Otaku USA Magazine
Notes from Nippon: Organized Mess

“It’s a quiet night,” a very kind gent, by the name of Jab, with a predilection for gadgets, geek talk and some stylish bug-eyed contact lenses said as he surveyed the scene. It was a sentiment being echoed throughout the night. Meanwhile, your intrepid reporter is starting to forget what language he speaks.

Honestly, in a fandom which was defined by Legend of the Overfiend for the longest time before Pokémon came about and pulled a Rudy Guilliani on it, one starts to think they’ve seen it all. Now, couple this with the eclectic fashion show that is the weekly commute to Tokyo and the fact that so many in the foreign community in Japan tend to be a colorful, eccentric bunch. In a certain wonderful, Aren’t-We-Just-All-Crazy way, it’s easy to start thinking that there’s nothing, nothing outside of Waita Uziga manga that could jar the senses.

Then you see a soft-spoken 6’5” Swedish man named Yukiro towering over you with mink-lined, shiny geisha-esque hair, and enough multi-colored eyeliner to make Tammy Faye green with envy. With him, there’s La Carmina, fashion/cat blogger and sometime cookbook author, decked out in a dress that would be right at home in a Malice Mizer concert. To top it all off, there’s Rammstein being mixed by the DJ of the hour, Mistress Maya, who also organizes this particular event and will be performing a fetish show where some lucky(?) volunteer gets tied up and suspended in the air to the delight of the crowd, or gets candle wax dripped on their tongue.  But before that, there’s two musical live acts that will be performing – the classical-rock fusion duo Rose Noire and Xenophobia, a group with a style that reminded of Mindless Self Indulgence by way of swing music.

And this is what they’re calling a quiet night.

“Midnight Mess” is the longest running Gothic Industrial club event in Tokyo, started by Maya to fill a subculture gap at the time. Held every fourth Saturday in Club Marz in Shinjuku in the infamous Kabukicho district, there was disconnect present as the night went on. Perhaps the most obvious was, as Maya put it in her nearly flawless English, a result of several years living in Los Angeles, “To be honest, most of the people who come are foreigners.”

This isn’t to insinuate a disappointment, but to point out a contrast. Kabukicho is a place synonymous with hostess clubs, crime and “No Foreigners Allowed” signs in the public mind. So, to have an event where the opening statements are made in both English and Japanese, everyone knows that they look, yet a guy in a casual shirt and jeans from Florida is having a drink with a Mohawk-sporting guy from Europe; makes for a heartening experience.

While I was assured that there’s no shortage of debauchery in the gothic subculture as a whole, the atmosphere in the Midnight Mess was surprisingly relaxed. There was refreshingly little of the elitism associated with too many subcultures and almost none of the meat market mentality that might be expected when the grand finale of the event involves a light S&M show. For all the spooky décor and hardcore music, there was a lot of friendliness and openness to be had. As the sky started to brighten over Shinjuku at four in the morning and everyone was making their last fare-thee-wells, one of the guys, wiping the sweat from a vigourous session on the club floor, summed it up: “I love these places, nobody gives a damn what you look like.”