Archive for July, 2013

kumi_eyes_cropped_color

Illustration by Max Currie

Kent felt a surge, as if his story, his whole path to this mountain retreat, made more sense now. Here before Chieko and Hideo, his audience of two, as if he were chasing the dragon again. “There were some busted up parts of my life I didn’t know how to fix, a whole other story I’m done with, that made me behave like an ass, I suppose.” He’d read an article in the weekly Asahi Geino about the actor Mickey Rourke. Rourke had been  popular in Japan and a regular in Japanese commercials, shilling for many of the same brands Kent had once represented: Suntory whiskey and Lark cigarettes. Rourke’s own impressive comeback was widely chronicled in magazines and on entertainment programs and seemed to get much more press in Shukan Gendai, on Star-Gazer.com, and other media outlets these days than Kent. So he borrowed the line about “busted up parts.” And a few others. Rourke was staging a comeback and the Japanese loved it. Kent thought a couple of moves from Rourke’s playbook might help. He’d risen from the bottom, from obscurity, poverty, and drug abuse to win awards and get meaty movie roles once again. “I didn’t know who I was when I got here and then I had this persona imposed on me. Hey, hey RI-CHU-MAN-SAN! Pretty stupid name.” Kent put his face up to the camera lens. “No offense to your Japanese sensibilities, but it’s a pretty stupid name.”

Hideo and Chieko both nodded. He shouldn’t be talking like this, he knew—Renzo would whip him good for such recklessness. But this night, this moment, left him carefree. He wanted to make an impression, tell the truth for a change.

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NEOGENESIS

Illustration by Max Currie

“Who are you?” Kent stood before a young woman in an elaborate costume with the help of an improvised cane, one of Oji-san’s cosplay accessories.

“I’m ‘Yoko,’ from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.” The young woman held up an imposing gun, assembled from fiberboard and PVC pipes spray-painted blue. “She’s a villain.” The gun stood taller than the young woman, up to Kent’s chin.

“Amazing costume.” “Yoko” seemed flattered, honored even by Kent’s curiosity and praise. In shiny black bikini top, belted hot pants, and long, fingerless gauntlet-style gloves, white go-go boots over thigh-high stockings and a bronze-colored wig, the young woman stood out, even among her cosplay friends. Oji-san’s friends had come in from neighboring towns to dress up like anime and manga characters, drink and talk costumes and characters. There were eighteen members in the group, which they called Masquerade. Of the eighteen, eleven had turned up for the party in the temple’s community center.

“Most of it—the bikini top and pants—are made of PVC vinyl. The gloves and boots—I had to buy and modify them—are leather. The gun is made of various elements.” She glanced at Kent’s cane, the eyepatch and Band-Aid, and his gold smoking jacket. “Anata dare?”

Kent didn’t know how to answer—who was he? Former celebrity, John Lennon look-a-like, homeless and out-of-work manga character, clown, hunted prey? “Yoko” didn’t seem to know who Kent Richman was at all.

“You look like a lord or a pirate, some sort of mercenary wizard, I’m not sure. Or maybe like Sherlock Holmes, but I don’t know this character. What’s he from?” She ran a finger along his jacket lapel. “Silk, nice.”

Kent considered lowering his glasses and offering A-re?, but moved on to the next player, not in the mood to play RI-CHU-MAN-SAN! or anybody else.

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BYARM_12

Illustration by Max Currie

“Richman, it’s Renzo—what the hell took you so long?”

“I was meditating,” Kent said, understanding how stupid it sounded before he finished his sentence.

Honto?”

“I can get deep,” Kent said. In fact, he’d been napping for the first time in days, blessedly so.

“I figured you might put on a good show for the cameras, but real meditation?”

“It’s a documentary. It’s supposed to be real.”

“You don’t want to show them the real Kent Richman. At least not what you keep showing on the internet. YouTube should pay you.”

“Now I’m responsible for every jerk with a cell phone?”

