A Case From Japan


"The story is quickly told. 'Shonen A', Japanese for 'Boy A', is the anonymous name for a fourteen year old who is convicted of the cruel murder of a younger schoolboy. The case 'Shonen A' took place in 1997 in the Japanese port of Kobe. A shocked public bemoaned the decline of high-tech youth and, among other things, blamed brutal videos, superhero computer games and comics for this violent act. The written records and statements of the perpetrator were influenced to a large extent by the subject matter of the games which are popular with Japanese youth. The sound is on the track of this crime. 'Shonen A' takes newspaper reports on the case plus published threatening letters and diary entries by the perpetrator and turns them into 19 music tracks: pop songs to dance to, with techno, house or freestyle electronics, meditative chants, instrumentals, vocal samples and thriller-type soundtracks with 70s movie and psychedelia inserts. A German voice (Peter Veit) leads us through the plot of the murder, presents the pompous, gruesome records of the perpetrator and the newspaper reports in a constantly matter-of-fact tone. Hans Platzgumer's soundscapes in the background maintain and increase the tension, secretly scrape away at the nerve-endings. For the singing part of Ca Mi Tokujiro, Platzgumer finds different free forms of electronic music which ignore the common genres and rely totally on strong rhythms. Tokujiro sings in Japanese. Lyrics which interrogate the perpetrator, which depict his confusion between the virtual and the real worlds. Speech and voice convey autonomous, exotic, emotion-laden atmospheres. Easily recognisable lines of song in pop refrains, with easy-to-reproduce melodies, alternate with meditative chants of the Buddhist prayer "Hannya Shingyo" in the traditional style ? the best known sutra of Buddhists. 'Shonen A' does not contain any explicit criticism of society or the media. And yet the electropop soundtrack poses uncomfortable questions about the causes of the worrying youth criminality in Japan and the recurrent phenomenon of the youthful murderer who claims he killed 'to see what it was like'. The fragile scenario of an Asian high-tech dolce vita between traditional education rituals, a scenario that has declared a generation to be the collective target consumer group of an efficient industrial nation -- that is what 'Shonen A' turns quite incidentally into its musical focus." --Barbara Schäfer