I’ve never been a fan of Dir En Grey, even after seeing them live in Seattle, but I forced myself to watch their new video for a song called “Different Sense” when I peeped it at TheNumberOfTheBlog yesterday. The song is a schizophrenic mix of death-grind, proggy instrumentalism, and overly dramatic clean singing. I almost found myself getting into it at the beginning — but failed by the time it ended. Just not my thing.
So, I’m not adding this post because of the music. It’s the video. And all the tentacles. What is the fucking attraction that Japanese pop culture (or is it underground culture?) has for tentacles? Gore + tentacles! Sex + tentacles! Food + tentacles! Tentacles + tentacles! All the time tentacles!
I first discovered this Japanese tentacle fetish courtesy of NCS reader/commenter/occasional-blogger Phro, who is imprisoned in Japan for undisclosed past sins. So Phro, buddy, how ’bout some cultural analysis here? What da fuck is up wit dis?
First, about the song. I kinda liked it. But also, yah…it’s Dir en grey. As much as they have changed stylistically, they also really haven’t.
About the tentacles. I would guess it’s a combination of two (or three) things. The big one is the way Japanese porn is censored–you know how the penis and vagina are always pixelated? I’ve been told that the frequent use of tentacles is a good stand in for actual penises because they look similar and can squirt shit if you want them to do so. The other thing is that they’re just fucking creepy. Dir en Grey is pretty big on disturbing imagery, so I assume they’re just using it to fuck with the viewer. Either that or they’re trying to criticize Japanese society.
To be honest, I really have no flippin’ idea. I just like it because really gross things make me giggle. (You know how there’s two possible reactions to really fucked up shit? Laughing or vomiting? I’m lucky enough to do both!)
Well, thanks for trying to explain. I hadn’t noticed the Japanese censorship — though I can’t say I’ve been spending time at places where things would need to be censored. I feel so sheltered sometimes.
I thought it was well known, actually. My old (like 65 year old) boss back in the States asked me about it once, apropos of nothing.
My girlfriend agreed that it might be the “stand in” for penises. But neither of us are really sure…
You might be right about the stand-in part. I read a translated manga a few years ago (I don’t remember which) and the characters in it hinted about tentacles being a way to represent certain parts.
While there is censorship – and has been for centuries – that’s not always the case anymore and one can find hentai, porn, AV and other related materials that aren’t censored, but I imagine a lot of people still do censor for the sake of tradition. Granted, I don’t know what the laws regarding certain fun parts and orifices are in Japan, so I can only speculate at this point.
I actually have insight here-
The tentacle thing is related to a long history of the Japanese relating the ocean to sexuality as well as vitality (Japan has little arable land, therefore the people there have been completely dependent upon the ocean for sustenance for a long time), and a history of the ocean being represented in traditional art by the octopus.
That’s not uncommon, the Kraken myth has been present in many societies, indeed there are old bible prints where Leviathan is represented as a squid, not a whale or snake.
Therefore, sexuality and vitality are related to the octopus and the symbolic representation of the octopus, the tentacle. There’s a history of this image in traditional Japanese art. Think of how in western cultures we relate sexuality to bulls (minotaur myth, various Babylonian gods, the devil has horns and is often considered to be a sexual deity) and are reliant on beef.
There’s a better explanation in a book i own that approaches Anime from a literary/sociological perspective, and has a large chapter on Hentai, including tentacle porn.
Thanks for these insights — it does make more sense now, particularly with the analogy to the bull (and for millennia, the goat has also served the same symbolic purpose in many cultures, as a representation of sexual vitality/voraciousness).
However, this whole tentacle porn thing is still fucking gross.
Awwww, I was going to reference the Japanese obsession with/fear of the ocean as perhaps having something to do with it, and thereby look semi-intelligent in front of my blogging brothers.
Alas, you have ruined that dream with your superior knowledge.
Don’t worry Andy. We still think of you as semi-intelligent.
That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said about me.
We’re all about the love here at NCS. 🙂
I’m also gonna come out and say that even if I’m not a “Fan” I give my seal of approval to Diru, for the following reasons:
1) their vocalist is incredible in terms of range, style, technique, etc (and is also, as I understand, a very clever lyricist in his native nihongo). the man gives Akerfeldt a run for his money in terms of seamless harsh/clean swapping.
2) their music is almost always very eclectic. they touch on many styles and perform most of them with some tangible aplomb. Obviously all of them legitimately love music, including their own. Diru does evolve and yet, as Phro said, maintain their diru-ness. For a band of their commercial stature they are Quirky with a capital Q in a way we haven’t seen since Faith No More in America.
3) even if they over-rely on their visual presentation (as I believe they do), they take up the visual aspect of their work with a dedication to stylishness and gusto that more ‘traditional’ metal bands (especially black metal bands) would do well to take note on. They evolved past their initial ilk (Diru began as part of the visual kei scene, which was essentially a Japanese gender-bending cross-dressing strain of hair/glam metal) into their own entity.
4) as much as I’m not a huge fan of all their songs, they decimate live. years of high-profile touring endlessly does hone their skills to razor-sharpness. I was blessed to see them in a very small venue and they tore it to bits.