“I tell you to keep it low. And what’s the first thing you do? I saw at least two photos from Azuma alone. You were there two days? Then this craziness at a rest stop. Not cool, Richman, not cool.”

“Bad days, I know.” Renzo was right.

“So, do me a favor—do—not—fuck—up—any—more, and stay away from cameras, except for one. Just let this Hideo guy do the good work for you. Let him shape Kent Richman the way we want to show Kent Richman.”

“But he keeps talking about cinéma vérité—”

“Cinema what? Listen, directors are all a bunch of tyrants, you know that. The only way good movies and TV are made is to be a control-freak. Just nod and pretend you love it. Then, give them what we need.”

This was not what Kent had imagined, some graduate student telling him how to be himself, Renzo pulling strings behind the scenes. “And thanks for not telling me this whole charade is about Ozman. You knew all along—”

“Coincidence,” Renzo said.

“They’re just waiting for Ozman to show up and beat the hell out of me on camera, aren’t they?”

“What do you want me to say, Richman? I didn’t want you to freak out on me. You do have a habit. When the news about Ozman hit, the guy from Waseda called and it seemed like a good idea—”

“I wouldn’t have freaked out,” Kent said.

“Are you freaked out now?” Kent heard Renzo take a deep drag on his cigarette.

“No—” Kent sensed Renzo was about to counter his claim. “Can you blame me?”

Renzo exhaled noisily. “He’ll never find you up there. I’m not sure I could even find you right now. And when you look like he does, how far can you go in Japan?”

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Kent Richman

Illustration by Max Currie

The filmmakers turned out to be graduate students from Waseda University who wanted to chronicle life after Bonanza for Kent Richman. With Ozman on the loose, their documentary had legs. Hideo was right: they could help him. But now that they were here, Kent was disappointed. “Where’s the rest of your crew?”

Hideo nodded to Chieko. “We’re it, friend. This is new wave documentary. We don’t need high production value to make a good film. We want people to know what it’s like to be Kent Richman without all of the filters. That bullshit’s for TV—no offense. This is film.”

“Isn’t it digital?”

“Sure, but we’re making a film, man. Come on, Kent. Play ball, how about it? Real film, which I predict no one will be using in five years anyway, can be as much of a mask as, well, as a mask. With handheld DV we can capture you without the mask. See?”

“I guess so.” Kent wanted to believe, but he’d seen higher production values for audition videos. And he liked the mask.

“Don’t worry. We’re good. We’ve trained with the best.” Hideo placed the camera on the floor. “I was a PA for Kazuhiro Soda’s last film. I’ve seen all of Errol Morris’ films, some like five or six times each. Chieko was audio tech supervisor for the Sakura Film Festival. Don’t you worry about the production stuff—you just be Kent Richman.”

“I can do that.” Kent guessed there might be value in capturing a more realistic version of himself, normally presented in the high gloss of television. “Get to the uncooked me instead of the glamorous show business side that everyone sees.”

“Uncooked. Exactly. Chieko, remember that. We might use it later.”

“‘Kent Richman: Raw and Uncooked.’” Kent liked it.

“Yeah, raw and uncooked,” Hideo repeated. “The real Kent Richman.”

“‘Kent Richman is not RI-CHU-MAN-SAN!’” He felt a surge of inspiration.

“Okay.” Hideo fidgeted. “Maybe.”

“‘Kent Richman is Big in Japan.’ Or ‘Another side of Kent Richman’?” Kent searched for a pen and paper. “’Kent Richman: Here and Now.’ Should I write these down? The Life and Times of—”

“Listen, why don’t we take a breather.” Hideo leaned towards Kent, his hands on his knees. “Don’t want to impose a title on this thing yet. Let’s let the camera tell us what to call it. We’ll get there. Let’s just talk a bit.”

Kent believed he might be able to turn the documentary into something special. A stripping away of all his masks. Show people that being Kent Richman is not all fun and games, glamour and gold. That life in front of the camera can take its toll. That Kent Richman was down but not out.

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