Isshi's Road Through History: the way of Kagura
Part 5: [gozen]

One part of a magnificent story that brings back lost time. Now, we're going back about 5 years. In December of 2002, Kagrra, released a great concept album called [gozen], and it was a masterpiece with a grand literary style. In part five of "Isshi's Road Through History: the way of Kagura," a story will be unfolded within [gozen], and along with the pictures to properly visualize it, because of Isshi we can bring these words to life. Here is an aesthetic sense unique to Isshi.

The topic this time is the album [gozen], but since that work was released in December of 2002, it's already quite an old story isn't it? Isshi, what was your reason for coming to talk about [gozen]?
Isshi: I wonder if it wasn't because we recently did our livehouse tour, Shizuku~Seeking for the cause tour 2007~. And when the lives are over, we always play our own music through the venue. In Nagoya we played [gozen]. And listening to it then after such a long time, I was thinking "This album is so good~" (laughs)

Anyway, you're saying that even now that album is your best concept work as Kagrra, right?
Isshi: That's right. It's a work we have an extreme emotional attachment to, and to tell the truth, it's because each of the songs are good songs. I haven't listened to anything else recently, so I felt that all over again.

But you don't often perform the tracks on [gozen] during lives in recent years, do you?
Isshi: Rather than saying 'not often', you could really say we don't do it at all. Still, having said that, it's because all of the songs follow and describe a single story, right? Therefore, it's a little difficult to just pull out one part of that story to play at a live. Actually, we used to pull out several songs to play at lives a long time ago, but whichever ones we played, they felt completely out of place.

I see. So to that extent, are you saying that [gozen] is a special work that's unique to Kagrra?
Isshi: I think so. And yet, when I think about it carefully, I still haven't finished that story you know. I suddenly recalled that now. (laughs)

Which reminds me, a while ago you proposed a sequel to the story of [gozen], didn't you?
Isshi: Yes, so if it comes true, I think I'd want to write that sequel as a short story. Besides, I already have a fitting plot for it in my head. But it's actually still taking form.

Going back to the talk 5 years ago, how did you originally envision the story of [gozen]?
Isshi: To start with, we were talking about making a concept album first of all, and at that time what I wanted to depict the most, well, it was about Oni.

The motif of Oni has always carried an important meaning for you from the past, hasn't it, Isshi?
Isshi: I simply like them, but saying that, my interest has grown larger. Even by saying a single word, 'Oni', it's understood that there are various types of Oni, so at that time I began with the characters of an Oni woman, and Sakanoue Tamuramaro (the first Shogun commander in Japan), both real characters. I thought up a world that was like historical science fiction.

So then, "gozen" is "御前".
Isshi: Yes. Still, if you look at it based on the present, in the establishment of the era of [gozen] there are a few little points of contradiction with things like character creation.

That's the epitome of fiction, right? Furthermore, the Gozen in this album is an Oni as well as a cyborg, and to be honest I think that's a bizarre idea, but it makes the world of [gozen] interesting!
Isshi: That's right, even though in that era there weren't such machines, I was putting myself to the challenge. (laughs)

Are you going to go ahead with a novelization of [gozen]?
Isshi: I think I could go on with it. Well, I'm saying that, but since I pretty much wrote it all a while ago, in terms of the contradictions we just talked about, the words I write, and my writing style itself, my skill has increased since 5 years ago so if I were to revise it I think it'd be no good unless I started writing from the beginning.

Around when do you think it would be completed...?
Isshi: I wouldn't be able to announce it to the world, because naturally I want to publish it when it's done perfectly. Saying that, even if I work hard it's a matter of whether or not I can do it within the year. (laughs)

You predicted even earlier than I thought you would. When you announced [gozen] back then I suppose you could have said "This is my life work so it'll come around sooner or later."
Isshi: Even so, it's not that I've decided to drive myself into a corner here because I can't really do that, right? In general, I think I'd probably say that even people like master novelists can't write without a deadline. (laughs)

It's surely difficult, but I hope you'll complete a novelization of [gozen]. Anyway, I think there are people unfamiliar with the album amongst our readers, so please give us a simple outline.
Isshi: First of all, the scene is a city. That city is going to waste, plagues are spreading, and the public order is getting worse. Then, the people are saying amongst themselves that it's the deed of an Oni.

But something happens to renounce what they say...
Isshi: That would be Sakanoue Tamuramaro. He goes to the Suzuka Mountains where the Oni lives, and when he calls to the Oni there he's confronted with Lady Suzuka. But then, it's not that Lady Suzuka is a bad woman, but he understands that there is a machine manipulating her. And what's more than that, he also knows there is a chief controlling it.

And that would be the scene in the song called Mukuro no Toride on the album, right?
Isshi: Yeah. In that one, basically, Sakanoue Tamuramaro defeats the chief's Oni and returns to the city. But the chief wasn't there, and Lady Suzuka dies.

