The album cover for I Am Mortal has been nominated for the "Music Jacket Grand Prize," an album cover art contest that has been running in Japan since 2011. Until 5PM on April 8th, Japan time, fans can vote on their top three favorite album covers, out of the 50 nominees. To view the 50 nominees, scroll down the page to the bottom. If you vote, you are also entered into a lottery to win any of various luscious-looking prizes, including various sexy audio systems, good headphones, record players, and more. So what are you waiting for, everybody? Go vote here. The voting website is foreigner-friendly and contains English translations for everything except the prize descriptions (to view the prizes, click the brown button to the right of the prize dropdown menu.)
For those of you who have already forgotten what the cover for I Am Mortal looks like, it looks like this:
This jacket was designed by Akita Kazvnori, who designed the covers for Arui wa Anarchy and Juusankai wa Gekkou, among many, many others.
On the cover, Sakurai, dressed in his Victorian deathgod Hamlet costume (for more info on that, read my analysis article), stands alone in a broken-down warehouse, staring at his hands. Why is he staring at his hands? Because hands are the symbol of our ability to act on the world around us, and shape our own destinies. Also, Sakurai has dealt with the idea of hands as a symbol of mortality in his lyrics before, specifically in "Schizo Gensou," off Sexy Stream Liner, a song which both musically and lyrically is very similar in theme to the work of The Mortal. Here's the lyric in question:
Can you sleep at night?
Do you think tomorrow will come?
Mired in self-hatred
I feel like I want to disappear
To run to the ends of the earth trying to escape
I stare at my living hand
As it slowly dies in the flow of time
Out of the shadows in the right of the frame, a cat gazes up at Sakurai. In "Sayonara Waltz," it's a cat who beckons the narrator to cross over into the next world, so this is a nice visual tie-in to the album's lyrics. Not only that, but the recent death of Sakurai's last living cat surely played in to some of the emotions he was expressing on the album (and if you think it's overkill for me to say that, you are clearly not a pet mama.) Of course, the cat is also Sakurai's spirit animal.
Above Sakurai's head, light pours down through the bombed-out skylight windows in the ceiling, and in the beam of light we see an angel in the form of a dove. The dove is an ancient symbol of peace, innocence, and the divine in Christian tradition, and since The Mortal's visual iconography also used some other age-old Christian symbology to great effect (lilies of the valley, vanitas paintings, etc.) I think we can assume that the dove here carries Biblical meaning: At the end of the flood which drowned the earth for forty days and forty nights, it was a dove who flew to Noah's ark with an olive branch in its beak, as a messenger from God to tell Noah that the waters would soon recede. For this reason, the olive branch is also a symbol of making peace after conflict, and the phrase "extend an olive branch" has become an English idiom for calling truce.
Interestingly, the flood story predates the Christian bible - there is also a flood story in Greek mythology. Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus fashioned the first human beings out of clay, but Epimetheus, being a leap-before-he-looks kind of guy, rashly gave all the gifts of the Gods to the animals, leaving none for Prometheus to award to the weak humans. The gods became so disgusted with the behavior of the humans that they launched a highly convoluted scheme to destroy humanity. First, they created a beautiful woman, Pandora, and endowed her with insatiable curiosity. Then, they gave her a mysterious box and told her never to open it. Obviously, that ended well. As soon as the gods went away, Pandora opened that box right up, and out flew all the miseries of the world. In short order, the miseries terrorized the clay humans, who were weak and easily swayed and soon began engaging in all sorts of atrocities, so the gods decided to drown them all in a great flood, only sparing a select few. When the flood waters receded, the few human survivors cast stones over their shoulders, which rose up as new human beings. These stone people were much hardier than their clay predecessors, and even though the miseries had all survived by flying high and dry about the flood waters, the stone people were able to suck it up and deal (mostly.) None of this really has anything to do with The Mortal directly, but those of you who read my analysis article may see some general thematic relevance even so.
Anyway, how do we know that the dove is an angel? We don't. But considering that "Angel" is the title of the opening track on I Am Mortal, it seems like it would be a good guess.
I'd also like to note that this same broken-down warehouse backdrop appeared as the stage backdrop for the second half of "Sayonara Waltz" during The Mortal's live tour. The warehouse is Life, people. Our world is broken, blasted, and war-torn, and we're in it all alone.
So if you want a future to believe in, vote for Bernie Sanders!
Whoops, I mean, vote for the cover of I Am Mortal.
We'd also like to call your attention to entry number 35, Yellow Magic Orchestra's No Nukes 2012, which features an aerial shot of the post-3/11 Fukushima Number One power plant. Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown, and the nuke plants are still far from under control. Many of the survivors of the tragedy are still languishing in temporary housing. The towns surrounding the nuke plants are still off-limits. Everyone's glued to the Candy Crush on their smartphone screens trying to forget, but this thing is so far from being over, and it's important to remember that if you live anywhere near a nuke plant, it could be you next.
I get it, Tumblr is way more appealing than real life. It's much more fun to add the suffix "fag" onto the end of all your hashtags, and to bitch at other Tumblr users for reblogging those precious scans that you scanned yourself and watermarked with a photo of your butthole so the entire internet would know they are YOURS, than it is to worry about inconvenient truths, like the fact that the average global temperature last month hit 2 degrees above baseline for the first time in the history of humanity, and it's just going to keep getting warmer.
But sometimes, it's worth paying attention to the world around us, too. The flowers are still blooming and if you ever looked up from your phone on the train, maybe you'd see that the person sitting across from you is actually really hot! I guarantee you, if you don't actually live your life while you're alive, sometime right before you die, you're going to regret it. The skull don't lie.