The Evolution and Meaning of Kawaii with Sebastian Masuda and Kawaii International

Written by decorademon

On Friday, January 6th, Echo Park Film Center hosted Kawaii International and world renowned artist Sebastian Masuda to hold a few film/television screenings at their space. I’ll be discussing the events and lightly touching on the deeper conversations of the night, such as what Sebastian Masuda had to say about the philosophy of Kawaii! (Very touching!)

To start, Sebastian Masuda was hosting events on the three day weekend of Friday, January 6th to Sunday, January 8th, and on the Friday, Kawaii International was screening their new 50 minute episode of Kawaii International called “The Evolution of Kawaii” at the Echo Park Film Center.

Sebastian Masuda (left), Paolo Davanzo (middle), Super Awesome Co-Owner (right)

I want to preface this a bit; this film center is an amazing place that helps so many who want to discover and grow their skills in the arts, and it’s a very small place, so the whole experience was a very comfortable and intimate one with all of the attendees and hosts! The two owners there, who are also partners, were so sweet and loving to everyone. Walking into the event, I was with my group of three friends (including Kamilah Jones, who flew out to Chicago to be there), and we quickly realized we were the only ones in Harajuku style fashion, which was slightly shocking at first, but turned out to be an amazing thing! So many people of all ages and backgrounds who hadn’t heard of Harajuku or Kawaii fashion at all turned out to learn and discover their own kawaii selves.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers of the Kawaii International episode, but it mapped the growth of three fashion subcultures that originated in Harajuku (Visual Kei, Lolita, and Decora), and one subculture that originated in Shibuya (Gyaru) and where they are in the fashion world today! It was a really interesting episode, which included interview with people who are/were in the fashions themselves.

Next, there was a Q/A session with Sebastian Masuda, as he described his childhood, his first inspirations with kawaii fashion, his career, and his philosophy of Kawaii! Sebastian Masuda described a very solemn, very adult feeling, looking back on one’s childhood and realizing that things were just more colorful and bright back then. He remembers seeing all the amazing lights of the festivals and being in awe, but that feeling has receded in his adult years, which is a feeling a lot of us have as we get older. With his art, he wants to keep this feeling alive in those that see his work, and spread this feeling of childhood wonderment and joy to all of the people that he can.
Kawaii, to Masuda, is something very individual to everyone person. He believes that Kawaii is like our own world, our own bubble that no one can enter, that helps define how we see the world and how we treat those in it! He believes that we can all unite the world with Kawaii, our beautiful and cute feelings that we can use to rise above things like violence, war, racism, and hatred. Needless to say, we were all extremely inspired by his words, and those who were unfamiliar with Masuda’s work and Kawaii culture in general spoke out and expressed how they connected to this feeling and how they believe they have kawaii inside of them, too.

Finishing the night was a screening of a film that Masuda had a big hand in reforming—the 1979 stop motion animated film Nutcracker Fantasy that was produced by Sanrio! Masuda not only shortened the movie (from over two hours to about 80 minutes), he also color corrected, re-arranged, reformatted for 3D, added his own animated scenes, and created more stop motion scenes with the original doll that was still preserved from the original film! I had seen the film when I was a child on VHS, and I hardly remember since it was so long and most likely fell asleep in the middle of the film. This remake was remarkable, and had so many things the old film hadn’t, including a more easy to follow story line! One of my favorite things was what Masuda added to the sound design, because he added vocaloid programs into the songs/background music of the film! Hatsune Miku was used for a lot of the background music and more complex and loud moments, while Kaito was used for a full song which accompanied a guitar originally placed in the movie.

The 2014 Remake by Sebastian Masuda

In between these amazing moments, we got to have a nice cup of tea and talk to the NHK World producers and staff, who were extremely nice and were very curious about how everyone heard of Kawaii culture. Kamilah Jones and I were interviewed for Kawaii International, and you’ll be seeing more of her in April, where she will be a Kawaii International News reporter!

Kamilah and I being interviewed; Picture by Jasmine R.

This night was longer than expected, but worth every second of it! Regardless of whether they will be hosting anymore kawaii themed nights, I will be returning to Echo Park Film Center to see their all-inclusive movie nights and be around such warm and welcoming people.

Thank you! #NHKkawaii #SebastianMasuda

A photo posted by Sebastian Masuda (@sebastian_masuda) on Jan 6, 2017 at 10:23pm PST


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