I’ve been working up to this for a while, but there have been so many Kyary posts in the meantime that by now it may be an anti-climactic fizzle. This is the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu post in which I try to give her the Blog of Funny Names treatment.
Our subject was a very ordinary looking Japanese girl who grew up with the unassuming name Kiriko Takemura in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, famous for the whacky street fashion trends that have had so much appeal around the world. By way of introduction, let us ponder one of her latest (and best) videos, “Furisodeshon.”
The song celebrates Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s coming of age. On January 29th (just passed) she was to turn 20, which is the legal age of adulthood in Japan. It is celebrated by all 20-year-olds on Adult Day, a national holiday which includes a coming-of-age ceremony, which is also a kind of school/class reunion. 20 is also the legal age of smoking and drinking, and many young people party up for the first time on this night. (Note Kyary smoking in the middle, and barfing up at the end.) For the ceremony, young women typically wear a “furisode” or long sleeved kimono. The song and video play on the words “furisiode” and “celebration,” turning it into an English-like noun: “Furisodeshon” or “Furisodation” (lyrics nicely translated with explanation here by Matome).
To think about what Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has achieved by the tender age of 20 might fill all of us bloggers with fantastically unrealistic dreams and preposterous delusions of grandeur. As recounted partly in the nicely done Wikipedia entry, and partly through bits and pieces at various fan sites, Kiriko first acquired the nickname “Kyary”–“Carrie”–from her high school classmates, who gave her the cute sounding Western girl name because of her fondness for Westernized looks. Kyary started out on the road to fame as a teen by wearing cute outfits that attracted the attention of her girl peers on the streets of Harajuku. Then Kyary started a fashion blog that got increasing notice (her blog in its current form is here). Then she became a model. Then she became a designer with her own line of false eyelashes (called Harajuku Doll Eyelashes by Eyemazing x Kyary).
Her entrance into the musical world was not gradual. She made the music video “Ponponpon” in 2011. It went viral, and is now approaching 45 million views:
It is lower production than the videos that followed (each one a smash hit), but characteristically Kyary in every way: a chaotic pastiche, an intensifying hallucinogenic effect, a hypnotic techno beat, a tinkling ostinato evocative of nursery school, and a driving insistence on the twin, somewhat contradictory themes of perpetual self-invention and arrested childhood. The appeal of Kyary can perhaps be located in those contradictory imperatives: be absolutely wild and free to self-invent yourself to be whatever you want in the most extravagant way possible, but do so within the protective embrace of perpetual childhood, where everything is funny or silly or cute or fluffy. (This may be unfair, because there are also images of danger and dark threat that appear in the videos.)
As noted, Kyary’s videos attract tens of millions of views and a growing number of enthusiastic fans all over the world. And she also became an ubiquitous presence on Japanese tv, appearing on endless variety shows and a large number of cms. Oh, yeah, and she also has an autobiography, Oh! My God!! Harajuku Girl.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is sometimes known just as Kyary. Officially, she is known by her full stage name Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Going for very rough equivalence, the name translates as:
Caroline [Cute sounding Western name]
Charonplop [Carrollean nonsense word but also onomatopoeia (sound effect) suggesting (but your guess is as good as mine) some small round sweet thing rolling off a a counter and falling accidentally into a cup of hot cocoa. We can assume that the cup is exaggeratedly large, with a shiny glaze and images of purple whales and pink dinosaurs.]
Kyary [Another cute Western name (Carrie), this time Japanized by being spelled out “Kyary”]
Pamyu Pamyu [More Carrollean nonsense words but again a kind of onomatopoeia, this time suggesting (but this is all speculative, you understand) a heart-shaped cushion being held out the window, with the dust being beaten out of it with a Hello Kitty slipper].
To get the feel for this name, imagine you are standing next to an 18 year old girl and she introduces herself to you as Monique Twinkle-sugar-dribble-plunk Daniella Cushie-cushion-poof-puff. Or something like that.
In other words, Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu sounds pretty much as funny to the Japanese as it does to anyone else. Written in Japanese, it looks funny, too.
The name is spelled out entirely in “hiragana” the curvy phonetic alphabet in Japanese (foreign words like “Caroline” and “Carrie” are usually spelled out in the more angular “katakana” letters). The effect in Japanese is a string of letters that is not easy to parse when you look at it, especially as there are no separations between words; the letters which should signal something purely Japanese are doing something else, in unfamiliar combinations. (The combination also looks vaguely like Sanskrit, and after watching enough of her videos, I suspect that might not be accidental.)
And there you have, I hope, a fairly serviceable overview of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, attempted in the Blog of Funny Names tradition. She has a funny name, a funny sounding autobiography, funny product names for her designer goods, and funny sounding song titles for songs that have funny sounding lyrics.
And that’s a wrap. As far as I can foresee, I don’t anticipate doing any more Pamyu Pamyu posts. Oh, wait . . . I haven’t done “Fashion Monster” yet . . .