Momoko Rebooted: Takemoto’s New Novel, Emily

It’s ten years ago this year that the movie Kamikaze Girls debuted (the same year as Mean Girls… coincidence or girl power conspiracy?) Kamikaze Girls is one of the great catalysts that created lolitas around the globe with its international release – and I was one of them. Though the author, Novala Takemoto, has mostly retired from the lolita socialiate circles since then, I’ll always treasure his contribution to lolitas everywhere in the form of both his beautiful film and his many books, short stories and articles.

I’m excited to see that he’s written a new lovestruck novel in the vein of his most famous, Kamikaze Girls (Japanese title: Shimotsuma Monogatari, A Shimostuma Story). The cover art is done by the famous lolita author Kira Imai, whose work has been made into a variety of printed dresses with Angelic Pretty and lolita fashion magazine covers. Here’s an excerpt of the novel, translated into English:

That’s where I was the first time you talked to me, at La Foret, the fashionable mall located at the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Dori. There were a few chairs there that anyone could use to pass some time. Rising up between the chairs was a great tree, looking like it belonged there. I don’t know if it was a gingko or a poplar or a gum tree. There were green leaf-shaped objects in the space between La Foret and the street. Instead of show windows, the stores inside La Foret used these hollow translucent objects for shop displays. I sat behind the leaf-shaped objects, on the side of the building, facing the entrance to La Foret, hiding behind the leaf that had the list of shops on it. I sat directly on the ground, hugging my knees to my chest. I didn’t look at anything in particular, and I didn’t think about anything in particular, and I stayed there in the same position until the store closed. That was the only place they’d let me hang out.

Why didn’t I run when you spoke to me? Why was I able to answer you, even with a stammer? I would normally be frightened by any male—whether it was the police, a high school boy trying to hit on me, a poor old country bumpkin confused and looking for directions, or a little Boy Scout holding a donation box. If any male tried to communicate with me I would flee in a flash. Somehow you were special. You’re still special to me. Special things are always special right from the start and remain special until the end.

Unfortunately it doesn’t say when the English edition will be released. I am looking forward to more of Takemoto’s fanciful writing bleeding through with its relatable awkwardness. (If anyone has any information about the release or where to read it, please drop me a line, and I’ll update the post so others can read it as well).

You can read more about Novala Takemoto in a short interview at the book’s promotional website here.

Racism is Not Kawaii: The Avril Lavigne Factor

Hello Kitty Avril Lavigne

 

In another addition of “oh, those wacky Japanese”, as explained by white people, Avril Lavigne has debuted a new music video called Hello Kitty. When I first watched this as it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, I immediately felt a migraine coming on. In this video, be prepared for more “edgy” contributions to culture that really hit the same shabby racist note.

The video begins with ‘me no psycho*, arigato, k-k-k-kawaii’, which immediately makes my stomach roil. The first line already makes fun of Asians in standard Mickey Rooney style, by mimicking an Asian broken English style. The Japanese words sound as though they’re just tacked on for flavor; the opening line is literally “me no psycho, thank you, cute’, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The song is also called ‘Hello Kitty’, which is also confusing – Hello Kitty doesn’t appear anywhere in the video, most likely because they couldn’t get Sanrio to agree to use the image.

In the next shot, it’s revealed that Avril is basically rebooting Gwen Stefani’s old Harajuku Girls. In 2005, Gwen Stefani hired four Asian girls to follow her around in matching outfits for a series of music displays. Comedian Margaret Cho said it best: to be blunt, it’s a minstrel show. She’s collected a group of Asian girls, dressed identically, who background dance behind her without expression. This is what probably makes the video so strongly offensive. Using Asian girls are decorations, accessories, or props is dehumanizing. It’s funny (and by funny, I mean funny painful, not funny haha) that Asians make great background props in everything from Tokyo Drift to Avatar: The Last Airbender but never make main character in their own stories, like 21.

It’s no surprise that the video was met by immediate backlash from Asians and non-Asians alike. Avril further makes an ass of herself on Twitter, responding to the comments with the following:

avriltweet

Thanks, Avril. Such a sensitive response makes us feel so much better.

She continues that she shot the video in Japan, with Japanese cast and directors, for her Japanese fans. The Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., reports that Avril “had only good intentions when making the video.” The spokesman added … they “would be happy if the discussions surrounding her song and music video results in more people discovering the beautiful and rich culture of Japan.”

