What does it take to make a grown man dress like this on his day off? Once upon a time you’d need a steadfast belief in a supposedly superior race of people claiming to be the descendants of Atlantis, a psychotic drive to form a pan-Germanic super-state governed by the most brutal and murderous means possible, a sickeningly evil disregard for your fellow man, and to shout so loudly from podiums that 50 years later students will still think it's clever to talk about what a great orator you were. But, if this chap milling around Tokyo is anything to go by, times have changed. He’s dressing up as a Nazi purely for the fun of it. “Chotto asobi!” he says, literally meaning "a little play" (although more probably interpreted in English as "gross cultural insensitivity bred through untranslatable naïvety").
OK, to give a little context, we’re not just hanging out at Tower Records in Shibuya or somewhere similarly incongruous when we meet Hitler-san, we’re at Dream Party 2009 at the futuristic Tokyo Big Sight. It’s Japan’s annual cosplay event. Cosplay is short for "costume play", which means dressing up as your favourite fictional character (or Nazi) because pixelated chicks turn you on more than real ones. It's one of those utopias of the under-sexed that have for so many years been giving Japan a bad name.
“Umm… Is this OK? Because, er… American?” offers Hitler-san by way of apology, indicating that somewhere, once, he might have heard something about the Third Reich not being so cool. Yeah, actually, now you mention it, wasn't there something in a movie about some big ol' war in the 20th century? Oh wait, weren't Japan in that one? He may be thick, but he seemed pretty harmless. However, when I tried to take a photo of him before he's ready he bellowed in Japanese, “Wait a minute, goddamn it!” in a scary manner that he could only have learnt from watching The Beast of Berlin more than twice.
Round the corner we spotted Goebbels-san doing a great job acting out his role of Minister for Propaganda by apparently overseeing this little photo shoot and giving it a chirpy "A-OK!" If only all the Nazis had been as upbeat as him maybe Europe would never have got itself into such a mess.
The event was basically split into three sections, each chipping away at the façade of playfulness, gradually revealing widening layers of perversion, kind of like pulling apart an onion made of vaginas. First, people hung about outside dressed up as Manga characters, waiting for people to take pictures of them, which may be totally self-assuming, but it works, because I was all over them, flashing away like I know how to work my camera.
Not having dedicated my life to reading crappy fantasy comics, I didn’t have a clue who 99 percent of the characters were supposed to be. And when I asked people they laughed in my face as if I’d just told them I’m 23 and don’t know what a vegetable is and can they try and explain it to me please.
That’s right, a man with a giant plastic shotgun-knife was laughing at me.
There were a few characters I did recognise, like these guys dressed as a Transformer and E.Honda from Street Fighter II. Sadly though, getting the cultural reference points didn’t give the activity any more meaning.
The second section was the little bit for aspiring freaks still under 20, where they had things like Manga cars for you to froth over and a little stage where J-pop stars were singing high-pitched songs about Pikachu banging Chung-Li with Liono's sword or something. It was all pretty tame and censored but they wouldn’t let me take pictures in there so you’ll have to make do with the car.
But get past the over-20s barrier to the final section and suddenly the show’s true purpose revealed itself.
It was all a quagmire of cartoon filth for the benefit of middle-aged men chasing a fantasy of pre-pubescent abandon with imaginary pencil-drawn Lolitas.
Japanese hentai (cartoon porn) has become such a myth that actually seeing the extent to which Japanese men dig it was kind of shocking. There were queues of literally hundreds of guys (spiralling out of the venue and into the rain), all just waiting to get their hands on a towel with a picture of a naked cartoon schoolgirl on it. You can’t even have sex with a towel!
You also can’t have sex with a mouse mat, even if the wrist rest is shaped like boobs. Do these people not realise??!
You actually could have sex with this thing. I’m guessing it is what a cartoon character’s sexual organs are supposed to look like. If I was going to have sex with a cartoon character, I’d choose the duck with four arms from Bucky O’Hare because the post-coital hug would feel so intimate.
At one point, things got a little overheated (I guess the queue for the gents' toilets was refusing to budge and there was nowhere else to let off all that pent-up excitement) and all these guys mobbed a stall with their hands up in the air shouting, “Me! Me! Me!” as the last few posters of a cartoon girl doing a wee went up for grabs. These men all look like dads to me. Gross.
Round the corner, though, the salaryman creche was being well looked after by these girls, who kept all the horny boys in check by telling them a little story and asking them to be good little pumpkins.