Short Film “Heavy Shabby Girl” Shows the Conflict Behind Chasing Your Dreams – Kanae Higashi Talks About the Scene of Rurumu

短編映画「Heavy Shabby Girl」に映し出される「夢」を追うことの葛藤――東佳苗が語る、縷縷夢兎の現在地とは
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Short Film “Heavy Shabby Girl” Shows the Conflict Behind Chasing Your Dreams – Kanae Higashi Talks About the Scene of Rurumu

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Kanae Higashi has worked on the costumes of numerous idols and musicians, such as and Seiko Oomori, each time elaborating on the worlds that they express, and she is also the designer behind handmade knitwear brand Rurumu. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that without a doubt she is one of the most important creators in today’s Japanese girls’ culture scene. By using a unique expressive style to articulate the hidden inner feelings of a girl dressed completely in knitwear, called “outo couture” (similar to the pronunciation of “haute couture”, meaning “vomit couture”), she has opened up a new domain of expression never before seen until now.

Kanae Higashi

Kanae Higashi

This new stage of expression is one that Kanae Higashi had slowly been heading toward. In August of 2015 she put on a solo exhibition, muse, where she showed the yet unseen possibilities of fashion with her two video works, “dress for me” and “Expiation in a dream”. Like with the female raw emotion that results from the clash of hidden madness and sexual urges, it could be described as a single piece of composite art expressing the writhing of raw human desire.


dress for me

Reflecting on her solo exhibit, Kanae Higashi commented, “Until this point, Rurumu had only been regarded as cute, but I felt that each time this word only grazed the surface of it. I hate the recent trend of categorizing things as ‘dreamy cute’ or ‘dark cute’. Previously I attempted dispel this superficial notion through radical means of using a male or someone sexy like Mitake as a model.

Moving from fashion to film as a new means of giving her ideas concrete shape, she added, “I was limited by what I could express through fashion. But with film, there is music and movement. Through it, I feel I was able to establish the kind of drama hidden deep inside my models, who I call muses, in a way that is easily understood.”

And so, for the first time Kanae Higashi accepted the challenge of becoming a film director. “Heavy Shabby Girl”, starring miss iD 2015’s Rei Kuromiya and Raimu, and Seiko Oomori’s new song “Gekiteki JOY! Before-After!” as its theme, was screened at the 2015 Shibukaru Festival where it made big waves.

You could say that the short film Heavy Shabby Girl is just an extension of the screened features that showed at the muse exhibition. In “Expiation in a dream”, the story progresses as women, recall their “experiences that one summer” as they tried to make money through a club of darkness. What exactly was the concept behind this work? “What I wanted to do with “Expiation in a dream” was to carve out the here and now of the girls. They’re not the usual girls you usually see in fiction with a filter over them. I wanted to paint these modern girls in a realistic way, with the extreme and the delicate parts they possess. Unknowingly adding one tiny sin to another as they go their adolescence, I wanted to have it show them in the here and now.”


Expiation in a dream

There is magic in threaded into Rurumu’s knitwear. Its wear and tear reveals the unraveling of the emotions that girls experience. Using the characters that appeared in Rurumu costumes in “Expiation in a dream”, Kanae Higashi tries to bring out the sense of spirituality hidden deep inside modern girls. Once you peel back the layer of cuteness on the surface, there is madness and wild desire. She was successfully able to convey a fantastic sense of realism in the work.

Among the girls that appear in her work, is model Raimu, called Yume in the film, whose presence is able to capture the audience’s attention. She has an older sister who is the leader of the darkness club, but she leads a lonely existence within it. She is troubled with conflict, but it is never exactly described what exactly that conflict is. She shuts all her pain and worry inside of her. Explaining this without words, and only using fashion and visual image representation was new ground for Kanae Higashi.

Raimu again appears as the role of Hime Tsubaki in “Heavy Shabby Girl”. Her fellow models immerse themselves in a rich lifestyle, as if it were their only reason for living, however Hime Tsubaki, who goes along with them, doesn’t fit in.


Heavy Shabby Girl

Again, her lonely existence is shown, while Rei Kuromiya plays Nozomi Yoshida. The film opens with a shocking scene showing Nozomi, decked out in Rurumu costume, with a homeless man (Minoru Torihada). Nozomi’s life has is extremely broken. Her oldest sister is a sex worker, and uses the money she makes to buy large amounts of high-end fashion brand items. Her other older sister is completely okay with having sex with her boyfriend in front of Nozomi. Her only refuge in the house is her small, dirty bathroom. The scene of her greedily devouring instant yakisoba in the bathroom is a masterpiece, and provides a glimpse into the sort of destructive impulses she’s been holding onto, but what this scene really symbolizes is a girl spitting up the emotions she’s held inside of her without restraint.

Hime Tsuyuki who already has plenty and Nozomi who does not hesitate to display her destructive feelings while living in poverty. Kanae Higashi, who has confidently tackled this theme, says, “I think that dreams and money are two problems that I currently face. I think many people are suffering from the struggle to realize their dreams or make money in order to become wealthy. For example, I’m a fan of the Chilean director Jodorowsky, and seeing his master work DUNE, I understood that he suffered from the same issues. Even if you have a great idea you would like to realize, without money you can’t. Jodorowsky suffered from this problem until the very end. When I saw this image of him, I decided I wanted to make something that centered around this theme, one with a girl with a dream but no money, and another girl with money but no dreams. Painting the extremes of these two lifestyles was the beginning.”

The short film “Heavy Shabby Girl” is the prologue to a longer feature. After this, Kanae Higashi has envisioned making a sequel. One can only wonder if the next time she combines fashion, art, and film result in a work that shakes the Japanese film industry from the ground up.

It should be noted that for the screening of “Heavy Shabby Girl” at Shibuya UPLINK, Kanae Higashi decorated the venue herself. Being able to see the work in Rurumu’s fantastical space made for an extraordinary experience that the audience could share in together.







Translated by Jamie.K

Related Links
Heavy Shabby Girls information on UPLINK :
Rurumu Official Tumblr:
Kanae Higashi Official Twitter:@usagi_kanae

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Writer, Book Reviewer. Having the degree of MA. (Japanese Literature) I love Japanese Girl's Popular Music, such as YUKI, Chara, Makoto Kawamoto, and Seiko Oomori.

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