That’s understandable; a lot of artists tailor work specifically for one audience or another, and Japan is always interested in encouraging tourism. However, the way this is taken in Japan by Japanese fans is a wholly different view than it is by her other fans abroad. This video is not being consumed in a bubble. Besides her Japanese fans, she has her American fans of many races and other multi-racial audiences around the world. How would it feel to be an Asian-American watching this video, as a white woman simplifies Japanese culture down to thigh highs and tutus with silent Asian girls as dolls?

Here’s another way she could have shot this video (despite the fact that the subject matter and lyrics are pretty flat… apparently it was written by her Nickelback hubby, Chad Kroeger) She could have collaborated with a Japanese artist, for example, to give a little more weight and autonomy to the Japan connection. She could have featured other assets of Japanese culture besides the tiny slice of pop culture that continues to misrepresent Japan to the West as more than the “wacky Japan” tropes. Why not showcase Kyoto, or Okinawa, the deer park in Nara, or Tokyo Tower? Maybe celebrate hot springs or summer festivals in yukata?

From a fashion point of view, the video also fails pretty horrible. Her pink petticoat-tutu hybrid looks like it’s from an American discount toy store, with safety pinned non-descript cupcakes, paired with a Hot Topic corset she rescued from the early 2000s. The only fashion inspiration I liked were her vintage mint glasses – check Etsy if you’re interested in finding similar styles.

Between the blatant racism, tired trope of ‘white girl discovers Harajuku, becomes instant expert’, boring lyrics and story-boarding, it gives the feel of nothing more than a Youtube pop project. In fact, it reminds me strongly of the amateur video song ‘I Love Chinese Food’ by Alison Gold. Only redeeming factor? There’s no creepy dude in a panda costume.

*one of my commenters mentioned that she may actually be saying ‘minna saiko’, not me no psycho, which translates to ‘you rock, everyone’. Credit goes to T.R.A. at Medium for clearing this up for me – another great article about the oppressiveness of the song here.

Yuu Kimura’s New Fashion Label Opens to Overseas

kokokim

Yuu Kimura, the baby-faced street fashion and fairy-kei Kawaii Ambassador, announced on her Facebook page the launch of her new fashion label KOKOkim. In the same vein as other pastel fairy-kei and street fashion styles as CANDY STRIPPER and Nile Perch, she’s created soft pastel gingham onepieces, straight-silhouetted and baby-doll cut dresses, tights and jackets. She states on her fanpage, “The concept of KOKOkim is MOEHARA”, which means moe (pronounced mo-eh, meaning an idealized young girl) and Harajuku, the cradle of modern Japanese street style, put together. Previously the label was only featured as collaboration with GLAD NEWS, but now announces its standalone brand. In an interview for Harajuku Press Online, Kimura said: “We want to dress lovely clothes coming out to the world of animated cartoon well not costume play only for special day smartly every day!”

Even more exciting for us pastel fashion enthusiasts overseas, this brand’s webshop is sponsored by the global service of Rakuten and bears a large Foreigner Buyers Welcome sticker! Prices are in Japanese Yen and roughly equivalent with Putumayo pricing. The average dress costs between 11,000 to 15,000 yen ($100 – $150 USD).

Shop here!

Photos: KOKOkim with the exception of AsianBeat‘s photograph

Marshmallow Girls

lafarfascans

Recently I ran across this Audrey Magazine article about the new Japanese trend of calling plus-size or overweight girls ‘marshmallow girls’. (I think it’s a really cute name… It makes me think of pastel marshmallows and marshmallows ropes and things I want to hug…!) For once, we got to see some bigger girls in cute fashion magazines, and I thought they looked adorable!

In the November 20 edition of the fashion magazine la farfa VOL. 4 (published by Bunka-sha), a magazine targeted a plus-size Japanese women, they introduced Goto Seina in a new feature called “marshmallow girl”. La Farfa is the first plus-size Japanese fashion magazine and recently threw the first plus-size Japanese fashion show with readers models. In her blog, Goto Seina said about the new nickname: “Of course there will be different opinions — people who say ‘you’re a pig’ or ‘you’re a fatty’, but for me, [marshmallow girl] makes me really happy”.

