Wiwa la Wita Mechanicalis

Steampunk fans and factory-fanciers alike, welcome to Imai's Steampunk Paradise, a  theme park in Buck-Tickistan that's brand new, but looks like it's old! But not real old, nostalgia-for-the-past old! Let's forget about the nasty aspects of the Age of Steam, like colonialism, environmental destruction, arsenic wallpaper, syphilis and child labor, and just focus on the good parts: gears, gears, and more gears! Cosmological globes! Tall dark strangers swishing their capes down gaslit alleyways! And to think, the kids these days talk about gaslighting like it's a bad thing! Well, kids, we are here to tell you - at Steampunk Paradise, it's all gaslighting, all the time. The gaslights in Victorian London never exploded - you just imagined that they did! 

Here at Steampunk Paradise, there are no street signs, just random Greek letters and prime numbers - but there's no getting lost - just follow those mysterious voices that keep calling out to you from dark alleyways! First, shake hands with the Night Porter and take a peep into his Ammonite Ammonium! Next, tour our clunking, chunking, chugging factories that don't actually produce anything useful, but look really cool while doing it! Then, why not scare your balls back into your body with a rollicking roller-coaster ride on our Shooting Star Rocket To The Moon World (remember that rocket from the Uchuu Circus? This is the same one!). And at the end of a long hard day of steaming, why not kick back and relax with an ether cocktail at the Aleister Crowley Speakeasy of Sin? Because in the retro future, nothing spells relaxation like tripping balls on highly addictive organic solvents.

If you have no idea what we're talking about, go over to This is NOT Greatest Site and read the lyrics to "Hikari no Teikoku" and "Nostalgia -Vita Mechanicalis." That ought to clue you in.


Real talk: we're sorry it took us so long to get these translations up... but we did a LOT of research on this one. It took hours. If you enjoyed these translations and notes, please show your support by leaving a comment, and/or buying us a Ko-Fi.

Anyhow, isn't it great to solve the mystery of the No. 0 album cover at last? In case you're still not convinced that the album cover is an illustration of the lyrics to these two songs, mixed with a heavy extra helping of imagery from the universe of Inagaki Taruho, we invite you to consider the following:

No. 0 album cover

The cover of Inagaki Taruho's Vita Mechianicalis, Volume I. We totally saw this same astronomical globe in the tour pamphlet.

The cover of Inagaki Taruho's Vita Mechianicalis, Volume II

The cover of Inagaki Taruho's Vita Mechianicalis (single volume edition). Just look at that sketchy silhouette guy! He looks so proud of his big ball! Sakurai's got some big shoes to fill here (not to mention a big head)!

Some stills from Fritz Lang's Metropolis with the New Tower of Babel. 

Yeek, look at that scary machine! It looks like a big demon about to eat a horde of naked children! Wait, now that you mention it... (go on, watch the film).

A giant generator installed at the Siemens Dynamo Factory in the era of black and white photos. This one is real! It's not from a dystopian film! It's an actual thing that was actually used to manufacture siemens!

Some shots of Japanese refineries, in the style of "koujou moe," or "factory fanciers." Not only is there a best-selling book with this title in Japan, there are also night cruises along the Kawasaki/Yokohama industrial waterfront, specifically for viewing factories lit up at night. Word has it they're booked solid for months in advance. If Imai hasn't been on one, I'll eat my Magritte-style bowler hat.

Mm baby when you move my dynamo, it makes me as huge as Mount Fuji!!! Chug chug chug yessssss!

Modern lamplighters working on gaslights on London's last remaining gaslit street (photo shamelessly stolen from the Daily Fail).

And Magritte's Empire of Light (fun fact: this painting inspired the look of the film The Exorcist)

We'd love to post a picture of Sakurai's stage costume for the tour, in which he's dressed like the guy on the No. 0 album cover (though the guy on the cover is probably based on a photo of him, but never mind that)... but there are no photos or the tour available yet, of course. As to the live performance of "Vita Mechanicalis," the stage effects are superb. However, regarding Imai's performance... let's phrase it like a test question, shall we?

Q1. On Buck-Tick's Tour No. 0 2018, Imai Hisashi did which of the following during the performance of "Vita Mechanicalis"? (Mark Y for yes and N for no).

1. Sing his vocal part                          ( N )
2. Play his guitar                                ( N )
3. Stand at the edge of the stage mugging at the fans while Hide played all the guitar parts and Sakurai did all the vocals     ( Y )

If you've ever wanted to hear a recording of Imai's voice while the live Imai stands on stage not singing, boy is this the chance of a lifetime.


P.S. If any of y'all readers have ever actually tried ether in a cocktail, and would like to share something about your experience, please by all means tell us about it in the comments.


  1. Hey, great news! There *are* photos up from the tour now!

    Also, geez wow I am extra geeking out at these two pieces that Imai wrote more than ever now!
    I didn't realize the Magritte connection until Imai's blog post for the album release, and now I'm dying to try to find Vita Mechanicalis translated into English.
    I found another book of the author's translated but sadly it seems out of print:

    Anyways, this album for me just keeps getting better and better the more I understand it, thank you so much!

    1. Thanks for sharing the photos! There is no English translation of Vita Mechanicalis, unless I make one, but I think there has to be a publisher first.

    2. Adding "Create a publishing house to get Imai's favorite gay steampunk novels in English" to my life goals lol

  2. I used to drive past one of those factories on the way to and from college. It was one of the more enjoyable parts of an otherwise shitty year at a shitty school; there's definitely something magical about the way they look at nighttime.

