Extraordinarily high skyscrapers – crooked, constructed without any sort of urban planning, one on top of the other – stand out from behind the coloured lights.
The crude aesthetics of these modern buildings, which bring us to think of the beginning of the twentieth century rather than the twenty- rst, perfectly endorse the idea of a dead- end prison metropolis. Or better, one with only one way out: destruction. The catastrophic nuclear event that eliminated the old Tokyo had created another city. A dark version of the Japanese capital, born with the death of the old one, and consequently destined not to have a future.
Cosmic nihilism, in short. The same that animates Kaneda, Tetsuo, Kaisuke and Yamagata, young bikers and members of this science ction version of a boˉsozoˉku gang, a sub-culture that was most widely diffused in Japan during the ‘80s. Born in the ‘50s, those gangs are far from the idea that a westerner might have of how Japanese society is orderly, peaceful and without small-scale crime: boˉsozoˉku means casual violence and urban guerrilla warfare between opposing factions, territorial control and clashes with the police.
Unlike the American biker gangs – from the Hell’s Angels down – which appear to have inspired the boˉsozoˉku, the Japanese gangs are far from the adult world: their members are generally between sixteen and twenty years old, the age range in which it’s possible to drive a scooter or a motorcycle, but not an automobile. They therefore represent a truly alternative rite of passage: they play a game that evolves outside any of official social or familiar rule.
It’s not surprising that Katsuhiro O ̄tomo included them in his future without future, dressing them with reference to rebellious juvenile subcultures from all over the world. For example, there are traditional American leather jackets, but they’re highly personalized; Japan has always been the homeland of customisation culture. There are classic examples of Western sportswear – hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts, sneakers – but they’re often excessive in style and size, recalling the oversize garments worn by members of the boˉsozoˉku gangs.