April 2, 2024
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ARMED BOY explained
by Shohei Otomo

Even after years of observing Shohei at work, his skill with a ballpoint pen remains incomprehensible to me. However, his technique only skims the surface of his art, overshadowed by the clever and thoughtful layers of symbolism and meaning each piece contains.

Shohei wrote the following description of "ARMED BOY" to help collectors deepen their appreciation of his artwork and its deeper meaning. As I compiled Shohei's details, it also became apparent that they serve a secondary purpose of highlighting some relatively obscure aspects of Japanese cultural history. I hope you find it as enriching and enlightening as I did.

- Alexander Mitchell


"This work is adorned with icons and phrases that clearly identify the boy as aggressively anti-adult. I designed it to provoke thought among adults of my generation. Many adults have confined their pure spirit—beautiful, yet at times violent—behind the facade of being "grown-up."

Ever since I became an adult, I occasionally sense anger from the child within me towards the adult I've become. I believe I may have captured that inner child in this artwork. In the past, children engaged in fights more frequently. The resilient spirit of previous generations is often dismissed today, yet there were valuable lessons to be learned in those times.

I occasionally yearn to recall how it felt back then, free from the constraints of compliance, political correctness, or social media. This piece is my attempt to evoke those feelings within the context of the modern era."

Shohei Otomo - March 2024


A1. Cap - The cap features feathers as seen in the Japanese manga "Dr. SLUMP" by Akira Toriyama and "Domu" by Katsuhiro Otomo.

A2. Helmet - Decorated with Mount Fuji and the rising sun, a common design among Bosozoku (Japanese Biker) gangs.

A3. Z-666 - A reference to the tattoo of gang leader Zeed in "Fist of the North Star."

A4. 天 (Ten) / Heaven - From Akuma's special move in Street Fighter.

A5. Dragon Ball
A6. Pokéball 

A7. Badge of a Diet (Japanese Parliament) Member - Symbolizing a trophy, indicative of a looted item.

B1. Bandana - The  ‘Shark Mouth’  design, I have always been fond of this design and wished to illustrate.

B2. Badge - A spoof on the traffic safety badges for Japanese schoolchildren, altered to "Raise your hands."

B3. Trophies - The slogan "DON'T TRUST OVER THIRTY" as a message to adults.


C1. Baseball Bat: Historically, Japanese schoolboys are often depicted with a school bag, baseball cap, and bat. A culturally ingrained symbol of youth and everyday life.

C2. 二宮悪太郎参上 (Ninomiya Akutaro Sanjou) / "Akutaro Ninomiya is here!" The name written on the bat is "Akutaro Ninomiya," a play on the historical figure Kinjiro Ninomiya, known as the god of learning. I created "Akutaro" to represent the opposite, the bad boy.

C3. 喧嘩上等 (Kenka Jouto) / "Bring it on!" A phrase favored by Japanese delinquents.

C4. 水引 / Mizuhiki - Mizuhiki and Noshi are crucial for formal gift exchanges in Japan. Mizuhiki is a decorative cord used for gift wrapping. The implication here is that the bat, and the gift of being hit, is a heartfelt offering.

C5. Mantis - A common mantis in Japan, used as a symbol for the boy.

C6. 絵馬 / Ema - Ema are small wooden plaques for writing prayers or wishes in Shinto and Buddhist practices. The ema displays 闘魂 (Tōkon), or "fighting spirit," a slogan from the legendary wrestler Antonio Inoki.

C7. Police Pistol Sling - Imagined as taken from the police, this type of sling is now obsolete.


D1. Japanese School Bag - An iconic accessory for school children.

D2. 反抗鬼 (Hankou-ki) / The Devil of Rebellion - A pun on "rebellion age" in Japanese, with "age" replaced by "devil," designed in the style of the Bikkuriman sticker.

D3. "Tobita-kun" - A character from Japanese street signs, reimagined as a delinquent in my rendition.

D4. Red Tape - A message from the '80s that signaled readiness to fight, adorned with the name of my elementary school.

D5. Mark of the Demon Clan from "Dragon Ball."

D6. 大人狩り (Otona-gari) / Adult Hunting - Referring to a trend where youth targeted others, such as in "Air Max-gari" or "Otaku-gari." "Gari" indicates taking something forcefully from someone.

D7. 万引き職人 (Manbiki-shokunin) / Master of Shoplifting.

D8. 反校 (Hankou) / Anti School - Wordplay on "rebellion" to also suggest "anti-school."

D9. 悪童会 (Akudo-Kai) / Bad Boy Clan.

D10. トーヨコ / Toyoko - Named after the Shinjuku area known for the "Toyoko Kids" subculture.

D11. 絶対無敵 (Zettai Muteki) / Absolutely Invincible - From the title of the anime "MATCHLESS RAIJIN-OH," where a school transforms into a robot to combat foes.

D12. Slingshot - Also called "Pachinko."

D13. The Devil's Picture - A protective talisman from a Japanese shrine. I like this design.

D14. Trophies - Keys to a luxury car, one key is labeled as "Principal's Office," signifying a prized haul.

D15. Amulet - Labeled "Delinquent Amulet," in a font popular with youths in the '80s.

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