On February 19, 2010, the world of Hangry & Angry was first revealed to me. I went to the Tokyo Fashion Festa at FIT in New York—a celebration of Tokyo music and fashion organized by the Museum at FIT’s director, Valerie Steele—with no idea quite what to expect. But the raw energy and enthusiasm of the audience hit me at once. We have all heard of Harajuku, the cool otaku-oriented youth culture in Japan composed of gothic lolita, punk, anime, visual kei, and other fantastically imaginative subcultures. Still sitting and watching a five-minute music videofeaturing two young singers dressed in punk anime ensembles, I was unprepared for the extraordinary feeling that came over me.
The video was an antic art piece by Hangry & Angry, a female tech-goth-pop duo made up of Hitomi Yoshizawa (Hangry) and Rika Ishikawa (Angry). The two were previously part of a hugely popular rotating-member girl band called Morning Musume, but branched out on their own in 2008 under the vision of influential fashion designer Naoto Hirooka, creator of the brand h.NAOTO.
You can say that Hangry & Angry began as something of a marketing tool for h.NAOTO’s fashion-and-accessories line, but the Tokyo designer has always taken a multidisciplinary approach to his work—his productions have reached far beyond fashion into music, manga, anime, pro wrestling, and video games. I immediately saw that Hangry & Angry were much more than another example of hallmark bright, happy Japanese pop creations. As the epitome of gro-kawa (grotesque-cute) they serve as antiheroes, complicated characters who reveal cruel humorous twists in their clothes and in their music. They are both gorgeous and horrific. No wonder they attracted an immediate youth following when they released their first album, Kill Me Kiss Me, in late 2008.
In their unabashed style and tone, I recognized the similarity between current Japanese youth culture and the England of the ‘80s I grew up in—which is not so strange when you really think about it. Japan and England are both islands with a feudal past, full of extravagant myths and rigid dress codes. On both islands, the freedom for self-expression, which has been slowly squeezed out of our homogenized, reality-obsessed culture, manages to remain alive. But particularly for Japan today, the fantasy and freedom of the human imagination has reached stunning heights. Hangry & Angry evince that conformist and corporate culture has not completely killed the capacity for original invention. Recently I’ve been thinking about the pure act of expression and how it cannot remain consigned to that most overused word eccentric—a word people use when they feel threatened by what is actually authentic. I was happy to see the imagination that has taken off in Tokyo. Hangry & Angry might just offer a new moment of personal expression—one that’s raw and strangely sincere.
Listen to music from Hangry & Angry here.
Photo: Hangry & Angry in London, May 2010. All clothing and accessories: h.NAOTO. Styling: h.NAOTO. Hair and makeup: Hiroyuki Nozawa. Special thanks: Spring Studios.