I got kyatapulted into Kyary blogging on a whim, when I started imitating the Blog of Funny Names at my place. Now that I’m actually on the BoFN crew, it’s time to bring everything ’round full circle and put Kyary where she truly belongs . . .
Our subject has been called the Japanese Lady Gaga, but she’s really more in the tradition of Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Twiggy, and Betty Boop. She started out in life as an ordinary looking girl with the unexceptional name Kiriko Takemura, growing up in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, world famous for offbeat street fashion.
Now, the undisputed queen of Kawai, she is known by her stage name Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, sometimes just Kyary, or her full stage name, Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Let’s break that down. Caroline and Kyary (“Carrie”) are cute sounding Western names (the latter a nickname given by her high school classmates). Charonplop and Pamyu Pamyu are Lewis Carroll type nonsense words (Caroll-ine! I never saw the connection!), and also onomatopoeia (sound effects). My interpretation: Charonplop is the sound of candy rolling off a counter and landing in a cup of hot cocoa, and Pamyu Pamyu the sound of a heart-shaped cushion being beaten with a Hello Kitty slipper. But it’s kind of subjective.
For linguistic equivalence, imagine a freaky 21 year old introducing herself to you as Monique Twinkle-sugar Dribble-plunk Daniella Cushie-cushion Poof-puff.
Kyary’s path to fame began as a teen, wearing striking outfits that wowed her peers on the streets of Harajuku. Then Kyary started a fashion blog that got increasing notice. Then she became a model, then a designer with a line of false eyelashes.
Kyary’s entrance into the musical world was not gradual. Her 2011 video “PonPonPon” went viral, and is now past 60 million views:
Kyary went on to do more videos, albums, hit singles, her autobiography Oh! My God!! Harajuku Girl, world tours to fanatical crowds, tv commercials beyond counting, and ubiquitous appearances on Japanese tv.
The videos following “PonPonPon” comprise Kyary’s best work, IMHO, and the best of those have been “Tsukematsukeru,” “Candy Candy,” “Fashion Monster” and “Furisodeshon” (my two personal favorites), and most recently “Mottai Nightland“.
Kyary’s trademark is transforming grotesque or macabre things into something “kawaii” (cute). Her titles and lyrics are full of dadaist nonsense, discombobulating Joycean puns, and mutant lexical hybrids. Invariably, her twin themes are arrested childhood and perpetual self-invention. I think Kyary videos are some of the most visually inventive stuff around. Their formula is a pounding techno beat, intensifying hallucinogenic effects, accelerating Dionysian revelry, and a swirling pastiche of pop cultural tropes.
So, are Kyary’s fifteen minutes up? Don’t count on it. Whenever I start thinking that, Kyary pulls another polychromatic rabbit out of her magic PonPon.