Tokyo Damage Report

gekiteki 1: theatrical

This isn't ALL the "gekiteki" bands, just  the ones who are the most like "regular" theater troupes. In the next week or so I'll post the rest of the bands.


J.A. Caesar

MEANING : Terahara Taka'aki
ERA . . . : 60s, 70s
SOUND . . : : a mix of heavy Psychedelic and Japanese folk
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : Japanese instruments, melodies, costumes . . .
CLIQUE . . . : Terayama Shuuji
STYLE . . . : theatraical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : ???
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : everything
WEB . . . :

DL: here
Seazer (real name Terahara Takaaki) (寺原 孝明) was the musical director and composer for Terayama Shuuji. Shuuji would write the plays and Seazer would compose the tunes. His tunes were 50% lame hippy psychadelic crap, but the other 50% were SO RAD. Like you know how in The Wire, Omar whistles a traditional European Kids' song (Farmer In The Dell) and it becomes really creepy? Well imagine that with traditional Japanese folk melodies added to repetitive, tribal heavy psychedelic instrumentation. So deep and yet new.

wikipedia: Seazer composed the score to the animated film adaptation of Suehiro Maruo's manga Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show (also known as Midori or Shojo-tsubaki).


筋肉少女帯 (kinniku shoujotai)

MEANING : : : Muscle Girl Band
CITY . . :  Tokyo
ERA . . . : 1982~1999
SOUND . . : straight up visual glam metal.
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : literary influence! Terayama (he's an author and poet as well as a theater guy), Dazai Osamu.
CLIQUE . . . : strawberry, uchouten, kinniku shoujotai
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : ???

WEB . . . :, wikipedia


Kinniku Joseitai was a corny glam band, but they were a big influence on theatrical bands such as (???). Also, the lyrics are inspired by Terayama as well as the romantic gloomy novelist Dazai Osamu. Vocalist Ootsuki Kenji's lyrics are deliberately vague and ambiguous (漠然=bakuzen), because they deal with teenagers' uncertainty and anxiety about the future. He was a hero to '80s otaku because he articulated their frustration and "WTF am I going to do with my life?!?" problems. My friend also said the lyrics were どろどろ, meaning muddy or thick. If I understood her meaning, in this context どろどろ is how teenage outcasts see life: like it's a muddy fog, full of situations, rules, regulations, emotions, and reasons that they can't see or touch or understand, but just stumble around in.

Influenced Strawberry Song Orchestra (though they probably wouldn't admit it), Soshiki Bouryoku Houchien, and ???

The vocalist, Kenji Ootsuki, is a novelist. He writes science fiction, horror, and autobiographical books.






MEANING : : a sanskrit (梵語) word for one part of buddhist heaven, but is a used to mean extasy or rapture.
CITY . . : ???
ERA . . . : 82-91
SOUND . . : more of a new wave thing, but very mainstream.
CLIQUE . . . : uchouten, kinniku shoujotai
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . :

WEB . . . :

Contemporaries of kinniku shoujotai.  Uchouten were a big influence on shironuri kei techno bands such as Shinguku Gewalt, Jinsei, and Denki Groove.


The vocalist, Mr. Kera, ran their record label, Nagomu Records. That label had a sort of unique  new-wave sound, so the bands on it were called Nagomu Kei.  Although Uchouten was not a theatrical band, Mr. Kera also runs his own theatre troupe on the side, so it's unclear to me how much influence he had on the development of geki rock.



INSANE website with pictures of Uchouten as well as TONS of '80s pop images. Like a one-man (or one-woman) Tumblr. Even if you don't like pop or new wave, this is fucking interesting, man.




明和電機 (meiwa denki)

MEANING : : Meiwa Electrical Corporation
CITY . . : Tokyo
ERA . . . : 1993~present
SOUND . . : : electronic
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : : a deadpan parody of the salariman lifestyle
CLIQUE . . . :
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . :
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : they do the whole concert in character, with an elaborate script in between songs.

WEB . . . :

These guys are a whole category of music into themselves!

Their schtick is that they're not a band, they're typical engineers and salarymen working for a small electronics firm (SST and Greg Ginn???). They make their own instruments from scratch. The instruments are also art objects – more care is put into the concept and metaphors behind the instrument, and the physical appearance of it, than the actual sound of it. Their concerts begin with them acting like they are opening a business meeting or corporate sales pitch with the audience. They then explain about each instrument and instead of songs they do "demos" of the "products." It's intentionally funny but very deadpan.



