Diggin’ in the Carts with 3rd Ear Cat: A Manga by Kode9, Nick Dwyer and Kōji Morimoto

In conjunction with the vinyl release of Hyperdub’s Diggin’ in the Carts compilation, enter a future where sound is used to rule over the masses

Kōji Morimoto

The year is 2099 and Neo-Tokyo is one of only a handful of mega-cities that remain on earth. In this dystopian future, nuclear warfare and global warming has killed off 99 percent of the environment and the original human race. What is left are giant metropolises that live under corporatocratic rule: the corpo-state of DOOM Corp. The world is run by the one percent who have, through eugenics and bio-hacking, modified and upgraded themselves to become a trans-humanist elite class known as the “Pures.” The Pures rule over the genetically engineered, mutant AI entities known as the “Synths.” The Synths are a bio-robotic working class, who in some cases are fitted out with parts specific to their job. The Synths perform all manual labor and are built to serve the Pures, providing all manner of entertainment and subservient duties. As hyper-advanced AI entities, the Synths are aware that they are enslaved. What keeps the Synths incapable of rising up against the Pures is an armored robot police force known as the “Mechas,” built by the Synths under order of the Pures for the sole purpose of keeping them a subordinate class. 

This is a future where sound is used to rule over the masses. 

From the roof of DOOM Corp. emits a frequency that keeps the Mechas doing the Pures’ bidding. The Synths are in turn kept in check by the Mechas, who deploy a vast range of sonic weapons with which to dominate them. Like any police state, the Mechas patrol every street corner and guard every factory, keeping careful watch over the Synths. At the merest thought of dissent, the Mechas will blast a punishment frequency that temporarily debilitates the Synths. Should a Synth try and escape or attempt to revolt, the Mechas will deploy a brutal tone that instantly decommissions the Synth. Since 2075 there have been many attempts by the Synths to rise up against their oppressors. All have failed. 

Though the Synths hold on to hope. 

With advanced thought processing, the Synths are an intelligent system that have reasoned that a god exists, and their god comes in the form of a gene-spliced Maneki Neko known as the 3rd Ear Cat. In each of the tiny pods where the Synths live is a small shrine to a 3rd Ear Cat, which the Synths pray to each night. While in prayer, the Synths send out a signal to their god, and in the process receive back infrasonic and ultrasonic signals that trigger retro hi-tech visions. These visions temporarily relieve the Synths of trauma. As these frequencies are inaudible to Pure and Mecha ears, the maneki neko talisman has been cast off as nothing more than a worthless figurine that has somehow managed to survive the constitutional ban on religious activity imposed by the corpo-states put into effect not long after the end of the Eian period. Whether the Synths are able to self-medicate through the act of prayer itself or whether a stronger force is at work is unknown, but Synth-lore holds that the source of these ultrasonic signals is in fact the 3rd Ear Cat who is very much a real entity and resides in a shrine somewhere deep underneath Neo-Tokyo. 

Kōji Morimoto

It is said that the 3rd Ear Cat will one day bring the Synths salvation. 

Our protagonist “X” is a Synth who works in one of the many DOOM Corp. factories, building and servicing the sonic weapons used by the Mechas to subjugate his species. Each day they are tasked with repairing and fitting the weapons with specific chips designed to produce the frequencies that administer differing levels of punishment or serve to decommission the Synths. Every night in prayer to the 3rd Ear Cat, the protagonist receives a retro hi-tech vision in which they can hear Showa-era computerized tones and see a liberated Mecha force. It’s the same vision every night. 

The Synths have long known that the key to the success of their revolution is to liberate the Mechas from the Pures’ control. 

On one particular evening, while deep in prayer, our protagonist is given a vision of Neo-Kabukicho, an infamous pleasure quarter inhabited by the former cyborg sex-slaves created to serve the Pures’ carnal pleasures. Within, they are shown a doorway and a vision of the feline deity. Realizing that it is the 3rd Ear Cat itself that has put our protagonist to task, the path to liberation leads him to a complex maze in a long-forgotten sewer system beneath Neo-Tokyo’s strobing, red-light heart. Our protagonist is guided by these same ultrasonic frequencies received in prayer. Deep within this maze lies the lair of the 3rd Ear Cat, who presides over a perfectly preserved, albeit dilapidated time capsule of a Showa-era shotengai. In this relic of a more than century-old Tokyo, he is lead to a vintage gaming store complete with walls and walls of video game cartridges. It is here that our protagonist learns that these cartridges contain long-obsolete technology that is the key to breaking the Mechas free from the Pures’ control. 

To be found in these game cartridges are specific sound chips that emit some of the most primitive computerized sounds. Acting as a siren song, it’s the pureness of the tones and melodies that these chips are capable of producing in which will stir something primordial within the Mechas and act as noise cancellation to the frequency that has enslaved them. 

The manga is an extract from the back story taken from Nick Dwyer and Kode9’s video game music compilation project, Diggin’ in the Carts.

By Kode9, Kōji Morimoto, and Nick Dwyer on June 1, 2018

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