallet shrieks in terror at the sight of these upcoming figures! It warms my heart to see not one, but two Orochi figures, and in her nurse outfit to boot. It’s like they dug a niche into a niche. Look forward to the Umezified Baltan Alien at this month’s Super Festival Kaiju Gyo is a different beast altogether—good luck landing this guy if you miss the pre-order!

Sorry about the glare!

Down the hall is a collection of photography that is also on display at the Ukiyo-E gallery. Luckily, this time our cameras were allowed inside.

Check out the albums below for more!

Drifting Classroom has been generating a lot of buzz thanks to the current drama Drifting Net Café, but the stage dramatization flew completely under our radar! Anyone out there lucky enough to score tickets?

All this and we haven’t even started with the main event: A three hour talk show with Umezu, his assistant Kaneko Demerin and others, a rare showing of the Cat Eyed Boy Geki-mation, special musical guests, and a life changing dance show spectacular! Stay tuned for the goods in the next installment.

GALLERY: Umezz Carnival Pics

GALLERY: Umezz Carnival Merchandise and Main Hallway