Gore N’ Kawaii: Exploring Anime Grind
Weebgrind. Weebogrind. Anime slam. Anime grind. Guro grind. What’s in a name, and what is with the bloody schoolgirls on the album covers?
Whatever you call it — we’ll use the more broad “anime grind” moniker here for consistency — remember those late nights as a teenager when you watched hentai on your computer while blasting grindcore, thinking about how much cooler it would be to live in Japan? So did these bands.
For those not in the know, the term weebo is used disparagingly for non-Japanese individuals who are a tad obsessed with Japanese culture, including the country’s film, fashion, music and of course its distinct anime.
Weebo worship has migrated into the extreme metal realm, with bands combining anime artwork and themes with genres like grind or slam for a cross-cultural form of music.
The genre is expansive and vast. Here’s an overview.
“Weebo” is not only a derogatory term, with some in the scene attempting to take back ownership of it. Impaled Ximena Records, for example, put out a compilation titled A Decade of Weebogrind. Bands like Jig-Ai have been using ero guro album art, a form of erotic illustration, and hentai inspired song titles since their debut in 2006, laying much of the groundwork for what came after.
Toxic Loli Records is an anime grind smut peddler based out of California. This label has but a few releases so far, but is firmly entrenched in the rotten inked world of anime slam and grind. A few of their releases include those by Fucked, Bokunopicono and Cheerleader Concubine, whose vocalist Diana runs the label and who put out the colorfully named album Tentacle Induced Intestinal Displacement.
Stillbirth Records is another major dealer in anime grind. One of their biggest acts is China’s Dehumanizing Itatrain Worship, whose “Brutal Rush” and “Suicide Happy Holiday” showcase the sense of ironic, cute but morbid sensibility these artists have. Their bio states that they follow death metal acts such as Anal Bleeding, Ingested, Visceral Disgorge, and more, though their tracks are always accompanied by a colorful, dissected schoolgirl (illustrated by Nannkyokukun). The band displays a high level of technicality in their music, but whether the album art enhances, undervalues or is a distraction to their musical output is up to the listener.
Inspiration from Anime Series
Some bands, while utilizing anime art or having a general Japanese aura, don’t go all in with the ero guro elements, Within Destruction being one example (they recently released an anime music video for “No Way Out”). For some bands, a specific anime series holds inspiration.
Bands like Quebec’s Onchocerciasis Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (OxEx if you have a little trouble pronouncing that) and China’s Human Instrumentality Project are inspired by the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. “The Brutal Angel’s Thesis,” the title track from Human Instrumentality Project’s debut EP, was adapted from the anime’s opening theme, revisiting the despair and melancholy hidden within the upbeat opening with skin shredding deathcore added. “Neon Genesis,” meanwhile, involves religion, philosophy and psychology, and invokes images of the underworld.
HIP guitarist Syond Lin says of the band’s style compared to others, “We can see some good bands that highly integrate animation and death metal together, but there are also some bands that simply put their own music into a shell. Their music may have nothing to do with animation in essence.”
Like goregrind or pornogrind, anime grind utilizes grotesque, often misogynistic and sexually violent illustrations, but with anime grind the pictures are mainly some variant of disemboweled anime schoolgirls (as seen in ero guro, or erotic gore mangas, a genre which includes such purveyors as Shintaro Kago, Uziga Waita or Suehiro Maruo). Japanese hentai films often combine the violent and the sexual, so to use it as a backdrop to extreme music isn’t so far-fetched when you consider that most other macabre subjects have been played out in metal. The genre also has more of a societal safety-net concerning controversial material as it is all in the realm of fictional animation.
Most album art in the anime grind genre is a grotesque commissioned piece usually involving a mixture of kawaii and gory elements. Some artists include 南极君 (Nannkyokukun), who illustrated such albums as the Cheerleader Concubine/Dehumanizing Itatrain Worship split and OxEx’s Adoration of Decaying Innocence EP, the latter featuring an illustration of a smiling schoolgirl holding her exposed viscera.
The prolific ero guro artist Uziga Waita deserves his own spotlight, his cutely grotesque creations used on numerous album covers over the years including dark idol group Necronomidol’s Strange Aeons and Lord Gore’s The Autophagous Orgy. Some of his most NSFW art can be found on Japanese grind band Go-Zen’s Hitoshizuku album, which depicts a young girl offering up her own ripped out heart.
Taiwan’s Gorepot (血麻, the Mandarin characters meaning blood and hemp) use weed tropes for album titles (In Pot We Trust, All You Can Smoke) while others embrace the humorous or violent side of their moniker (School Girl Sashimi or the ominously titled Things Asians Do When They Are Done With Homework). Most of their album art is done by Necrodeviant, who manifests these themes with an ’80s inspired sword and sleaze touch.
The album covers are often the first thing listeners see, serving to convey the theme of the band. Syond Lin weighs in, saying, “I think no matter what the band uses as the cover, their works still need to be suitable for the theme they choose. If they just draw a cruel picture of an animated girl as the cover without substantive content expression, the work will be empty and meaningless. Even for extreme bands, we must carefully think about the content of the works we want to express, enrich and fulfill them, otherwise the music will only become a manifestation of blood and violence.”
Argentian “Slamming Anime Grind” act Septic Karnage are acutely self-aware about their obsession with the mysterious ways of the Land of the Rising Sun, naming their EP Weebgrind and their compilation album Gore N’ Kawaii (is this what Guns N’ Roses have evolved into?). This type of comfort-in-who-you-are labeling includes equally blunt song titles such as “Watching Hentai Uncensored,” “Anime Girl Gangbang” and “Desecration of Waifu” (waifu is the term for the object of a weeb’s desire). They recently put out Weebgrind 2.0 (a remake of the first), showing they have no plans of switching styles anytime soon.