    Thank you so much for the translations and awesome notes! Like Nurse McHurt said (hellooo Nurse, I see you on Tumblr a lot!), it really does add to the enjoyment and appreciation of the music.

  3. Cayce, I'm really curious over Imai's use of greek letters in Vita Mechanicalis (o3o)/
    Isn't it a Greek-to-Katakana visual pun? Does 厶丨人三 or ムリ ヘミ sound like anything? Not even another (phonetical/multilingual) pun?
    Greek numerals 2357 2357 kinda looks like "byez byez", does it fit the lyrics? I don't speak any of these languages, just making whatever guesses that cross my mind and see if I'm lucky.

    1. I admire your creative thinking, but none of the possibilities you proposed mean anything. I think this is another case like "cum uh sol nu" in which Imai wasn't thinking quite as hard as we were. He mentioned the 2357 prime number thing in his interview in PHY, so that settles that one, but I really think the Greek letters were just to look cool and "mathematical." Remember, Imai's handwriting looks like ramen noodles and he couldn't manage to label all the Japanese prefectures on a map. He also hasn't been to school since high school. I'm sure he's forgotten most all of the "math stuff" he ever learned, except where it pertains to musical timing or winning steampunk phone games (apparently he shared his favorite steampunk phone game with Mr. Sakurai, and while Sakurai didn't say so in so many words, it seems that they're both hooked, which was another reason for this song.)

  4. Captain Save-A-Hisashi rides again!

    It’s true that Imai is an art school dropout, and his monotropic brain simply cannot hang on to information he doesn’t have an interest in, such as penmanship or random prefectures of Japan. It’s such a SHAME that there is literally no place on Earth or Andromeda where one can come across Greek symbols other than high school maths class!

    Chapter 1: amidst the profusion of Imai interviews I’ve absorbed recently, our boy mentioned reading James Gleick, so it’s clear he actually does read popular science. (Sorry I can’t footnote it for you, my monotropic brain has never got the hang of footnotes.) Something clicked, as to why the ill-fated tour for Cosmos was named CHAOS: it’s a pun, a synthesis of the “Anarchy” meaning (another long-term preoccupation of Imai) and the “complex, self-organising systems” – manifesting in the post-Gleick mid-90s a pop-science fascination with Fractals. On the chance Imai was fibbing about reading a big book about maths, the ideas popularised by Gleick were widely discussed and used in the fields of Videogame design and Animation – fields Imai has well-known and documented Special Interests in. Knowledge absorbed from pop culture is still knowledge.

    Chapter 2: Imai got online in the mid-90s, as documented in his seminal “log off and touch grass” song. What was he arguing about on Usenet? Same things as the rest of us early internet geeks: “Dinosaurs, CT scanners, love, that girl's tooth prints, Klein bottles etc.” Your translation of “いわゆる全てに共通する図形“ is lost, but Google misTranslate is giving me something that looks suspiciously like set theory or polygons. The ~Science Side of Tumblr~. Imai was soaking in it!

    Conclusion: living on the net, reading popular science books, imbibing sci-fi, it is not inconceivable that Imai either *does* know the common maths/physics meanings of the Greek symbols he chose; or he lifted them directly from someone who does.

  5. So let’s look at these symbols and see how they link to other common geographical features of Hisashiland

    Δ Delta – this is the easiest one. Delta is the rate of change, usually over time. Everything changes. The only constant over time is change. (The second law of thermodynamics, entropy fans.)

    Ι Iota – the smallest possible amount. How often has Imai referenced scientific words for the concept of the most tiny? Atom Futurist No. 9 (Democritus theorised the Atom – indivisible – as the smallest, infinite, indestructible building block of nature before the Victorians smashed this to pieces with the discovery of the Electron.) Quantum I & II – quantum theory smashed the idea of the smallest building block of nature the way Rutherford smashed the indivisible atom. Iota is another science term for the same thing: the tiny indivisible.

    Λ Lambda – the Cosmological Constant. Since the Big Bang, the Universe has been constantly expanding (see section Delta – change!) Lambda is a little mathematical fiddle that Einstein added to the Theory of Relativity to account for the fact that the expansion of the universe is always accelerating. Why? Dark Matter? Dark Energy? This is hotly debated in physics, but in Hisashiland the metaphor of Dark Matter or Dark Energy is repeatedly employed as a necessary corrective for the Blue Sky of conformity.

  6. Ξ Xi – this one was the hardest to crack. At first I thought he’d mis-transliterated the Greek Chi which is the standard mathematical X of the unknown. Xi is the Riemann Function. What’s Riemann about? He’s usually associated with non-Euclidean geometries, surfaces that are impossible outside of multidimensional spaces – moebius strips, Calabi-Yau manifolds (the working model for superstrings, another way of trying to understand where all the extra dark energy/matter is hiding in 10-dimensional space, see Lambda for what Dark Energy means in Hisashiland) and… Klein Bottles, which Imai was getting in flame wars over on the early internet. To understand the true scientific nature of reality, one has to think outside the mosquito net – outside the constraints of the human limitations of three-dimensional perception. In Riemannian maths, dark energy can fold up to hide inside extra dimensions within infinitesimally tiny spaces.

    Now these letters may have been chosen stochastically, but all four of them refer to concepts that recur again and again in the hermeneutics of Hisashiland. And one of Gleick’s most profound insights is that randomness isn’t actually that random. Even chaos follows its own cosmological order. Imai may be dirty and strange, but he’s nowhere near as cute-and-dumb as he looks!


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