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Column - Encounters of the Loli-kind...

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"If Japanese people are like ducks, then Gosurori are like turtles." Gothic Lolitas sure are something. The first time I heard of them was the first time I saw one, during my first trip to Japan, eight years ago. I was enjoying the wonders of almighty otakuland, trying to grasp most of it, a bit overwhelmed, and everything seemed to come out of a Frank Capra movie mixed with Power Rangers and the Wizard of Oz. So I didn’t really notice her, didn’t really enjoy my close encounter. I must have thought that they were there for the show, theses Japs, ready to do anything to amaze the tourists.




I was at the west exit of Shinagawa station, the temperature was above 80°F, sunny with a chance of massive IQ loss (I have a vivid recollection of the events because I was on drugs), and there she was, playing with her little umbrella, except that she was wearing forty pounds of clothes and a ridiculous hat of the size of a fruit basket, missing the point of the whole umbrella thing. Of course I would later learn all the beauty of its pointless use, like I get why people wear ray bans even when it’s raining. And I would also learn that gothic lolitas wearing big hats are quite rare, to say the least; the hats they’re wearing are usually small, and just here for show, yes, that too. But isn’t Lolita fashion a show in itself? And Japan the “ultimate land of the show” – in a very un-American way, ‘goes without saying –?


But that I didn’t know. I was just acknowledging the facts that Tokyo in summer was nice and warm like the inside of [fill with something kinky you like]; that Japanese people seemed like a very cool army of ducks, looking all detached but beneath the surface, paddling their little feet away like crazies; that with McDonald’s, Subway’s and Starbucks Coffee’s, globalization was definitely the promise of eternal damnation; and that flying six thousand miles and twelve sleepless hours to stumble on some weird “hamster” from the enchanted forest (and I’m talking about the gothic Lolita here, I know it’s a bit harsh but I’m trying to be true to my feelings) was not too much to ask. I was right: the rest of the short trip would bring its own deal of “gosurori”.


As a matter of fact, it took only a couple of days before I met the “other ones”, black and white and a little bit of red, with a few details that made the word “gothic” pop-up in my mind for the first time, like Christian crosses (I knew there was a few Christian in Japan, but that young and conspicuous!), that sort of things.






I guess the reason why I really noticed these one’s existence was because of my then-girlfriend’s behavior. As a well-educated daddy’s girl promised to a great carrier in MegaWorldCorp, she had every reason to ignore them. But she didn’t quite do that: certainly because I was her “gaijin boyfriend”, she wanted to show me HER own private Japan, the Japan that wakes up early, eats tons of innocent fishes to stay healthy, pays its taxes and its respects in the local temple, votes for the PLD (1). So she desperately tried to hide the girls from my sight by trying to explain to me how clean the Japanese subway was – she knew what the Parisian one was like. I would REALLY have ignored them, because despite their cheerful clothing and shiny make up, they were keeping the lowest profile on earth, like a commie bastard in McCarthy’s America – the time when they would rule the earth was yet to come. So when I asked my girlfriend “what” they were, her answer was something like “they’re just cosplayers from a nearby convention, don’t worry”. I wasn’t worrying. I found them cute. Not cute in the way I would date one, but cute in the way “how fun would it be to have some of these girls in Paris!” That time would come, too.


The first real things I learned about them, I learned them two years later, when I was “living the dream” in the country of the rising salary-man, and a movie called Kamikaze Girls was released in theaters. My girlfriend – still the same – didn’t want to go, but I liked Kyoko Fukada, because of that douche drama where she just keeps crying and dying from AIDS in the arms of Takeshi Kaneshiro. The movie theater, located in Ginza, was typical: a JR line was making the walls tremble like there was an earthquake, people were laughing quietly (it’s nicer to watch a sad story with Japanese people because you can hear them cry loudly in the end, at least)… And I was feeling much more aware, suddenly. Of course, Anna Tsuchiya was kind of stealing the whole show with her yankee (2) personification… but gosurori finally had Momoko, their own modern, famous movie icon who would be known not only by their kind and their unwilling folks; also by “ippanjin” as we could say, “regular people”. Momoko was coquettish, overly neat, and basically all she was doing in the movie was being beaten by her yankee friend; so the historical and sociological exploration of the gosurori world was yet to come too. But in the end, I learned a precious thing: for future’s sake, never underestimate a gothic Lolita.


Yes, never, ever. You don’t know. She may be like a turtle: all cute, but ready to bite your finger off at the first occasion. That’s it for the turtle metaphor, because I don’t see any other common points. But then again, I’ve never tried to lay one down on her back. It gives you ideas, when you think about it.



Written by Alexandre Martinazzo


(1) PLD: Liberal Democrats (Jiyūminshutō in Japanese)
(2) Yankee: sort of hooligan dressed up in sailor uniform (seifuku). Yankees like to rearrange the seifuku by wearing too large shirts and skirts, remove the ribbon, using brightly colored variants of the seifuku.
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Note: You might somewhere recongnize Sachi from Kokusyoku Sumire...







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