Mar 4, 2014
Dir En Grey is something of a controversial band. Since its conception more than a decade ago, it had for a long time been at the forefront of the Visual Kei movement in challenging the norms of music, sexuality, and morality. Of course, the distinction between meaningful social critique and unsubstantial shock value is not always clear-cut, as is the case with the anime in question. Agitated Screams of Maggots is a single released by Dir En Grey in 2006. This anime, or music video to be more precise, was released alongside the single featuring a hand-drawn story to complement the song.
As the band
itself, this music video is undoubtedly and inherently a controversial work. Composed of heavy deathcore playing alongside crudely drawn animations with inspirations from the ero-guro and the surrealist movement, it certainly is not easily appreciated by everyone. This video sets out with the intentions of revolting its viewers with morbid imagery and macabre sound, and invariably succeeds in that regard. As hinted at by its name, Agitated Screams of Maggots is an incredibly grotesque work both visually and aurally. The viewers are introduced to a woman, who during cooking is startled by a giant maggot which she slices asunder in panic. The two pieces of remains, while apparently engaging in intercourse with each other, are subsequently discovered by the daughter who, in her naïve revulsion, proceeds to stomp them to death. Later on during dinner, the mother is infected by a maggot, turns into a monstrous being, and is ultimately tortured and killed by the daughter.
The story of Agitated Screams of Maggots, already immensely repugnant, is further brutalized by its depiction. The animation is a slideshow of hand-drawn paintings characterized by a raw and sketchy appearance. In conjunction with the noticeably low frame rate, the animations emanate a glitched and discomforting vibe. The art style employs a mix of surreal absurdity with the exaggerated and uncensored display of sexuality and gore typical to the ero-guro movement. While being mostly monochrome, a portion of the gore is coloured blood red in contrast to its pale surroundings, which gives it an unnatural and disturbing vividness. Due to the roughness of the art and animation, it is easy to miss the amount of painstaking detail etched into them. The shading is outstanding, giving a three dimensional solidity where needed but without ever deviating from the sketch-art design. The style, however, is dynamic throughout the video: some scenes are drawn with greater spatial depth than others; the stroke smoothness and definition varies in different scenes; and some drawn backgrounds are replaced with complete blackness. The different techniques are utilized for a range of reasons, such as mood setting, foreground emphasis, and psychological significance. The plain and unpleasant art design often obscures the true aesthetic merit of this video from the neglecting eye.
While the animation is merely a complement for the song by Dir En Grey, and not the other way around, the music is in actuality rather inconsequential to the holistic work of the video. The song Agitated Screams of Maggots is a typical composition of the deathcore subgenre; it combines aggressive guitar riffs, wild drumming, shrieks, and growls into a flurry of madness and anger. While the tone of the song reflects and enhances the overall atmosphere of the video, the different segments are not synchronized with the separate parts of the video. Dir En Grey’s musical style gone through constant change since its formation, with a gradual but tangible shift from its signature experimental and avant garde style into more conventional forms of metal. Agitated Screams of Maggots can be placed on the latter end of the spectrum; it conforms to the standards of death metal, and is relatively monotone compared to the band’s more disturbing earlier songs which would be more suitable of the atmosphere. The music simply does not strengthen the video as much as the animation style does.
The gruesome albeit nonsensical story of Agitated Screams of Maggots is meaningless unless viewed in context with its lyrics, which details a person’s despair and resentment toward celebrities and the society which supports them. Sadly, the lyrics are yelled rather than spoken, making it impossible to discern any meaning whatsoever from hearing alone. This leads to the misconception that the animation’s only relevance to the music is the loose connection of the maggot. When contextualized, it becomes apparent that the song is sung from the maggot’s perspective. The person, compared to celebrities, is symbolically reduced to the rank of a maggot, and may only vent his frustration through agitated screams. Nevertheless, not all themes are matched completely, and substantial room is open for analysis and interpretation, such as the infection of the mother and the thematic role of the daughter. Interpretation is further complicated by Dir En Grey’s relationship with stardom, as they are veritable celebrities themselves.
Agitated Screams of Maggots can in essence be seen as a revoltingly macabre music video; whether or not its song is to the viewer’s palate will dictate to a great degree the enjoyment that is derived from it. Though it is worth noting that Agitated Scream of Maggots was never meant to be viewed for pleasure to begin with; if you are not sickened and forced to the edge of your seat, you are not enjoying it the right way. Nevertheless, the story’s thematic and symbolic significance should not be entirely disregarded. Contrary to what it is often perceived as, Agitated Screams of Maggots is more than a mindless jumble of freaks and ghouls with shrieks and growls.
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