CITY . . : ???
ERA . . . : 1997~ now
SOUND . . : early: acapella, later: ‘60s garage pop
CLIQUE . . . :
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : big when far, small when close (the acapella-with-tribal-drums one = straight dope!)
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : they don't perform plays but they have a "background story" and crazy frog-alien-swinging-sixties-waitress costumes

WEB . . . :

Ex-Girl are another "concept band." They are aliens who come to Earth from the Frog Planet of Kero Kero (in Japanese, frogs go kero kero instead of ribbit ribbit). Unfortunately they don't really do it up rock-opERA . . . : style onstage, but their costumes and frog-headed drummer get the point accross.





MEANING : : official death report of the drownded shrimp
CITY . . : osaka
ERA . . . : 2001~now
SOUND . . : : avant garde art-rock.
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : : influenced by kaiju eiga (Godzilla-style Japanese monster movies)
CLIQUE . . . :
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : Still no album.

THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : costumes, elaborate lighting design, and movies projected on a screen behind the band

WEB . . . : Unfortunately the band's website just went offline. fuck!

This band is the total package: rad theatricals AND rad music. The tunes are equal parts Residents, Primus, and Count Basie, while wearing suits and monster-movie-quality shrimp masks.

The inspiration for this band came from the band leader's two obsessions : kaijuu eiga and tropical fish. (he is a collector of both). Since crustaceans look like kaijuu, he thought he should do a band with crustacean masks. All the songs are about various crustaceans, not just shrimp. Even though they don’t have lyrics. The wood-bass is used to make a Godzilla-like growl.









MEANING : : fishing harbor
CITY . . : tokyo
ERA . . . : 2001 around ???
SOUND . . : rap-rock
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : props, costumes, Japanese fishing and working-class culture
CLIQUE . . . :
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : 2 out, currently recording major label debut
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : see below!

WEB . . . : , myspace

They wear traditional 漁業 GYOGYOU attire (fisherman’s attire), and all their songs are about fish, and for their encore they butcher a real tuna and feed the audience.

3 members : vocal, guitarist (who doesn’t usually play, just squats in a blue-collar style and yells at the singer), and the DJ. The emphasis of the muisc is not, well, music but comedy and performance. All the song titles are names of fish. The vocalist will yell SAKANA! And the guitarist will yell back the name of the next song’s fish: MAGURO! And the vocalis will assent, UN!! And then they start the song.

A typical theatrical number is ANKO (angler fish) : the theatre lights all go to black, ocean sounds play on the PA, and the vocalist tapes a flashlight to his head like the glowing lure of the angler fish. Then they start the song.

Gyokou is promoting not just traditional Japanese blue-collar workers, but they're also promoting a Terayama-like fuck-you attitude towards the separation of reality and fiction. The guys really are fishermen, but their "band characters" are sort of cartoons. The band's "official bio" mixes truth and outrageous exxagerations. They seem to delight in warping the line between real and fiction.



  rose de reficul et guiggles

MEANING : : ???
CITY . . : Osaka
ERA . . . : 2002~
SOUND . . : light opera
CLIQUE . . . : a la mode goth Lolita burlesque
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . :
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : they put on plays,dude

WEB . . . : , myspace
TDR REPORT . . .: HERE, and then HERE

These guys are a gothic drama troupe. The plays emphasize costumes and improvisation over "plot" and "rehearsal." The costumes are all lacey Victorian finery which has decayed and gotten mossy in a zombie-like state. They're basically like kids who broke into their grandma's closet, found a bunch of crazy props, and decided to put on a show in the backyard. And like kids, when they finish, the whole stage is a huge mess! The're not pretentious – they seem to really have a lot of fun doing it. There are some songs, (with prerecorded music) but mostly pantomime.

Quoting from my show review:

As near as I could make out, the story was this: king and queen relaxing at home, indulging in their hobby of sniffing roses and beating the help. Suddenly a Bad Guy (a truly inspired costume mixing Snidley Whiplash with Alex from Clockwork Orange) shows up and makes a Scandalous Overture to the queen. The king is subdued by some sort of Craven Minion (I should also point out that the king is Adam Ant). The King/Mr. Ant spends the entire rest of the play prolonging his death scene directly in front of the rest of the performers, as if to say, “Down here, you fools!! Don’t pay attention to THEM, you philistines! The action’s down HERE!!” meanwhile the Bad Guy ravishes the queen on a couch, and the craven minion chases around the servant. Then, songs! The play ends with the king and queen re-united on their Royal Couch, but the queen has been turned into a wanton harlot and the scenery has been reduced to rubble.


