The Blood of Being in Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter

“You know it’s real, when you are exactly who you think you are” ~Drake, Pound Cake

“I always feel like I can do anything. That’s the main thing people are controlled by. They’re slowed down by the perception of themselves. I was taught I could do everything. And I’m Kanye West at age 36.” ~Kanye West, 22 Quotes from Kanye’s BBC Interview

Helter Skelter is a comic by Kyoko Okazaki published in English by Vertical Press, and Available Now.

And the message was that Cinderella was a glossed over lie that made you feel better about yourself, and all of the dead princesses hanging out in the background of disappointing Baz Luhrmann musicals, they see you.  You spoiled rich kid.  Here is the main character of Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter, named: Liliko.  Know that the only thing you see on this page is the distanced projection both from and upon manipulated skin and form.  Know that there is nothing you can see from a woman who is almost naked before you that is real, that is true, that speaks to you about the black blocked hell going on inside her head, between the flickers and flashes of camera and moment. That’s not even her real skin.  Her body is literally on the line.  She exists cropped up.  When that one girl in the last Rick Owens show for Spring 2014 made that face, and you felt “viciousness”–that is this.

You think you are seeing fakeness.  You think that panel at the bottom is that fake fashion cover joy that’s been sold to you.  The wide-eyed masses behind the camera, the audience even farther back from that–we’re zoomed in on Cinderella’s fake joy, and there’s nothing fake here.  It’s real.  It’s the realness of female beauty, the realness of the tik-tok of qualities which are the only thing that makes people look at you, it’s the nakedness of trying to connect through those qualities, failing, and knowing that time is running out, and the fall that’s coming will be like nothing anyone can understand until they do.

The main characters in Helter Skelter are:
Liliko the model– who has had everything but her eyeballs, and her genitals melted down and warped by a surgeons radical treatments, and who is falling apart page by page, thought by thought.  As she fights for every last second, blood on the walls.
“Mama”–the woman who runs the corporation.  The lady who has made Liliko in her own image to project the youth she had.  Who is drawn like Cinderella’s fairy godmother.  To whom Liliko made her deal.
Hada–Liliko’s manager, go-fer, who loves Liliko’s beauty, who wants to be a part of her magic and will do anything for her, even as she betrays her with every weak moment of her existence.
Kozue Yoshikawa: The young model coming to replace Liliko, whose beauty is all natural.  The bored perfection who anxiously awaits the chance to be forgotten and escape from her glass prison–who is always framed, never touched.
Detective Asada: The Agent Cooper fool who sees all.

What we like about beauty from the outside is that it is a sublime experience that transcends reality and shows us the closest thing to fantasy within the context of experience. In some ways, beauty is only meant to be seen once.  There are these shots of Liliko spread through Helter Skelter that show us a different Liliko in a different perfect moment.  We can see that what a model is, is a context of form which is able to show through a series of moments a different side of their perfection.  The tension for a model–which is to say, someone for whom we have defined their value to us as society is as a walking, living, perfection–is that they must always be new–and do that up against the reality of the passage of time and the erosion of life by death.  A model is the lie we tell ourselves that we can live forever, and it’s why when they stop being new, we forget them.

The narrative of the fashion model is intrinsically a primordial tale within the genre of body-horror.  It is our shared complicity in the slow motion mutilation of the human form as we stretch it’s moment out longer and longer until there is nothing left.

The ferocity with which Liliko fights against her Cinderella moment push Helter Skelter into a defiant punk-like space, where we want to see Liliko scratch and claw.  We want her to be horrible to everything in the world.  To us even, because we know from this perspective that we deserve it.  We are guilty, and we know it.  We’re the sniveling rich kid sellouts.  You who have the gall to tell the biggest rock star on the planet  he needs to pipe down. This is life, every scratched out, fought for inch of it.  You who fight for nothing.

We build up empires around this fight.  The cranes keep going, as we watch these people tear themselves apart.  The fairy godmother didn’t grant a wish, she found some poor fat prostitute and cut her up in a back alley, and then made millions off the back end.  The Fairy Godmother looks how she looks, because she’s not playing the beauty-desire game.  She’s playing the “we’re going to shut down your society, because we can” game.  She’s the bored cat with the bloody mouse by its tail.

This isn’t a loving embrace, it’s a monster with it’s prey in it’s clutches:

All of the lies are in the light.

What is this pain?  What is the pain to be beautiful?  I started transitioning from male to female when I was 23.  The pressure I felt from society was to be passable so I could live, and not be treated as a freak.  To hide my history, as Liliko hid hers, behind a pretty new face and body.  I’ve been chemically warping my body ever since that time.  For me it wasn’t even about passability past a certain point.  It was about becoming who I know I was.  Beyond even gender, the pain and the hours in bad light trying to become what I want to as an artist–the bad backs from hunching over in unhealthy ways.  The hand cramps from drawing too long.  The fear of what happens when how I look and how I am finally happens in a way that people can consume–and how short that will last.  What it is to work against every inch of what you’ve been given, using everything at your disposal of what you are–that is the pain.  And the condescending fake sympathy of the doctor/god who knows your pain in the last panel, and doesn’t even register it, can’t even register it–because you’re just meat on the bone.

Look at the way those who had it all to begin with glisten.  That cowish lack of understanding of just what they are what they’ve been given, and how that’s everybody, that’s you, that’s me–we can be given everything, and be bored with.  Get given everything, you want nothing.

Again, everything in the spotlight is the lie you made it tell.  Because you wanted the lie, not the truth.

And you can’t even be bothered to remember the lie for half a second.  Distracted by the flashy fingernails. The perfect smile.  The perfect accessory.  Here is the human form, dissected and splayed out on the table for your enjoyment.  These are crime photos.

Liliko is now the audience to her own horror.  Bored and vacant.  We are looking at her, as she looks at herself in the candles, as we look at her.  The abyss gazes also.  Kyoko Okazaki’s violent flower imagery continues here:

Liliko finding one last perfection to give her audience.  The artist at their most exorbitant before the drugs overtake them.  The moment of final manic hubris, “I Am A God”.  If the early stages of the celebrity, model, artist life are avatars for our clutching at life, this final stage is most certainly the final reveal that it was death all the time.  The denouement, the most perfect horror–and where the true sublime lives.  That sliver of a moment where we are too late to run away, and see that awe inspired glimpse of beautiful flashing death.

Biographical note:
In May of 1996, shortly after the completion of Helter Skelter’s serialization, Kyoko Okazaki, one of the giant forces in adult women’s comics, was hit by a drunk driver.  She was completely paralyzed, and rendered unable to speak.  She has been in rehabilitation ever since, and has not made another comic.  To this point, she was exceptionally prolific.  And later this year, Vertical will be putting out what many consider her masterwork Pink.

Additional note:
Helter Skelter was the song by the Beatles that inspired Charles Manson and his group to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders.  The themes of madness, violence, and societal anarchy portrayed in Helter Skelter interplay with both the lyrics of the song, and the impact of the Tate/LaBianca murders.  As they do Cinderella.  Helter Skelter could adequately be described as a shotgun marriage of Cinderella, Charles Manson, and Twin Peaks.  But I think it is a joke to write like that.  So I just did.

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