Posts Tagged ‘japan’

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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BYARM_20

Illustration by Max Currie

The current pushed against him, the water high and rushing; his feet slipped on the slimy green rocks. What felt good at first had become dangerous. One blunder and he’d slip under. Kent had never been a strong swimmer. How cold would it be under there, legs and arms stretched out like a big X, face up in the water, floating on to Tokyo and into the Pacific right on out of this island country? He looked to the other side, its steep bank nearly thirty meters away and covered in green grass, bobbing nests of dense green vine, and trees that leaned into the river, their branches and leaves pulled by the high water. He had to get out before something stupid happened. He stepped backward, stumbling and sliding. The water grew deeper and closed around his balls in an icy grip. He stood with his arms up and out at his sides, a ridiculous figure once again. He could no longer tolerate the life he lived, something had to change. Midori was right: Have you seen yourself, Kent? As he turned in the rushing water toward the bank, which seemed to stretch farther and farther away, Kent put his foot down in an overconfident search for a rock and found a hole instead. He went under, flapping his arms above his head in an attempt to stay upright, swallowing a gulp of river water.

As he surfaced, water rushed in his ears and he took in another mouthful. He coughed till his chest burned—as if matches were lit in his lungs—but he couldn’t stop coughing. I’m drowning, he thought, in four feet of water. How stupid. A final stupid act to close a stupid life. Kent drummed his feet over rocks but couldn’t steady himself as the river caught him in its current and pushed him downstream with the sand and the deadwood. Panic took hold, his stomach and chest tight, still on fire, his throat achy and the water sour and cold in his mouth like a bitter tea. His foot caught between a rock—a foothold—but his ankle twisted painfully. Kent bit hard into his tongue as his knee slammed up into his chin and he tasted blood. He tried to spin his body, again flapping his arms in the air and water, but the current pushed him forward, twisting his torso upriver and his legs towards Tokyo.

High up on the riverbank, Kent caught sight of a blurry figure in yellow. Would Ozman watch him drown, the river doing his dirty work for him? A wave of water washed over his head. When he looked up to the riverbank again, the yellow figure was gone. He wanted to reach up and pull Ozman, if it was him, into the cold water with him—just the two us now, friend, but he ran his knee into a large shallow boulder. As he reached his arms around the big gray rock, someone called his name. He could turn, he knew, and see his nemesis—how odd to have a nemesis—grabbing his crotch and laughing at Kent drowning before him in the river. He pressed his cheek to the cold rock and hung on, afraid to turn his head and look. With his name on the air, pulsating pain around his ankle and knee, the water rolled over him and all he could think about was the hockey bag that held his life’s belongings, Allan’s urn. How pathetic he would look to embassy officials when they gathered his body and his few possessions to ship home and discovered that he had no home, no place at all.

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Illustration by Max Currie

Clear Comprehending

In Kent’s one moment of uninterrupted contemplation, he wished for penance, to finally and forever put his bloodied past behind him. His knees bent stiff and his head still throbbed with the shock of withdrawal and his recent accident, but the sensations seemed remote, part of another self, one bound to the earth by the roots of his past. He decided he needed the sum of all his pain to atone for his sins. He called upon the hurt to lead him beyond the empty room, beyond his body, beyond Allan, beyond Kumi. The greater the pain, the greater the chance he might find answers. He’d no longer have to forfeit happiness for guilt, he’d no longer think of Allan or Kumi, Ozman or Monique. He’d no longer ask himself, yet again, what might have been different that summer night in Nags Head. He’d no longer wonder where his wife was or if she’d ever take him back.

Kent pushed his mind to prayer, words to God—a god he knew little of—and let the pain in his knees and back and head and eye roll like the tides. The smarting in his head thumped just above his good eye and he couldn’t see clearly or focus any longer on the wall before him. He whispered his brother’s name, then his ex-wife’s, and engaged the pain, so strong in his back by then it made his eyes water. He guessed his spine might crumble, leaving him limp and crippled on the dusty tatami. He felt Ojisan’s eyes on him, but didn’t return the look.

A wet breeze blew through the temple, sweat cooled beneath his shirt, and a tingle rolled over his scalp. He smelled smoke from a cooking fire, a suggestion of spices that he couldn’t name in the air. He murmured his brother’s name again, his wife’s, the only words that formed in his throat. He tucked his thumbs under his fingers, an irrational trick Kumi had shown him to prevent terrible things. He tensed his back to ensure that the hurt would roam his body without favor to him or any part of him. An eye for an eye; he guessed he’d made his deal. Beside him, Midori stirred. Before him Oji-san tapped out a rhythm with the bamboo rod against his thigh. Outside, cedar tops swayed and rain poured from the overflowing gutters.

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PART TWO

ALMOST, AT TIMES, THE FOOL

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Illustrated by Max Currie

Kent stumbled from the car as if he’d forgotten how to walk. Everywhere he looked, he saw Ozman’s mohawk, the bizarre tribal tattoos, and steel-toe boots. His right forearm ached, and Ozman’s mad grin flashed before him. Good God, the man was still loose in Japan, and coming after him. Kent felt certain it was all a joke, and, if not, that Ozman would have been captured by now. Japan was a small country. How long could a man like that roam free? Kent started again with the understanding that he’d lately been captured by every cell phone in the Kanto Plain. He’d broadcast his whereabouts since leaving Tokyo. All Ozman had to do was search the web. Stargazer.com alone probably had a map of Japan with a red line tracing his path, a series of cell phone photos marking his passage northwest. And the corrections officer had verified that Ozman was coming after Kent.

This time Ozman wouldn’t waste his time with torture; he’d kill him.

Kent’s gun had sent Ozman to prison, the 9mm an impulse buy in a Roppongi bar from an American sailor stationed at Yokosuka with the US 7th Fleet for $2000. A high price, but the easiest way to find one in Japan. When he first held it he knew he wanted the pistol. Though he’d fired the gun only once—an accident in which he shattered the floor-to-ceiling mirror in his bedroom, he liked having it. That day with Ozman, Kent had held the gun for all of ten seconds, slamming the clip into place before it fell from his trembling hands. As he had reached to retrieve it, Ozman appeared at the closet doorway and kicked Kent in the gut, sending him to the floor. Kent remained hopeful—he could do this, he could outsmart, outtalk, and outthink this Neanderthal. He rummaged for another weapon, coming up with a shoe—a Gucci loafer with a heavy heel. But Ozman was already there, pointing the Beretta at Kent’s head. He disengaged the safety and pulled the slide, loading a bullet into the chamber. Looking for this?

Ozman now had nothing to lose. How long would it be before he tracked Kent down? And his idiot agent had sent him on this errand to the mountains for some meditation and a documentary, as if Ozman couldn’t find him here. Kent should’ve been on a plane to Hong Kong or Taipei, a safe haven from loonies with no passport. Kent lit a cigarette and tried to think. But his eye throbbed and his hands shook so bad he had to stuff them in his pockets. He folded his fingers around his copper pipe.

He waved a hand at Midori. “I’ll be back.” And walked toward the restroom.

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It’s Pub Day for Baby, You’re a Rich Man!

Baby Youre a Rich Man Cover Front_final

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