The Power behind a Throne that Never Was

So back in October of 2009 I was going to write a post called The Power behind the Throne and ended up writing one called About Moyoco Anno’s SAKURAN, Trapeze and sundry matters… instead.  Consider this post yet another child of that non-existent parent.

The influence of Ringo Shiina on Nana is in dispute, the “evidence” floating around contradictory.  I’ve read claims that some blurb in the manga mentions the connection, but then again I’ve read that in an interview mangaka Ai Yazawa categorically denied ever using models for her characters [the fact that fans have determined that she traces fashion magazines on occasion just complicates the whole thing].  Anyway, let’s pass over this.

FLCL's Haruko moves in for the kill.

I talked a lot about Sakuran and FLCL in that 2009 post.  The interesting thing is how Moyoco and Ringo are linked in both.  Sakuran was a manga that became a film; Moyoco wrote the manga and Ringo did the soundtrack for the film.  FLCL was an anime in which the creators credit both Moyoco and Ringo as influences.  In fact, from the many statements available it becomes possible to say that the main character in that anime is “Ringo drawn in Moyoco style”.  If you’re a fan of FLCL you’ll be happy to know that Ringo’s hit song Marunouchi Sadistic talks about being beaten with a guitar 🙂

The manga BECK has tons of references to cool musicians as befits its subject matter, and from what I gather most of these are Western.  That Ringo shows up at all clues us in to this persistent notion in Japan that she somehow transcends J-Pop or even stands in opposition to it (there’s a book by culture critic Kasho Abe titled Ringo Shiina vs. J-Pop).

BECK and Shiina's "Instinct"

In any case, apparently Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain pop up in a dream in BECK and these show up in Ringo’s songs as well so there’s definitely a similar preoccupation at work in both artists.  Also, the Ringo nurse image has been used ad nauseam in Japan, and had its influence on what eventually became Kuchu Buranko / Trapeze as well.

I picked up these connections in the Wikipedia article [here], but there are definitely more than the ones mentioned there.  Pyu! to Fuku Jaguar is a manga (and anime) whose creator Kyosuke Usuta is an avowed fan of Ringo and her band Tokyo Jihen.  He has confirmed that the character of Takana Shirakawa, a sadistic wannabe star, is partly based on Ringo’s persona.

Takana wants to be famous badly.

I think the word partly here is important.  I don’t know that a mature artist would ever say: “hey, I like So-and-so and so I will make a character just like him/her”.  It’s more a matter of selecting those traits from So-and-so that inspire/intrigue you and reembodying them in a new setting, then letting things happen.

Sadly, I haven’t found any information on Ringo’s own preferences in manga and anime, if she has any.  There’s a pretty ridiculous thread on 2ch debating whether she is a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion or not.  There’s absolutely no evidence either way, but apparently some Eva fans reason that since the show is so awesome and she is so awesome then she must be a fan of the show.  It’s also argued that since Ringo and Hikaru Utada are good friends, and Utada is an Eva fan, then the latter must have introduced it to the former [what are good friends for if not this?].  And if Ringo has been introduced to the show, and the show is so darned awesome, then she must have become a fan.  That’s the fandom’s logic for you 😀

The Many Faces of Shiina

2ch folk are funny.  There’s another thread titled “Is there anyone who does NOT want to have sex with Ringo Shiina??”  But anyway, there’s a great video of Utada impersonating Shiina.  Hikaru asks the audience to choose one singer for her to imitate.  The audience begins to shout out names.  The two names Hikaru hears the most are Ringo and her own mother [Keiko Fuji, a famous singer in her own right].  Hikaru predictably decides to imitate Shiina rather than her own Mom and the result is a couple of lines of the song Tsumi to Batsu.  I think this video was on YouTube at one point but has since disappeared.  I’ve uploaded it again.  Check it out.

Also, I’ve gone ahead and subbed my favorite music video from Ringo’s Tokyo Jihen.  The song is called Gunjo Biyori (=Ultramarine Day).  I guess it’s kinda silly to sub a music video but there seem to be plenty of subbed MVs on YouTube and I didn’t see this one subbed so I’ve gone and done it.  For some reason the video I was using kept getting rejected by my favorite subbing program so I had to resort to a not so favorite one.  The timing might be a bit off because of this.  By the way, Isetan is a Japanese department store chain and Shinjuku an important district in Tokyo around which Ringo’s life effectively revolves.

The song sounds very animeish to me…see what you think.

There’s a wealth of scholarly in-depth study of Ringo in Japan.  Next time I might write a post on some interesting analysis I’ve read…

~ by Haloed Bane on May 17, 2011.

6 Responses to “The Power behind a Throne that Never Was”

  1. I can vouch for Beck. The manga uses chapter covers based on album covers of all kinds. I had 2 t-shirts made based on Led Zeppelin IV and U2’s Joshua Tree. In both cases the characters of the manga substitute the subjects of the illustrations/photographs.

    • That’s great. I actually love Zeppelin IV (that’s the one with Black Dog and Stairway to Heaven, right?). Do you have any idea what is the proportion of Japanese covers to foreign covers? From what I gather the overwhelming majority are Western, but I haven’t read the manga so I can’t say for sure.

      • The covers are overwhelmingly Western. There’s a French Beck: MCS site I used to frequent that has all of the cover art in a gallery. Sorry I can’t remember the name or the url. Pray to google.

        • I found the site, thanks!! Yup, including Ringo there are only four Japanese artists/bands as far as they’ve determined (Tamio Okuda, Quruli and Triceratops are the other three).

  2. Win post. I recall reading something brief on the Nana influence, but I thought it was mainly that Mika Nakashima took inspiration from Ringo in the film adaptation; it’s hazy hearsay.

    Also interesting to hear about Ringo vs J-Pop, yet for some reason, I don’t believe she’s directly conflicting with J-pop but convention. Part of me also believes she has a certain flare which goes beyond playing an opposing role; maybe she’s just doing what she wants to do and doing it well. ^ ^

    And if you get a chance to write more on such analysis, please do.


    • Yeah, what I read is that Mika Nakashima was asked how did she prepare for the role of Nana, and she replied she just tried to get inspiration from Ringo because she read in the manga somewhere that that’s who the character was originally based on 🙂 But I don’t know if that’s true or not.

      I agree with you on the J-Pop thing 100%. Ringo couldn’t care less about any sort of oppositions like that. She does her thing and mingles with other J-Pop stars without a problem. It’s the critics and some of her fans that insist on putting her in a special box. I wouldn’t say she’s opposed to J-Pop, just that she’s one of the best acts in J-Pop and quite different in many ways from the norm.

      I’ll do a post on some analysis I’ve read on her songs very soon 🙂

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