Particularly refreshing is the above cute image of Goto Seina wearing the same tiny shorts and thigh highs look that is popular for thin Japanese girls (Though… Puffy coats and tiny shorts still aren’t practical for winter, Tokyo… In New England we have this thing called snow, see.) I was pleased that they didn’t try to put her in something to ‘cover’, ‘flatter’, ‘minimize’, or other code words for hiding her shape.
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My Strange Addiction: Living Doll

Living Doll

The living doll phenomenon, girls and sometimes guys who aspire to look like ball jointed dolls or Barbies, has been popularized this past year through YouTube and news media around the world. Sometimes intertwined with anime or alternative Japanese fashions like gyaru or lolita, living dolls have captured media interest. On January 1st, 2014, TLC’s My Strange Addiction interviewed three self-claimed living dolls, of which two girls involved with lolita fashion took part.

I wasn’t sure if I could handle watching the show after seeing the clips and preview photos, but when I found myself with some time to spare and my boyfriend’s cable box last night, I took the plunge and watched the hour-long special. (I also had fun live-tweeting the experience – it felt like I was watching alongside all my Facebook and Twitter friends!)

I will not really be covering Justin, the Ken Doll lookalike in this article, as he isn’t involved in alternative fashion. I fully support however he wants to look with plastic surgery so long as he’s not risking his health, and I thought he looked kind of cute.

Venus screencap

The Venus segment went much as I expected; there was no new information in watching her many attempts to turn her YouTube success into a real dollars-making business. The episode shows Venus practicing Japanese from a guide book, making typical “kawaii” sounds in the mirror, and signing a couple autographs at a local shopping center. Her elusively-seen stage mom makes an appearance, showing off her white lady dreads styled into a bun covered with bows and in a matching Bodyline baby blue onepiece. The segment finished with some details and footage of Venus’ trip to Japan, which we now know is part of the infamous Mr. Yan “Venus Fall in Dream” scandal. (For more on this topic, there is a round up article here.) While they did not mention Bodyline by name, there is currently a legal debate about the footage she took in Japan and may open up a whole other issue for TLC, but that’s not really applicable to my review.

Watch the full episode of My Strange Addiction: Living Doll here! 

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Prayer to the Six Fashionistas


I found this video on my Facebook feed and instantly felt like sharing it with my readers. For every fashion forward girl who has received the withering glance and the “concerned” question, “Are you really going to do this when you’re 30?”, here is the resounding cry.

Let this be us. When we are old and lolita and fairy-kei and gyaru and mori-girl are words written in books by rabbits, when we are a very small paragraph in a fashion history book or confusing street snaps that people take into pawn shops, let this be us. When we are wrinkled and mussed and our skin is pleated velvety and our eyes faded in color or creased from countless makeup applications and years worth of circle lenses, let this be us. Let us be old ladies in nothing but pink, old ladies with fabulous wigs that drown our faces in crinkled curls, in plastic star jewelry that clatters and our descendants think is not good enough as inheritance. Let us be ladies who refuse to give up quietly, who rfuse to accept the racks of Alfred Dunner of the polar fleece embroidered jackets our neices and granddaughters give us at Christmas with knowing receipts. Let us be old ladies who treasure our dolls dressed in perfect style, old ladies who still hunt for brocade at the thrift shops, old ladies who still know a good pair of Doc Martens when we see them. Let this be us.

Forget Facebook, Get Lacebook

lacebook

There is a hot new buzz going on in the lolita world. While lolita has always thrived on social media platforms, from the Jurassic-period Livejournal to the more hip Tumblr, mainstream Facebook, and fast-paced Twitter, there has never been a website geared just to lolita social networking. Traveling through word of mouth over the weekend, the new social media platform Lacebook has exploded in membership.

Not to be left without trying the new trend, I got myself a Lacebook a few days ago. It’s still pretty exclusive to keep out random creepers, so you need, as we say in the tristate, to “know a guy who knows a guy”. To join up, you first need an invite code and you’ll have to tell your friend with the code what your name and username will be. The perks of exclusivity? No weird old guys taking the word lolita the wrong way, and the site has the added ability of being “unGooglable” (send me royalties if this word catches on, okay?) The downside is that I’m sure there’s lots of awesome lolitas who haven’t gotten their invite code yet, so there is a moderation to how the community grows. Time will tell if, like the real Facebook, exclusivity will pass or stay in place.

