Meet Japan’s 10 Cutest, Coolest and Weirdest Subculture Illustrators!
Japan is known worldwide for its traditional design principles and zen-influenced aesthetics like “wabi-sabi,” but how about the up-and-coming illustrators of subculture Japan? Bright color palettes and a big emphasis on kawaii and youth culture help define some of the most prominent artists in Tokyo’s underground art scene. Find out more about the artists you see all over Harajuku and your favorite idols’ album covers!
1. Ai Madonna
Specializing in colorful-haired schoolgirls with sapphic overtones, Ai Madonna has become one of the most recognizable illustrators in the subculture scene thanks to her collaborations on t-shirts, pins, and other goods with idol group Dempagumi.inc. She’s also offered her talents to Bandjanaimon!, creating 4 different album jackets with the group. Her fascination with seishun (youth) is shared by many in Japan, tying her colorful imagery of school uniforms to good memories of feeling young and vibrant.
Official Site: http://ai-madonna.jp/
2. Omochi Alien
Omochi Alien is exactly what it sounds like– a squishy, sticky alien girl made of mochi. She is five years old and in the Hydrangea class at her kindergarten on the distant 135th planet “Ami.” Omochi Alien is a character created by an artist known as borutanext5, and may have caught her big break making cameos in Dempagumi.inc’s 2013 video for “DenDenPassion.” Recently, she can be spotted in plush form inside UFO catchers, so you can take home an Omochi Alien of your own! Don’t forget the Omochi Camera iOS app, where you can stamp the lumpy alien onto all your photos.
Official Site: http://omochialien.com/mobile/
iOS App: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/app/omochikamera/id838951669
3. Kato Rei
With thin, crisp lines and a gentle, subdued color palette, Kato Rei’s illustrations are romantic in both feel and content— his pieces often include a speech bubble with some bittersweet musings, like “please make my heart beat faster this year, too” and “I closed my eyes as if I was kissing the crying sky.” Over the summer, he released his first art book, “girl friend,” and penned Amanatsu Yuzu’s solo jacket for Bandjanaimon’s newest single, “NaMiDa.” Check him out on tumblr, too!
A self-titled “music-style illustrator,” Fukuzawa enjoys participating in the music scene through their art, whether it’s illustrating bands’ music videos or doing live paints on stage right beside them. Recently, in collaboration with book/music/variety stores Tsutaya and Village Vanguard, Fukuzawa’s mildly melancholy work has been reaching a wider audience. Over the summer, they collaborated with t-shirt designer and sentimental poet Hajime Fantasy to create Mune Gyun, an illustrated poetic short story about one-sided love. The two embarked on a countrywide book tour featuring live paints by Fukuzawa and a line of poetry for each location by Hajime Fantasy.
Official Site: http://fukuzaworld.com/
Hajime Fantasy’s Official Site: http://hajimefantasy.com/
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