by | Apr 1, 2024 | MUSIC, THE ITCH | 0 comments

In another #itchysilk foray into Japanese culture we head with gusto into the world of horror manga and hip-hop.

Courtesy of our ever-growing friends in Japan, namely hip-hop artist 病みキノコ (Mushroomyuta) we gained some insight into the collective KEKEKE. A mix of rappers, producers, and artists, they blend hip-hop with visceral horror manga artistry for their musical releases.

Here we discuss manga, the death of manga artist TATARI and the plans for KEKEKE this year.

How did this distinct Japanese genre begin?

The oldest Manga in Japan are said to be “birds and beasts caricatures” drawn in the 12th to 13th century (Heian period). In these ink drawings, frogs and rabbits were anthropomorphized. The story unfolded as the picture scroll was expanded. Until then, caricatures and other forms of cartooning were the norm, but after World War II, famous cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka, Fujiko Fujio, and Shotaro Ishinomori created works for children. Since then, manga has become an indispensable source of entertainment for people of all ages and both sexes.

And horror as a distinct genre in manga how and when did that happen?

Horror manga has been around since the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Shigeru Mizuki’s Gegege No Kitaro (1960-1969) and Kazuo Umezu’s, Orochi (1969-1970). It is not only about yokai and bizarre phenomena, but also about the “evil” that lurks in people’s hearts and minds. Horror, comics also have a strong aspect of suspense, with brutal and traumatic depictions. I was enthralled by the extraordinary, bloody scenes. In the 1990’s, horror manga temporarily gained over-ground status. Many monthly magazines of horror manga existed, and these were published for girls. This is a fact that is hard to believe today. Today, those monthly magazines are sold at high prices at auctions. I used to collect them myself.

Why is manga so popular as an art form and how has it stayed so relevant for so many years?

Manga is entertainment, but it is also an adventure and an experience. I imagine many things from the depiction of a single page rather than images. Although they have been formatted electronically in recent years, I prefer paper books. I feel the texture of the paper and am fascinated by the spine and the door picture.

Keke-what does that mean and when and how did you start this group?

In 2015, I (病みキノコ) and Labba Boom rapped about horror manga, a common hobby. For the music video, we sampled from horror manga. It created quite a stir at the time. Music depicting horror manga had not happened. The response across the board was very positive.

In 2019, I got a message from horror manga artist TATARI (Tatari Takayama). He said, “This song is great, it’s inspiring. I want you to be one of us!” We knew TATARI and had read his manga, so we were very happy. That was the beginning of KEKEKE.

Let’s talk TATARI and his impact on manga?

He died last year, and everyone is depressed that he is gone. Tatari was loved very much by everyone. He also connected many people to KEKEKE. Not only did he publish horror stories but also gag manga in a monthly magazine. His G pen magic Nozomi to Kanae * was a very peaceful and loving manga. After his death, it was published in book form.

He was also a musician and produced beats at a tremendous speed, once sending three new songs in one day. His raps were original with a unique flow. He was a super artist who could do anything. Most of the beats he made did not use sampling techniques. He used to play keyboards in a band and had excellent composition skills. He had a different appeal from the so-called big road hip-hop beats. Now that he is gone, I can see how great he was.

And talk about that first release under KEKEKE (ケケケッ)

TATARI had an exhibition coming up and he wanted to release an album there. We worked on the album and the first album スリラーショック (2029) was completed. This artwork was illustrated by TATARI. The origin of ケケケッ (KEKEKE) comes from the eerie laughter of ghosts, Yokai, and villains in Manga. It is an onomatopoeia that makes fun of people.

Discuss your new genre ”Horror Manga Core HIPHOP” and why the need for this new genre?

People live with stress and a sense of urgency. Horror Manga Core HIPHOP cut through all that with “absurdity”. We are covered in sludge and splattered with blood to break the deadlocked routine. We, do the absurd routine back with the absurd. One of our missions is to link with artists around the world and multiply (infect) our members. Horror comics are easy to share and have a strong cultural element, so many artists understand us beyond national borders.

Talk about the other artists in the collective?

Taro Kanafuro, a manga artist and friend of TATARI, drew the illustrations for 黙示録 (Apocalypse, 2021) The horrifying atmosphere and vividness of the doctors (monsters) surrounding the pregnant woman on the operating table are brought into relief. He also created the metal logo for Kekeke. We liked it so much that it has appeared in all our subsequent works.

Tau, a member of KEKEKE creates the layouts for these wonderful illustrations-of course, he also raps! All KEKEKE’s designs in recent years have been done by him. His designs for the Illuminated Paths release, 異界録 and his self-released 宇宙クラゲ (2023) outstanding.

KEKEKE is a group of people who are obsessed with physicality. When you hold the actual product in your hands, you can see how well designed it is.

What’s new for the outfit in terms of new projects etc?

Big artists from all over the world are invited to create zines. A collection of wonderful works on the theme of KEKEKE’s worldview. We are working on a release by the end of this year. There are also plans to release cassette tapes and distribution on labels around the world. Currently over 10 projects in progress.

* Tatari’s manga is also available in the United States.

**(2020-2022) serialized and published in book form in 2023)


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