When you get into the site, you’ll see it’s a slimmed-down version of Facebook, with a dash of Lookbook and a touch of good old forum. There’s a large wall of lolita snaps to peruse, which you can comment on and rate on a scale of one to five scales. There’s a collection of lolita resource videos, events going on, and different groups to join based on substyle or brand.

Also like Facebook, you get to customize your own profile page with photo albums, a brief bio and interests, and even a cute cover photo (I chose My Melody, but some of my friends chose graveyards scenes and I’m sure Angelic Pretty prints will be popular.)

Is it a total replacement for all your other social media platforms? No, you’ll still find yourself turning to Tumblr, Twitter, and others to connect with your lolita friends or just post pictures of your lunch. However, it definitely lends a more lolita air to showing off your outfit shots, talking to other lolitas, and checking out what’s new in the community. I even added a mini Cocoppa button to my iPad so I can access the site easily.

If you’re already on Lacebook, check out my profile – I’m AngelCake, the same name as my Tumblr URL! Are you liking Lacebook so far?

Pinkly Ever After Lucky Pack and the Happy & Cute Virus!

Pinkly Ever After Love!

Last week I received my Pinkly Ever After lucky pack – you may have caught the sneak peak on my Instagram, @victoriasuzanne! Pinkly Ever After is one of my favorite up-and-coming indie fashion labels. Although they began in Canada, they have now relocated to their home country of South Korea, back in the land of cute! I’ve loved their designs since they first began and fangirl over their brief musical career as Pinku Project on a regular basis still, ahem.

I went to the post office on a rainy day and feverishly ripped open all the pink bubble wrap in my car like a crazy glitter-induced drug addict (<~<) (the things we do for fashion, huh?) Inside was a mountain of sparkly goodies! Below, you can see the complete set! I ordered two and they came all in the same package, so it was like a cute explosion!

My favorite piece is the unicorn badge, I’ll probably pin it to my jacket for the upcoming meetup this weekend!

I also received, as I mentioned in my last post, a long letter from Pinkly Ever After’s designer Robin and her right-hand magical girl Baby. It really touched my heart and made me want to start blogging again! She also gave me details on our next big Pinkly Project coming out! I can share this information now that it’s been posted on the official site.

This is the first sickness I’ve been happy to have, haha. Pinkly Ever After chose me to represent America and infect them with cute clothes, fashion, and girls’ bravery! I’m looking for a girl in the tristate area to give a Cinderella-like magical girl or lolita makeover to! If you or someone you know wants to get into cute fashion but doesn’t know where to start, and lives in the tristate or New York City area, please message the Parfait Doll Facebook page! Maybe you could be that special girl! We’ll be filming a transformation sequence with the help of Dalin of Magic A La Mode! I’ll release more information as I receive it from PEA, so please follow my Twitter @victoriasuzanne for updates as well! (o^-^o)

Just Where Have I Been?!

snapshots from my "internet vacation"!

It’s time for me to start blogging again. It’s hard to believe I’ve been gone from my blog since June! I’m sorry if I worried you, readers! I did receive a few notes from readers asking if I was okay. I have been a little sick recently, but really I’ve just been busy! (Fingers crossed that I’ll stay healthy through the winter!) Since this June I traveled to Baltimore for Otakon, saw my family in Seattle, and got new kittens with my boyfriend. I’ve started learning how to cook a little more, became the fashion show manager for Rufflecon 2014, modeled at Connecticon, and hung out with Takamasa Sakurai and Sebastian Masuda. And of course started a new semester as university, complete with the recent shooting scare on campus.

In all that, I haven’t been blogging.

Blogging has weighed heavy on my mind. I’m a perfectionist, particularly when it comes to visual things. My laptop isn’t working as well as it should be these days. My camera isn’t as a fancy as I’d like. In short, I guilted myself out of blogging and into procrastinating. I convinced myself people weren’t reading much these days anyway – would I be missed if I skipped a few posts? A week turned into a month, and now it’s November. I’ve got that blogging guilt, girls. I’ve always liked writing and blogging has been a great creative outlet for me. I’ve changed a lot since I began this blog in 2008 – almost six years ago! My style is different now, my view of the lolita world and fashion is different too, but I’m not ready to give up on this blog. (Why I’ve been shelling out for the hosting every six months to keep the site “on air”… ahem.)

