The 7 Coolest Things About Ayumi Seto's J-POP Appearance at San Francisco's Cherry Blossom Festival

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 6:00 am

3) New People: A Neat Place That Does Neat Things.

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As they describe themselves, New People is an "entertainment complex" which "promotes the latest examples of Japanese popular culture expressed though film, art, fashion, and various events." (And, between you and me, they also have heated toilets.) Not coincidentally, it's also the heart of the J-POP festival, and where Ayumi's appearance took place that day.

In a city with a dwindling number of movie screens, the New People Cinema is one of the newest and prettiest.

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They show not just Japanese films (such as the Evangelion series, and, yes, The Mystical Laws), but all kinds of international, art, and niche cinema that might not get played elsewhere. I attended a press screening of The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure there in 2012, and it was one of my most surreal filmgoing experiences.

They also do film distribution! There are few sights lovelier to my eyes than a row of film cans.

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New People also has rooms dedicated to the Real Escape Game, a LARP-ish live event in which teams solve puzzles, find clues, and work together to "escape" from a particular physical location; the game at the 2012 J-POP festival was Evangelion-themed, starting in the cinema and eventually becoming a scavenger hunt throughout Japantown.

I've never partaken in a Game myself, but I may well do so later this year and report back. The upcoming Escape from the Moon Base looks like fun.

But that's for another day. I was there to see Ayumi Seto, and find out what this "Aymmy in the batty girls" business was all about. And it combines two of our favorite things...

4) Trashy Culture and Trashy Talk.

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Ayumi-san's "Aymmy in the batty girls" line is an homage to the American teenage culture late 1950s and early 1960s, or at least the popular images thereof; it's the latest iteration of the nostalgia boom started by George Lucas' American Graffiti, filtered through the sensibilities of a Japanese woman who was born 20 years after the movie came out, and is equally enthralled with 1980s pop culture.

MARUQ, the New People clothing boutique that specializes in Shibuya and Harajuku fashion, was turned into an Ayumi Seto pop-up shop, and appropriately decorated with plenty of appropriate ephemera representing the tastes of the line's fictional muse Aymmy, a 17 year-old Los Angeleno. Her likes include your typical Slush Puppie machines and Mad Magazine books...

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...your First Superman Books and Archie Jamborees...

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...and your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pac-Man tumblers.

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And, as you may have noticed, the word "fuck." Aymmy loves her some rock 'n' roll - particularly 1970s punk rock, as her favorite bands include the Ramones, the Clash, the Damned, and the Sex Pistols - but she more appropriately refers to it as "rock 'n' fuck 'n' roll." The phrase appears in various places throughout the line, on shirts...

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...and knee-high socks...

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...and on a skirt, in one of the primary images of the campaign.

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There's even the occasional cheerful "Fuck Off!!" if you know where to look.

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Every time I see "rock 'n' fuck 'n' roll," though, I hear the famous bootleg of stage banter by Cronos, the lead singer of Venom. And it always makes me laugh.

Though her muse Aymmy seems like the type who would appreciate Cronos's suggestion that she lay down her soul to the gods rock 'n roll, I decided not to ask Ayumi-san if she was familiar with Venom during...

5. The Interview.

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It took place on the top floor of New People, with the invaluable assistance of translator Yoko Hiki. (Thank you, Yoko-san!)

Sherilyn Connelly: How would you describe the Aomoji-kei style?

Ayumi Seto: Aomoji-Kei style is a very wide genre. It has people with girlish long skirts, and natural shirts, and then people with [my] style - more unique, with many colors. But the biggest difference between Aomoji-kei and Akamoji-kei - and Akamjoi-kei style is more for girls trying to be popular among guys - Aomoji-kei girls are more driven by what they have inside, by what they like, what they want to self express.

SC: So, it's more individualistic, more personal.

AS: Exactly.

SC: What precisely is a batty girl? Where does the word "batty" come from?

AS: The word 'batty' means 'unique' and 'very different,' an individualized style. Instead of how Akamjoi-kei are more concerned with how they're seen, batty girls care more about self-expression. (pause) Also, the word sounded good.

SC: It does! Is the character of Aymmy based on anyone in particular? She reminds me quite a lot of Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) from Rock 'n Roll High School.

AS: Exactly! In fact, Rock 'n Roll High School is this year's theme. And not just Riff Randell, but she's one of the characters Aymmy is based on.

SC: What are some of the other girls in pop culture you're paying tribute to?

(We actually spent the next few minutes collectively trying, and failing, to remember the names of the characters played by Didi Conn in Grease and Traci Lords in John Waters' Cry-Baby.)

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You describe Aymmy as a tomboy. How would you define what it means to be a tomboy? Is it more about the clothes, or the attitude and the point of view?

AS: Both. Aymmy is basically muse of the fashion line, and I thought about not only her name, but her lifestyle -- she goes to high school and then works at a diner after, and I imagined what Aymmy would eat, what she would do with her spare time. So, being tomboy is not just about the clothing, but attitude, and everything about the girl.

SC: Are Aymmy's favorite movies, like E.T. and Return of the Living Dead, yours as well? What's your most favorite sci-fi / horror movie?

AS: I also like Child's Play, Friday the 13th...and instead of getting inspiration from the movies themselves, I get inspiration from the girls who would watch those movies, and their lifestyle. But E.T. and Return of the Living Dead are my favorites, too.

SC: Final question: If you could have any celebrity wear your clothes, who would it be?

AS: (pause) Riff Randell!

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...which does seem like a given, now that I think about it.

Though we were running late, Ayumi-san and I spoke for a few more minutes, because she liked my hair and had questions about it (and it turns out having a Harajuku girl half your age compliment your style doesn't hurt your ego one bit)...

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...but not for too long, because it was well past time for the main event.

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