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Q&A with Hyper Misao, on her influences and goals in wrestling

1 year ago

Q&A with Hyper Misao, on her influences and goals in wrestling

By: Jeff Brown

Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling is a joshi company that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what a wrestling match is and how fans think about the artform in general. One of the leading artistic voices is none other than Hyper Misao, the superhero who will resort to any tactic to win a match. Hailing from Ibaraki, Japan, the masked joshi has an extremely storied run in TJPW that even saw her go down a darker unmasked path in NEO Biishiki-gun. She has a frequent tag partner in a 147cm Kaiju also known as Shoko Nakajima; together they are called Kyoraku Kyomei. She has a complicated and perhaps unrequited relationship with the White Dragon Rika Tatsumi and refers to herself as the “Hero Protecting Love and Peace.”

Misao is a published poet who draws from the film and art worlds for inspiration. Her matches are highly experimental in nature, and rarely do you see repetition in her antics.
Beneath the cold spray and calling for the microphone at the start of each match is a highly skilled technical wrestler, capable of hanging in the ring with any performer. Being so bizarre but phenomenal in the ring is akin to her being the Sun Ra of Joshi; she has the chops and confidence to go out every night and improvise a masterpiece that is light years ahead of everyone else, and while Sun Ra was rooted in the more traditional swinging big-band jazz of Duke Ellington, Misao has strong fundamentals and an understanding of the norms that she is breaking away from during her matches.

Like Jack Keourac’s beat poetry, her next move in a bout is likely off the cuff and a surprise to her as well as her opponent. On May 25th, the world of Tokyo Joshiwill be under the guidance of Hyper Misao for her Produce show “Hype.” This will surely be a psychedelic and genre-bending evening for the world of joshi. A few days prior to that big night, Hyper Misao sat down with Monthly Puroresu to discuss how she began her journey in wrestling and, among other things, her influences and future goals.

Hyper Misao makes her entrance at Korakuen Hall. Credit: Masahiro Kubota

Monthly Puroresu: We’ll start at the beginning. How did you start with wrestling and were you a fan growing up?

Hyper Misao: So, as a kid, I didn’t actually grow up watching wrestling at all. It was around maybe 2014 when I had just graduated university in the summer, and I was just a shut-in at home, I wasn’t really doing anything at all. I went to a handmade festival with my mom and it just so happened that the festival was hosting a DDT Street wrestling event. I watched the show and was really moved by how interesting wrestling could be – I got really sucked in. After that, I went to see another DDT show and within the next month I had sent an application to become a trainee at Tokyo Joshi.

Monthly Puroresu: Your costume design, if I’m correct, was inspired by Kamen Rider?

Hyper Misao: It’s not inspired by Kamen Rider at all. It’s more towards American comics, like a cyberpunk or futuristic style. I like attires that are more like a spandex kind of body suit. The designs are always done by me, so instead of saying it’s something more eastern, it’s probably closer to say it’s more western with a near futuristic design.

Monthly Puroresu: Let’s talk about your entrance theme, the Kai Band’s “Hero.” Was that your idea or was that somebody else’s idea?

Hyper Misao: Yeah, it was my decision. There were few theme songs I wanted to use, but I chose “Hero” in particular because one of the lyrics had the idea of something being “To live is a one-night show,” wrestling is like a one night show, so the lyrics moved me and that’s why I decided to use it as my entrance music.

Tarō Okamoto, avant-garde artist

Monthly Puroresu: In the past you have cited performance artists like Marina Abramović as influences for your hardcore and death matches. Are there any other types of artists you look to that are maybe outside wrestling for influence?

Hyper Misao: If it’s in wrestling in particular, I think one of my biggest influnces is the work of Tarō Okamoto.

Monthly Puroresu: With the younger roster members in Tokyo Joshi, like Pom Harajuku and Raku, do they look to you as an influence because of your style of wrestling or do you mentor them at all?

Hyper Misao: Seniors like me, we already wrestle in our own style. Tokyo Joshi in particular recommends that wrestlers find their own unique style and go all the way with it. I don’t really think that the younger generation are influenced by my style, but if some of them are, I’ll be really happy.

Monthly Puroresu: Would you say you are influenced by any particular type of film, I ask because it feels like your character would feel at home, like the neighborhood of Edward Scissorhands, a Tim Burton movie. Are you influenced by those unique characters at all?

Hyper Misao: You did mention Tim Burton. Batman Returns is actually one could say in a sense is an influence of mine. I really liked Batman and Tim Burton produced the film. If it’s a character, it’s more like Catwoman because although Catwoman is a morally gray character, when she’s not in a costume and is just Selina Kyle, she’s not really the kind of person who really likes to be offensive. She’s very demure and just being herself but when she dons the mask, she becomes a lot more stronger. She carries herself in a bigger way. Not in a style design way, but I was also influenced by the film Carrie (1976).

Monthly Puroresu: Rika Tatsumi is someone that you have a long history with and a friendship with. How did that develop between you?

Hyper Misao: Rika had already been wrestling at Tokyo Joshi for a year when I made my debut. There was a time when I had a knee injury and I didn’t want the fans to know about it, so I was trying not to make it show while I was competing. I was resting backstage after a show and Rika saw my injury and said “I know that you’re working really hard” and just from that one statement, I had a sense of like a one-sided friendship with Rika. I felt like, because of that one statement, that I was able to become closer to Rika Tatsumi, but honestly, I’m not really sure how Rika feels about me on the other hand. It could just be an unrequited friendship.