Oddly, I actually enjoyed it : in the end it wasn’t the costumes or the “gothic atmosphere” but the fact that everyone involved was shamelessly mugging and hamming the entire time, regardless of who was talking. Even the fuckin’ prop guy started coming on stage and mugging. I can’t help but think that the genius of GIGGLES is wasted on this small stage. I think their true calling is in Hollywood, helping big-budget directors. Any Tom Hanks movie would be 100% better if all the supporting characters were rolling around in agony, tearing up the plant-life, making sex-faces, and doing robot-dances THE WHOLE FILM.






CITY . . :
ERA . . . : 2004???
SOUND . . : goth / industrial
CLIQUE . . . : a la mode
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . :
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : see below

WEB . . . :

In the early 2000's, there were a whole bunch of these kinds of bands, none of which went anywhere, that would play Goth Lolita events. Phantasmagoria Fairy Tales is representative: the music is the least important thing, the costumes the most important, they seem to like 'acting' and making dramatic faces, but hate 'rehearsing' or 'making sense'.

Here is how Phantasmagoria does their thing: One woman would read out of a “fairy tale book,” while the other performed really awful charades. Their music was pre-recorded.


There are a handful of Japanese theatrical bands that do this. Either they have a giant flip-book of pictures, or they read text out of a giant prop book between songs. My friend Mochi says this either comes from American Beatnik culture (poetry readings and such) or from '70s girls' manga, which sometimes took the form of fairy tales, and the story would start with a fairy godmother reading from a book.


The funniest thing about this one was, the singer was trying to be goth but looked like fucking Stevie Knicks. I had to resist the urge to request “Tusk.” Their songs were good, but most of the time they deliberately did not sing.





MEANING : : : Iron Theatre Group
CITY . . : Osaka????
ERA . . . :
SOUND . . : I forgot!
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : Japanese flute, Japanese storytelling style
CLIQUE . . . : afurirampo
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . :
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : set design, props, narrarator, story.

WEB . . . :

These guys were kind of a rock opera. They had a lady on stage telling a story over minimal flute music, while – on the side of the stage- a huge picture frame displayed a selection of hand-drawn pictures which corresponded to what she was saying.  Another example of the "read-out-of-a-fairy-tale-book" staple of geki rock.


Also, I should mention the whole stage was covered with life-sized pregnant alien women, and the band-leader was a midget in a Mao Red Army cap with a miniature pez-dispenser flute which played tones only dogs could hear, and everyone was wearing stuffed-monkey neckties, and while all this was going on . . . they were in front of a video projection of skydivers. And when the accordion player starts jamming, watch out!!!

Eventually the whiny irritating vocalist left in disgrace, and the musicians could get on to the serious job of rocking. They played nothing but hammer-ons, of course. Just this intense rigid clockwork metronomic fast 16 th note figure which repeated over and over, but the guitarist would cue people to change key. It repeated for 20 minutes and was amazing!!

Oh, shit, I forgot the best part: EL MYSTERIOSO. He was a dude in a black hood and eyepatch who stood on the side and did not sing, or play an instrument, or even move. He just stood there, like, dude, I don’t NEED to do anything. I AM EL MYSTERIOSO. You should thank me for not doing anything, because if I really did my thing on stage here at this time, it would BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND. fuck, he should be in EVERY band.


 巨乳マンダラ王国 (kyonyuumandaraookoku)


MEANING : : mandala kingdom of giant tits
CITY . . : Osaka (originally) Tokyo (currently)
ERA . . . :
SOUND . . : nerd style
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : props for each song. Band members stay in character. No plot, though.
CLIQUE . . . :  gimmicky punk bands like s/m, Tokyo terebi, onanii machines, and QP crazy.
STYLE . . . : theatrical Comedy band.
ALBUM TO GET . . . : 王国民洗脳教育セット
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : props, costumes, different characters

WEB . . . :
TDR REPORT . . .: herrrrrrrrre

Saw them live. They were just like an anime monty python skit. First they dress up in spandex Doraemon costumes and sing karaoke, getting all choked up with emotion and not being able to sing because they are crying. Why this is funny I have no idea. But it was. Then the rest of the band comes out ? an arab shiek on guitar, a transvestite and hippy backup vocalists, and on drums, a blow-up sex doll. Did I mention the SOUND . . : was all pre-recorded? And the lead singer is some kind of bodybuilding dwarf in a home-made superhero costume. The crotch of the costume is so narrow, that his testicles stick out on either side like miniature Daisy Duke butt-cheeks. It is just insane when you combine it with his French waiter moustache which is painted on to his face with graffiti pen. He is all whipping his cape around, bullfighter style and striking superhero poses and playing this kind of Korn-goes-to-the-circus big top rock and everyone is jumping up and down. The lyrics I could understand involved pubic hair.


