A few days ago I spotted the following sticker just outside Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills:
It’s an ironic tribute to former Aum Supreme Truth Cult leader* Shoko Asahara that combines his ugly mug with the iconic BAPE clothing logo (see below). I absolutely loved the image for my own reasons (I am a BAPE fan and an avid consumer of Aum-related developments), but it has taken on new relevance now that the BBC informs me that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death. The article discusses the enduring popularity of that one image of him glancing out somewhere with the utmost intensity:
Combined with the mystique and allure of Che and the spirit of revolution, another key to the spread of the image was the complete and intentional lack of intellectual property management on the part of the original photographer and designer, and it has certainly been effective for better or worse. Anyone with a pair of eyes who has visited US college campuses will know how pervasive this image is. And more importantly, the BBC article notes that in Latin America he remains an inspiration for his life and what he stood for, rather than just being a part of the trustafarian poster collection.
However, in Japan the story is a little different. A far more recognizable but similar image is the logo for hip clothing brand A Bathing Ape (aka BAPE) which derives its flagship logo from a combination of the Che image with the Planet of the Apes movies (stunning in their own right). While Che’s logo may stand for the combination of “capitalism and commerce, religion and revolution,” notwithstanding some recent dilution of the brand BAPE’s message is more along the lines of “wear this if you are young and listen to Cornelius”:
I should point out, however, that BAPE has none of the revolutionary hype nor is it even close to the level of pervasiveness of the Che image. It is just a hip clothing brand with a slightly creepy but somehow irresistible logo.
(*Asahara is apparently still revered in one sect of former Aum followers according to recent reports. He will be headed for the gallows for orchestrating the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways whenever the Justice Minister gets around to it.)