As New Japan reminds us on their Japanese language web presence, and absolutely refuses to address on their English accounts and sites, today is Valentine’s Day. Last month, I reviewed their Pectoral Encyclopedia, so this month I thought I would pick something more romantic. The Roppongi 3K photobook came out in April of 2018, making it almost 2 years old, but I still can’t help but feel that it’s an appropriate choice for my February photobook review. April 2018 was the six month anniversary of R3K’s debut after excursion, which makes the photobook a pretty important foundation for their image going forward. Long before YOH started grabbing the camera to flex his pecs at it post-match, this book helped establish R3K as New Japan’s definitive fanservice tag team.
It got a fair amount of attention at the time for being so risqué, with then-CHAOS member Jay White even bringing it to a video interview to ogle at. Still, compared to some of the photobooks DDT has put out, the long history of women’s wrestling gravure, or literally any Zack Sabre Jr match, it’s not so outlandish.
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The photobook is a “mook” style softcover, with multiple photoshoots stringing together a vague sort of narrative, and featuring a couple of interviews in the middle. The printing is good but not great, a solid middle ground between the pec book and a proper art book. The photos themselves are excellent, doing an impressive balancing act of wholesome cuteness, handsome fashion and sexiness.
The first shoot is SHO and YOH in t-shirts and shorts, roughhousing, exercising and playing video games in a bright living room with the remains of breakfast out of focus behind them. SHO gives YOH a piggyback ride, beats him at pushups, and then beats him again playing a game on the Nintendo Switch. They’re laughing and having fun! One of the outtakes shows SHO carrying YOH bridal style, which I wish had made its way in. Still, this is a lovely little start to the book.
The next photoshoot is a distinct shift in mood. SHO and YOH are in nice, jewel toned suits in front of the bright lights of a city at night. It’s date night! And where is the date? Pretty much just outside in front of a skyline. They pose on some stairs before retiring to a bedroom and taking off their jackets and loosening their ties. SHO and YOH smoulder at the camera seductively, because yeah. Talk about a tonal shift. It’s time to undo their shirts and lie in bed together with just enough space between them for a third person. What this could possibly signify is beyond me, but whatever it is means that they have to get in the shower afterwards with their clothes on. They spray some beer around the bathroom, take off their wet clothes and dry off, and go to sleep.
The next day (?) they put on some fashionable outfits and hit Roppongi at sunrise. They walk around and look very cute until it’s time to grab some ramen. The behind-the-scenes DVD features them goofing off a bunch during this shoot, but those photos didn’t make the cut. I think that was a mistake, personally.
The next section has individual profiles of SHO and YOH. SHO is a Virgo with AB blood. YOH is a Cancer (like me!) and type O. I tried to use the Google Translate app to see what they say in the 50 question questionnaires, but it failed me once again.
Fortunately, a benevolent Twitter user has already translated both questionnaires, and the answers are very interesting (SHO calls himself a sadist and YOH seems to love Jack Black, for instance). In addition to the questionnaires are little “what’s in your bag” sections, which are very fun. SHO has a lot of fitness stuff in his bag (a complicated system of powdered supplements), while YOH has a portable CD player, a little notebook, a Black Tiger action figure, On Life by Tolstoy (!!), and a pair of glasses to make him look smart. I love YOH.
With all that information out of the way, it’s back to the important stuff: a lovely domestic scene of SHO and YOH cooking omurice. There’s no third plate, so the fantasy of being on a date with them is over, I guess. That’s fine, though, because they seem to be having a great time by themselves. It’s also clearly the omurice that’s in the background in the first photoshoot, but they’re wearing different outfits in these photos. The whole thing is very confusing, time-wise. Maybe they’re doing kind of an experimental timeline thing, like Arrival or something. They go for another day out in another shoot, grabbing ice cream cones to take on a winter walk (seems cold, but who am I to judge).
The date with the reader is back on in the next section, with SHO and YOH enjoying pork buns at the convenience store before having a snowball fight and skipping stones on the river. And just when you’ve gotten used to the soft pastels and friendly smiles, it’s time for some fashion modeling. SHO and YOH pose in a photo studio wearing some slightly avant-garde outfits, and then strip down for a few tasteful black and white physique shots.
There’s a long interview section where they talk about their childhoods, dating, New Japan tryouts, their excursions, and being in CHAOS. SHO thinks YOH should date an older woman. YOH is jealous that SHO goes fishing with Okada, but doesn’t actually want to go fishing. YOH is trying to keep the CHAOS drinking culture alive and thinks SHO is mysterious. If you’ve ever read a boy band interview, you know the drill. It’s cute! SHO is the serious one and YOH is the playful one! SHO likes working out and YOH likes reading! They’re different and that’s why they’re so good together, and why you can want both of them to be your boyfriend!
Rocky Romero weighs in quickly about the team’s formation and his vision for Roppongi 3K, and then it’s time for one last date: the beach at sunset. SHO and YOH run around and play, set off sparklers and small fireworks, and that’s that. The final spread is them facing each other, each getting his own page, as the sun sets in the background. Romance!
Actually the real final spread is a collage of outtakes and behind the scenes shots. Like, they played Jenga, and that didn’t make it into the main book. Neither did the water fight they had at the beach. Fair enough, since I am very tired after reading that whole book. Having two boyfriends seems like hard work! I don’t know how all my friends do it. I guess that’s why we have Roppongi 3K, the tag team we can cheer for and pretend to be in a throuple with.
All in all, I think the book is a good purchase. It’s not my favorite photobook that I’ve seen, but it’s an easy top five. It straddles the fence between self-insert fantasy and pure slashfic with surprising grace, and is unrivaled (for now!) in terms of blatant homoeroticism in New Japan photobooks.
SHO & YOH First Photobook
- Very good photography with an excellent gaze
- Cute outfits
- Gives SHO & YOH a distinct boyband vibe, which is important for their identity as a team
- Just goes for it in terms of fanservice, and totally ignores subtlety
- Layout and pacing could have been a bit more thoughtful
- I would have swapped out some of the photos for ones they put in the outtakes section