A few weeks ago, my wife was watching something on TV that caught my fancy. I've always enjoyed Jackass-type stunts, and here was this screaming, vaguely angry-looking Japanese school girl in a sailor uniform facing off against a komodo dragon.
The question was, which is the best way to stop a komodo dragon from attacking. One choice was to bang a washtub like a drum, another was to run away and the final one was to use a long, forked limb or pole to keep the komodo at bay. The girl tried all of them, one time dashing up a tree followed kind of ploddingly by the komodo, which hesitated at the bottom and then started to climb. The correct answer is to use the forked pole.
After that, she traveled to North America where she visited a cave-full of bats, literally millions of them. Then she went somewhere else and found a mating ball of snakes, against which she didn't fare quite as well. Apparently, her fear of snakes was such the TV production hired a hypno-therapist to help her overcome it. Would the therapy prove successful? The moment she returned to the mating ball we learned it had failed. She ran away screaming (as my wife translated), "IT DIDN'T WORK! IT DIDN'T WORK!"
This isn't that clip, but it will give you an idea of how she feels about snakes:
The Jackass-iest part was when she visited Los Angeles and donned the distinctive beret and jacket of the Guardian Angels to patrol a neighborhood. A quick edit later the Angels called her to help them break up a rather frenetic fight in front of a nightclub. This part, I have to admit, caused my stomach to clench from tension. Getting involved in a fight outside a nightclub is a good way to get oneself shot. This bold, seemingly none-too-bright girl charged in, started grappling with the other women, and within seconds had been punched in the face. She went reeling from the melee, tearing off the Guardian Angels gear, declaring, "It's safer without this!"
What we found most spectacular though, was her South American encounter with piranha and how she dove right into some muddy waters of some tributary of the Amazon river (or a lake nearby; I'm writing this from memory and no research because it's better that way) to hand-catch a large turtle. Or was it a large fish? I think I'm losing my train of thought...
The safest, cutest thing she did was go to Russia where she met a chewing gum artist. As in, an artist who uses either chewing or bubble gum to produce realistic portraits of celebrities. The Japanese girl commissioned her to produce a portrait, and set to work chewing the 17,000 pieces of gum necessary to complete it. I think about 10,000 of those were for the eyebrows alone. Eight or so hours later, both the gum-chewer (looking very pissed off now) and the artist had finished a large-scale work of art. A successful likeness working in a very difficult medium.
Anyway, it's not only her sailor uniform that adds a level of humorous incongruity to these stunts, it's also her painted-on eyebrows, thick, black arcs that go along with the giant hair-clip in her simple hairstyle to create the illusion she's a somewhat plain high school girl finding herself in these outrageous situations through thick-headed danger-obliviousness.
Now that I had identified her appearance, it seemed she was suddenly ubiquitous. Those eyebrows are everywhere I turn. She's so omnipresent you can read about an encounter (sorta) with her by a luckier and more interesting person than me if you know where to click. She's so everywhere right now, the first cultural experience of Japan upon our return from the US was an encounter with her image on DoCoMo ads (or was it Softbank?) plastered all over the international arrivals lobby at Narita Airport.
Who the hell is she? She's "Animal Hunter" Ayako Imoto. I'm certainly not the first to discover her-- in fact, doing a few Google searches right now tells me I'm about three years late for this expedition-- but I think her shtick is hilarious. Hilarious enough I'm about to drive all my loved ones and friends away by hammering them with Ayako Imoto posts on Facebook.