Friday, January 8, 2010

Comedy black face trio Yajima Biyoshitsu bring racist schtick to the screen in May

by Chris MaGee

There's some things that get lost in the cultural translation between Japan and North America, that we've known for a long time, but the situation goes both ways. There are some cultural quirks and trends from North America that the Japanese pick up on but get totally wrong or don't fully understand. One glaring example of this is the use of black face make-up. We've all seen the ganguro girls trend that had its heyday in the early part of the last decade. Those teens thought it was cool to slather on the fake tanning solution and whiten their eyes and lips in a misguided attempt at looking like African-American beauties (or sun-tanned California girls depending on who you ask). Another nutty Japanese street fashion, but things change a bit when you get Japanese performers on TV painting themselves to look black. They think it's funny, but they don't really see the dark history of black face (minstrel shows, Hollywood segregation, etc.)

Why am I going on a mini-rant about black face in Japanese entertainment? Because I caught this news item over at Tokyograph this week. It looks like the faux soul music comedy trio Yajima Biyoshitsu will be taking their black face schtick from Japanese variety shows to the big screen come this May.

Who exactly are Yajima Biyoshitsu? The trio is a creation of DJ OZMA and a comedy duo called Tunnels. The three women who make up the group (played in drag and black face by DJ OZMA, and Tunnels members Noritake Kinashi and Takaaki Ishibashi) are all sisters from Nevada who sing soul music. They've appeared on umpteenth Japanese TV shows and their singles have actually broken into the Top Ten, so what happens when a comedy act has that kind of success? They get their own movie.

Titled "Yajima Biyoshitsu THE MOVIE ~Yume wo Tsukama Nevada~" the film will apparently go into the group's back story as they travel from Nevada to Japan in search of the lead singer's husband. You could laugh it off as just a small film made in bad taste, but this doesn't sound like it's going to be a small film. "Yajima Biyoshitsu THE MOVIE" is being produced by Shochiku and will co-star ig time stars like Meisa Kuroki (Crows Zero, Assault Girls) and Ayaka Wilson (Paco and the Magical Picture Book). Add to that that Shochiku is going to be opening it in theatres during the prime money-making Golden Week holidays. Hmmm... I guess all I can say is thank god Hard Gay didn't get his own movie during his 15-minutes of fame.


okoku said...

Welcome to the world of Japanese cinema. We here in Japan don't need f*cking censorship from Canada because we have our own freedom of expression. If you don't like it, don't see it and see a boring Canadian flick instead.

Bob Turnbull said...

I'm a bit confused as to your anger in your comment...It's quite apparent that Chris did NOT call for any kind of censorship whatsoever. He was expressing his opinion that he thought that the humour and characters of the film could be taken as racist from a North American viewer's point of view. So if a viewer from here (I'm in Canada as well) were to watch the film, we would need some additional context...

And generalizing about the entirety of Canadian cinema doesn't help make your point for you. It just makes you look petty.