So at that stage, there's also background that Sakanoue Tamuramaro becomes a rival to love Lady Suzuka?
Isshi: Right. So he wishes to help Lady Suzuka, and bring her back from the realm of the underworld. He crosses the border at Yomotsu Hirasaka.

And that scene is depicted in the song called Mikoto.
Isshi: As that comes to pass, Lady Suzuka is begging the deity of the underworld to return as a human, but there are conditions she must meet with a strict deadline.

That's right. And how does it go from there...? I can ask you that, but it'll be described in the story after this point.
Isshi: Yes it will.

It's a story with quite a big scale, Isshi, but what you're describing here comes down to not a simple bizarre idea, but an even deeper story.
Isshi: You know, I think that period is something I'll do again. I wonder if it isn't because I often have such theories as 'The reincarnation of Sugawara Michizane is Taira Masakado'.

I guess in all times and places, there are many theories like that.
Isshi: Therefore, the sequel to [gozen] could be about the life given to Lady Suzuka in her time as a human, or I also think it'd probably be okay to have them reincarnated afterward. For example, a story of the children and descendants of Sakanoue Tamuramaro and Lady Suzuka.

There could be such developments.
Isshi: If I think about it as a story, I believe various worlds are expanding from this.

I think there are many other artists who make concept albums, but Isshi, I feel that you have a great amount of originality with turning it into a novel, and with the story itself.
Isshi: I often say that I genuinely like such worlds. Lately I've said that I'm describing my own honest thoughts with my words, but now and in the past I'm enamored with Oni, with a world of Japanese style.

If I'm not mistaken, then such intentions and aesthetic senses are reflected by your band, Kagrra.
Isshi: For sure, we have a greater means of expression lately than in the past, but with these roots we're still changing, even now.

And that's even clear in the photoshoot this time, isn't it?
Isshi: The theme this time feels like 'Before and after the metamorphosis of Lady Suzuka'.

The photoshoot seems to have been done with the clothing and make-up from that time.
Isshi: Because that's the costume from 5 years ago, you know. Since my figure changed a little, I thought I absolutely couldn't wear it, but somehow or other I worked hard to lose weight before the photoshoot. (wry smile)

Splendid. (laughs)
Isshi: The kimono part is not the same costume from that time, but it's a picture from after I revised my image of Lady Suzuka before her metamorphosis. The atmosphere feels kind of like the Gozen doll in my house.

For the people who have only known Kagrra for around 2 years, the pictures this time might seem surprisingly visual.
Isshi: Just as I thought, since this is SHOXX I have to give a shock. (laughs)

By the way, speaking of your Gozen doll. If I remember correctly, I heard that it's proportionately big. And you always have that in your house Isshi, don't you?
Isshi: Originally, it was a doll made for us that we intended to use in lives after we put out [gozen]. It actually wasn't completed in time for the lives, and there was only one stage in which we used the life-sized doll.

Isn't it scary, having a life-sized doll like that in your house?
Isshi: Scary? Why would it be? Since we're always together, before long I was thinking about things like whether I'd cut and bleach its hair!

A hair cut, you say... Might you be using human hair for that doll?
Isshi: Yes, that's right.

And yet, you're saying you need to cut it, so you can't be saying that the hair is growing??
Isshi: Ah, it certainly grows. In 5 years, it probably grew more than 30 centimeters.

How can you say that without a change in tension? I think this conversation is perfectly on par with a ghost story...
Isshi: But, you don't believe me.

Even if I don't believe you, is it really true that the hair grows???
Isshi: But look, it was probably caused by brushing it.

That could be 5 centimeters, or maybe you can get to 10 centimeters if you brush it, or as a result of the humidity. But more than 30 centimeters is abnormal. There's no way.
Isshi: Ahh, suppose it really has a human form, right? Perhaps there might be something inside it. But even if that's the case, it doesn't matter at all to me. But of course, the people who come to my house are surprised. People who came before for internet wiring were terribly scared. (wry smile) Or should I say, even though the doll was on the 2nd floor, they stopped halfway up the staircase and said "Don't know why, but I have a terrible feeling about that."

Was it suitable to say such things to a customer?? I'd think that in general they'd not talk about their feelings.
Isshi: You'd think that~ Ah, but it was fine because I'm not scary at all. Besides, look, I may do things like comb its hair, but if someone's going to come meet me then I won't do any such loathsome things so it's okay. (laughs)


Although the album name is officially written as [gozen], the kanji that represent this title are 御前. This is a formal address to someone in a higher position than the speaker. It can be loosely translated as "My Lord" or "My Lady." 

The two songs that are mentioned in this interview link to their respective translations, but you can find all of these lyrics translated under the [gozen] section on the lyrics page!

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