9 comments Tags:

9 Comments so far

  1. sakana August 6th, 2011 5:38 pm

    Do you really consider Dazai Osamu as a surreal-horror novelist???!!!

  2. Mira August 7th, 2011 4:42 pm

    I understand the concept behind trying to get a more accurate picture of why these bands are similar, and why they do what they do. I don't understand some of the labels you apply and information you give to/for these bands. 
    Lots of this info is skewed by your personal preference and/or what seems to be guesswork combined with some of what your Japanese friends tell you.

  3. admin August 7th, 2011 5:22 pm

    @Mira: Well, I’m hoping this will be a collaborative thing. I am relying on folks like yourself who know more about the bands than I do, to help me catalog the invisible links of influence and decode the symbolism and etc. Any corrections or additions you’d like to make, please go ahead.

  4. admin August 7th, 2011 5:26 pm

    @sakana: what label would you put on him? And, can you entertain our readers by doing a summary of one of his books?

  5. sakana August 7th, 2011 8:33 pm

    A label? A summary? No. But since there are no surrealism and no horror in Dazai's books, I think he is not a surreal-horror novelist.

  6. admin August 7th, 2011 11:11 pm

    @sakana: what about Harry Potter? Do you like Harry Potter?

  7. sakana August 8th, 2011 2:15 am

    ??? Ok,ok, Dazai is surreal-horror lol
    sorry u take it bad

  8. sakana August 8th, 2011 2:41 am

    Oh and for info, aside his very well-known surreal-horror novelist, Dazai was also the leader of watakushi-shosetsu (autobiographic novel) around the 20s

  9. Rosa September 11th, 2011 1:09 pm

    Man, I'm a bit late here… I should check your page more often! So anyway, a Kinniku Shoujo-Tai fanatic here… please forgive the wall of text. But you wanted corrections and additions so here we go…

    Kinniku Shoujo-Tai (not josei! grr!) or King-Show is indeed a major influence on these kinds of bands you introduce here (since the 90s anyway). You say their music is "straight up visual glam metal", I think that needs a little clarification. Their musical influences are scattered all over the map; as for the current members: the bassist is into prog, 70s rock and kayoukyoku, singer into prog and punk (and Kiss), rhythm guitarist into funk and new-wave (ex-Uchoten member) and the solo guitarist is a metal freak. Have to mention YMO as well. In the early days they were signed to Nagomu Records and the music was… well freaky as the nagomu bands were. Then they had this awesome pianist who was into prog as well as classical and the piano dominated their early sound. Then he left and the guitarist left and they got two new guitarists and instead of the piano, the music is dominated by the solo guitarists playing, making it more heavy metal-like. Even so, they can't really be described as "visual glam metal", or any genre for that matter. Their style ranges so much between songs.

    Theatrical points…? Not really theatrical but the style definitely fits gekiteki.  Though all members looked different but the major thing was Ootsukis style. Shironuri, bousouzoku-jacket (since the mid-90s, fans cosplay that a lot), dolls, plush toys and other stuff on stage, nunchaku-waving… etc. Not really visual-kei or glam rock either, except for the solo guitarist.

    There was also Karate Bakabon, the members were Ootsuki and Uchida from King-Show and Kera from Uchouten. It was kind of a parody of the techno-boom of the time. Weird theatre skits between songs and stuff. They've been influental to the guys from Denki Groove at least, and probably a lot of the techno-style shironuri-kei.

    King-Show got really popular during the band boom, one of the reasons was Ootsuki Kenji's All Night Nippon, which all the teens were listening to. The radio show was totally awesome, and Ootsukis charisma and sense of humor is overwhelming. He also discussed stuff like cult movies, manga and books so he appealed to all the outcast otaku teens who started following him and his band. His lyrics are sometimes like surreal and dream-like mini novels, influenced by Terayama and Osamu like you said, also Edogawa Ranpo. And tokusatsu. And a lot of music, books, films and comics, from Japan and the west. And prowrestling.
    Some lyrics here:

    So King-Show got really popular, they even had their own TV-show which was really embarrassing and akward. Some even accused them of being a joke band, because of the silly TV-show and only their tongue-in-cheek songs were playing in the radio and TV. Anyway eventually the joke band-hype and band boom subsided but they were still popular because all the otakus and other freaks of Japan were fanatically into them. And now the 90's teens are grown up and they started all these bands… I think that King-Show is one of the main bands that influenced a good part of them, or at least it was one of the most popular.

    So there you go… If anyone wants to hear more I'll gladly tell what I know. I doubt that anyone cares and tl;dr but I just had to start going on about them since I saw them featured here. Hehe. Really interesting this whole gekiteki thing, thanks for making these posts!

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