Really, I was inspired to keep going by my ever-inspiration Robin-unni of Pinkly Ever After (see, Robin, unni! (^o~). When I made a recent purchase from her label, I received more than a pink package from South Korea full of glittery pastel goodies (review next post!). Most precious, she sent me an adorably pink five-page letter covered in stickers and drawings of magical girls. She said I had always inspired her and my blog had jump-started her label many moons ago. She reminded me that my desire to wear what I want and my desire to share that bravery with other girls is more important than labeling my style, and that it’s not my outfit posts people need – it’s the spirit in this blog. I’m not going to let my own insecurities defeat me from doing what I love and working on this site for the girls out there who have loved it in the past and might need it in the future.

Look forward to the regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule starting this week! See you then! (*^-^*)

 

Anime Next: What I Wore

Last weekend I was at Anime Next, a New Jersey anime convention, both as a happy spectator and as a model for the Japanese lolita fashion house, Baby the Stars Shine Bright. While I’m not sure I’d go back – it took me about five hours to get there via public transportation! – I had a fun time hanging with my girls, walking the runway, shopping at the Baby booth. Since I can’t sum up my weekend in as long a post as I’d like (endless photographs!) I thought I’d hit the highlights and showcase my coordinates for that weekend!

Friday

Fittings were Thursday night, so I had all of Friday to relax and enjoy the convention. I had planned this coordinate for a meetup I had to skip, so I thought I’d give it due justice and wear it to the convention. The main features are my pink and lavender tutu and magical schoolgirl necktie from fairy-kei and mahou-kei Canadian brand Pinkly Ever After. Also, check the pastel planet tights – Ophanim’s new sweet-styled creation for her line Deer Cutie!

day1wiw

Sneakers: Wet Seal; cutsew, Angelic Pretty; Hoodie, DreamV; Salopette, Angelic Pretty; Yen ring, MC Melody Doll’s jewelry collection; Parasol, hairbow: Baby the Stars Shine Bright

I also bought enough at the BABY booth to score one of the only 10 tickets for the tea party! Below: my adorable friend Lexie working the booth as BABY shopgirl; myself crying for my wallet; and my ticket! Later on that weekend, I got my tea party ticket autographed by the designers and the CEO, Isobe.

shopping1

{center photo via Lolita and the City}

Saturday

Saturday was the day of the fashion show! I was rooming with three other models for Baby (shout out to my roomies, you all looked great!) so getting up early for the 8 a.m. hair and makeup call wasn’t too painful. We spent the morning getting airbrushed (! a first for me. The foundation and blush tastes like colors…), getting the requisite giant falsies, and having our wigs styled. I love you Baby, but this pimp hat they decked me out in was pretty hazardous! I kept worrying it would fall off my head!

collageshow1

My roommate Markie and I were paired up as a twins in JUICY Baby Love Love Berries, a new strawberry themed print for summer. We got all matching accessories, except I was in mint and she was in pink. Originally they said they liked my pink hair for the look, and at the last minute went with a brunette wig. Most of the models had unnaturally colored hair, but you’d never know it from these photos!

twinsies

{photo via Knightmare6 Photography}

For great Anime Next street snaps, as always, check out my friend Petrina’s blog, Lolita and the City. She’s always diligent about tracking down cute lolitas at events!

Sunday

Sunday was the BABY tea party and the day to head home. I wore my new dress, Twinkle Constellation. Not my favorite coordinate, since I had to improvise a matching headbow – but I still love this dress. It’s printed with glitter! My friend Lexie and I accidentally twinned on this last day.

twinsagain

Anime Next was a great time and I really enjoyed modeling and working for Baby the Stars Shine Bright again. I’m studying Japanese harder now that it’s becoming more useful in my life (like my Mezamashi TV spot, for example) and it was really interesting to listen to the designers and interpreters speak as I recognize more and more of what they’re saying. I’m also happy to report I friended a lot of the other models after the show – more lolitas I know around the world! A lot of girls also told me they enjoyed my blog. I’ll work hard to keep making blog content for you all :)

You can see me model next at Connecticon, Connecticut’s anime convention, July 12th (in my home state)! I’ve been given free reign to style myself and the organizers told me they expect “fireworks. And wigs larger than your head.” So needless to say, it sounds like it will be a great show! Come see me if you’ll be in the area that weekend, and say hello!