On the flipside of Septic Karnage are a band like Hungary’s Szarfaszú Vizelet, who label themselves kawaii grind. The band retains the grindcore elements, but “has nothing to do with the disgusting stuff,” with their album covers being a G-rated breath of fresh air within a hentai section at the video store. Some of their song titles include “Dangos Are Creepy” and “CUTE!”
Ink N’ Inclusivity
You probably have an idea conjured up about what type of person is an anime grind musician, fan or album artist. It would be fair to assume that the genre of anime grind is a strict boy’s club due to the album covers and lurid song titles, but that assumption would be wrong.
One of the most prolific artists in the genre is Mei Maro. Her sombre and beautifully grotesque paintings have become album covers for several bands across the spectrum, including those on Stillbirth Records. Maro started her relationship with Stillbirth through the Japanese bands Urobilinemia and Ayakasi Kagura. She was then commissioned for work for the label, doing album covers such as OxEx’s The Rotten Plinch of Sachiel.
”What I want to express with my work are dark, scary, unpleasant, cruel, and unfocused emotions and lots of blood and internal organs,” says Maro. “These details are usually hidden and invisible, but everyone has them. I am always thinking, ‘Is it not okay to have works that feature them?’ But I also think, ‘If I express those negative emotions directly, it’s probably not beautiful.’ But art is beautiful, therefore, I continue to pursue my own expression.”
On whether gender has anything to do with the type of art, Maro says, ”I think that the difference in one’s taste is more influential than the difference between men and women. I like brutal/extreme expressions, but more than that, I feel that hair, blood, and internal organs are just beautiful.”
Maro says she likes ero guro art, but not every facet of it. “A painter is dealing with extreme expressions with one’s best skill and sincerity. I think this is the most important. Whether women or men are targets of sexual violence in art, it still remains a highly sensitive expression. Therefore, the artist, the band and the painter should face each other more honestly when conveying extreme expressions. Based on the above thoughts, if a band needs ero guro art for the goal they want to express in the band, I think they should use it.”
A major player in the scene is Toxic Loli Records owner/Cheerleader Concubine vocalist Diana Garvin. Cheerleader Concubine, being one of the elder bands of the genre, has been putting out material since 2007, with song titles and themes being just as colorful as any other band in the genre, including “Aborted Fetus Beauty Pageant” and the tantalizing “Diarrhea Creampie.”
“I think brutal death metal is still pretty much a dudes’ club, despite there being more women breaking out in the genre,” says Diana. “With the whole anime thing, that it’s like such a stark contrast to the typical Mottla Art album covers and serious misogynistic aesthetic of some of the bands and that kinda opens it up to people that aren’t just cis guys.”
She thinks that there’s more opportunities for exploring feminine themes because of the subject matter. “Grind, at its roots, has always been about rejecting the status quo; I don’t think it’s a surprise that women and queer folk and anime are all kinda mixed in there. With this sort of extreme metal, misogyny is unfortunately always a problem but I think it’s important to realize the obvious tongue-in-cheekness of the music, aesthetic, and lyrical content, assuming there’s any at all. Cheerleader Concubine takes a lot of inspiration from absurdist guro like Shintaro Kago and our newest album, yet to be released, is revolving around Danganronpa. There’s a dumb, goofy edginess to it.”
Schoolgirl Upon Thy Corpse is an electronic anime grind project out of Moscow, Russia. The band is one of many projects put together by Juliette, or J, who refers to himself as a former transgender woman (born as a boy, lived as a woman for a time as Juliette, and now lives as a man again as J).
J says of choosing to start an anime grind project, “I was big into anime and at the time I knew of bands like Cheerleader Concubine, Jig-Ai and Go-Zen, so I thought it’d be cool to have some nice-looking anime related album covers and anime samples instead of the really tired horror flick ones. I wanted to make it aesthetically a bit different from the lot of regular brutal death/goregrind bands.”
Already being into the grotesque world of gory anime may be a bridge for some listeners but J doesn’t think that’s the case for Schoolgirl, explaining, “I think many people who are into my project aren’t really anime fans and just kinda have to get over the fact that anime is present in the music, though I can tell that flashy artwork can attract attention.”
On how the shock factor from some of the content isn’t meant to be taken seriously, J comments, “I should mention that usually there’s no lyrics involved at all. Gore and sex are just the most appropriate topics for music like that.”
J’s topical outlook has slight differences from Schoolgirl Upon Thy Corpse’s style, the former of which is more feminine in its approach. “Yes, I wanted to focus more on female-on-male or female-on-female violence as a way of escaping the tired clash of goregrind and brutal death metal,” J says. “No lyrics are usually involved, so observations can only be made from artworks and song titles.”
The Future is Animated
Like searching for the right Japanese manga at a bookstore in Tokyo, the genre of anime grind is bigger than one would expect and you might lose track of time while browsing.
Fresh bands are popping up in the grotesque library monthly, including some newer faces like Waifu Annihilator, Waifu Smashed, Waifutomy, Morbid Gorgeous Girl, Ass Pussy and D x D x G x – ドキドキゴロシ. Many of these bands simply slap on a bloody animated photo of a schoolgirl for album art and call it a day, though if this style of music wants to continue to develop, the animated and extreme music elements should perhaps be higher in concept.
“Whether in composition or lyrics, they need to be considered carefully, not just put on a shell, otherwise this trend will soon disappear,” says Lin. “These bands are actually the equivalent to pioneers in this field. We are making contributions together and hope to leave our trace in the history of extreme music.”