JUNK STORY — Impressions of the 50th Anniversary hide Documentary Film

J-Rock Reviews

2015 marks the year Matsumoto Hideto – better known by his stage name, hide – would have turned 50 years old. To commemorate this, Headwax Organization embarked on a project to collect interviews from a plethora of people who were close to the late X-JAPAN guitarist in an attempt to document his life, achievements, and personality.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWg1XyTaofI?rel=0]

Junk Story, the title of the film that is still in its limited run in Japan (as of this writing, the Tokyo showings will be active as of 6/27), is roughly two hours long and is comprised almost exclusively of interview footage from about two dozen people willing to speak about the hide they knew. Of note are two unique aspects of the film, the first being that what narration there is serves mainly to bookend each portion of the film, which is cut into chapters such as his childhood, Saver Tiger (hide’s first serious band prior to X-JAPAN), and even personal topics such as hide’s habits with alcohol. Previously unseen footage and photographs from activities in both Japan and abroad enrich the film’s intimate tone.

That said, the film is not without its light moments and time is spent on humor, such as the reaction of the members of Spread Beaver to discovering just what the band name meant, the impulsivity hide seemed to have when choosing band members (Chirolyn, a member of Spread Beaver, shares that hide basically decided on him as bassist upon first meeting him without having even heard him play.)

Great sensitivity is shown in how hide’s own voice is represented, which is either through interview footage recorded prior to his death, letters he wrote to himself or others transcribed and superimposed in a scroll on the screen, or important quotes are placed on the screen at key points of the film, such as one emphasizing the importance of his relationship with I.N.A, a member of Spread Beaver and the member who championed bringing hide’s music to the fans after his death. The circumstances surrounding hide’s actual untimely death are not discussed by anyone, and instead focus shifts to the reactions of fans and the band as they coped with the loss. A particularly moving point in the film is Joe’s description of his experience on the ensuing tour, where he describes the entire concert hall as being in tears – both band members and the fans – and that it was a way for them all to grieve together.

The animated representation of hide’s two-faceted self; light hide and dark hide. Image from JUNK STORY promotional site: http://livespot.jp/lv/detail/hide_50th.html

The second notable feature of the is the effort made to emphasize the narrative that hide was a person with two very distinct sides of himself. There was the hide on stage – hide – and the hide in private – Hideto – or so the film describes. With the use of vector-style animation, vignettes are inserted to depict hide, split into two – ‘dark’ hide and ‘light’ hide – that travels through a surreal world interacting with monsters and other creatures to eventually reunite in what appears to be a battle between the two halves of a whole.

The timeline of the film is essentially from hide’s birth to the present, ending with a discussion of the release of the “Cogal”, the most recent single from the artist, an effort between Headwax Organization and developers of vocaloid technology to bring to production a demo tape hide left behind. The demo itself, unlike “Junk Story”, the song from which the film earns its name, had no proper recording of lyrics – being a demo, the vocals were simple la la la’s, and thus the vocaloid technology became a necessity.

Promotional photo from the Junk Story Twitter account: https://twitter.com/hashtag/JUNKSTORY

Junk Story is an intriguing and emotional journey that the viewer takes, carried through the experiences and testimonies of some of hide’s closest friends. Notable faces are Yoshiki of X-JAPAN, J of LUNA SEA, Kyo of D’ERLANGER, almost every member of Spread Beaver contributed to the film, owners of bars that hide frequented, photographers that assisted him in photobook projects and, of course, his personal manager and brother, Hiroshi. I.N.A, as previously mentioned, takes a rare front and center role in crafting the narrative around hide’s life, and helps bring to light some of the motives behind the continued posthumous releases of the late-artist’s work. On the flipside, figures one would have expected to see are glaringly absent. Sugizo of LUNA SEA, K.A.Z of Spread Beaver, Toshi of X-JAPAN, to name a few, do not lend their voices to the film.

All in all, the film is worth the time of both die-hard hide fans and casual, old-school Jrock fans who have been paying attention to the Japanese rock music scene since the early 2000s. There are things about hide to be learned from this film, more than one or two surprises, and despite the arguable heavy-handedness of the animated vignettes, Junk Story offers an opportunity to glimpse at a man through the stories of those who knew him. Let those of us who wish to view the film outside of Japan and lacking in Japanese language skills hope that the film receives a DVD release featuring English subtitles, which it is currently lacking.