Monthly Puroresu: In a lot of your matches, you will use objects such as cold spray or, there’s even a few instances where you’ve pulled a handgun. Is that something you think of ahead of time to bring to the ring, or you just kind of thought of in the spur of the moment?

Hyper Misao: I always carry my cold spray around with me at every show I go to because I never know when I’ll need to use it in an emergency. For the other weapons or equipment, it really depends on the opponent and who I’m facing at the time.

Monthly Puroresu: You’ve talked about mental health awareness. Is that something you feel that you can use your platform to be a champion or even a hero for mental health awareness for fans and maybe other wrestlers?

Hyper Misao: To be honest, I don’t really like to go out of my way to tell people that it exists, it’s something you that you need to know. If you really can understand the story, it’s great. If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter.

Monthly Puroresu: When you visited Los Angeles, I saw on a social media post that you saw “Barbara Kruger’s, Your Body is a Battleground”. I thought that might be in line with maybe some of the hardcore matches you have done, but I also know that particular piece has a political meaning to it. I wondered what that piece meant to you? If anything in particular.

Hyper Misao: I saw the message, “Your Body is a Battleground”, and I thought it felt like something that is very close to wrestling, so I decided to buy a postcard. That’s about it, I wasn’t really aware of the original meaning behind it.

Monthly Puroresu: Throughout your history you’ve had some very colorful characters you’ve wrestled including a giant panda, and Mecha Mummy. How did those matches come about?

Hyper Misao: They’re really interesting opponents to me, and I’d like to be able to fight more characters in a similar vein. Andreza the Giant Panda is someone I’d like to face-off against in a single match one of these days.

Monthly Puroresu: You have a finisher here, I believe it is called Vanitas. How did you come up with that name?

Hyper Misao: Vanitas is actually a move from when I was in NEO Biishiki-gun as just “Misao”, and so I’m just using it along the same lines, not as part of the history. I guess there isn’t really a particular reason as to why I chose it, but it has that link back to art. In art, vanitas is a still-life painting that represents “an allegory of the emptiness of life.” It was intended to evoke the transience of vanity to the viewer by placing skulls, a metaphor for man’s mortality, or clocks, pipes, and rotting fruit, among various still-life objects that signify abundance and so on. I gave this name to this finisher because the lifted form before striking the opponent seems to express the emptiness of life, just as in that still life painting.

Monthly Puroresu: Since it’s art, do you draw from other art movements or philosophies for your character since you used that name for your finisher?

Hyper Misao: Like I said before, I like films such as Batman Returns, so when I get inspiration for something, it’s probably from films I’ve already seen. The choice of Vanitas as a move name was because of NEO Biishiki-gun, and NEO Biishiki-gun is all about beauty. So it fit how I was feeling back then because the idea of vanitas is a sense of emptiness or worthlessness.

Monthly Puroresu: You’re doing the BAKA GAIJIN + FRIENDS show coming up and you mentioned you wanted to wrestle in more unique environments. Do you have any particular places you’d like to wrestle that are non-traditional?

READ: Q&A with Chris Brookes, on life in Japan and producing BAKA GAIJIN + FRIENDS

Hyper Misao: My gateway into wrestling was street wrestling, so I like that and definitely want to do something more in that vein. And in Japan, they normally have school festivals in the fall where they share a lot of films and animation and stuff. I would love to wrestle in places like that. I would also like to wrestle in, I guess like industry, not public stuff, like B2B kind of wrestling events as well. And if possible places Disneyland, but Disney might get us censored or kicked out for that, but generally places like amusement parks could be fun.

Monthly Puroresu: Your hardcore and deathmatches, it’s such a stylistic change from your normal stuff. Was it a challenge to be allowed to do those or were you always allowed to and never have to fight for it?

Hyper Misao: Well, I’ve always been very vocal on wanting to wrestle in deathmatches.

Monthly Puroresu: Is there any type of match stipulation or maybe a particular style of match that you have not wrestled yet that you would like to try someday?

Hyper Misao: I haven’t really wrestled in deathmatches until now, but if you really look at it, like when I fought against Shunma Katsumata it was basically a hardcore match. But like sometimes, you know, some thumbtacks get involved so it’s a little bit closer to deathmatch, but I’ve never wrestled in a proper deathmatch like what FREEDOMS do. I would like to do a match which just has a set of really silly rules, that would be interesting.

Monthly Puroresu: You have a Produce show coming up called Hype. How did that come about? Was that your idea to have the Produce show or were you approached to do it?

Hyper Misao: I’ve always wanted to do my own Produce show. Like, for the longest time I wanted to do a self-produced show, and the fans also have been wanting to see it as well. I hadn’t really collected the courage to speak up about wanting to do it, but the fan demand for one as well as me wanting to do one, now just felt like the right time for it to happen and it’s happening.

Monthly Puroresu: Without giving away anything, were you allowed to ask for special guests or any particular wrestlers to be involved? Or is it just the normal Tokyo Joshi roster?

Hyper Misao: When it comes to guests, I wanted to limit wrestlers to those who wrestle in Tokyo Joshi because I wanted to be able to show a different side to what you’d normally see from the roster. But if they’re put in a Hyper Misao Produce show, perhaps something new might come out, you might see a side aspect of the wrestlers in Tokyo Joshi. So I really want to show a different aspect of what Tokyo Joshi wrestlers are capable of when put in a different show or setting like that.

Monthly Puroresu: When factoring in your real life story, you’re one of the more complex characters in wrestling. How would you describe Hyper Misao to a new fan who’s maybe not aware?

Hyper Misao: I think the best analogy to describe Hyper Misao is that I’m like the joker card in a deck of cards.