Until he’d filmed a suicide victim hanging lifelessly from a tree in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, I’d never heard of Logan Paul. If someone had mentioned his name to me, I would’ve assumed they were talking about a budget hair salon located on a traffic-choked high street between a 99p shop and a Dixy Chicken. I never would have guessed they were talking about a YouTube ‘mega-vlogger’ with more than 15 million subscribers and a hairstyle that sits somewhere between Farrah Fawcett and Flock of Seagulls’ Mike Score. But then, life’s a learning process.
If you’ve actually been living in a forest, mercifully disconnected from the outside world, you probably won’t have heard anything about the hoo-ha surrounding Logan Paul’s series of vlogs from his trip to Japan. But the good news is: you don’t have to watch them! I watched them all for you and now feel sad and empty inside. Anyway, here’s the gist.
Logan opened the first vlog by throwing a tomato at his hotel room wall, before reminding viewers of his promise to deliver “the most entertaining, exhilarating, incredible content EVER”. It felt like we’d peaked in just under one minute, but I stayed with it.
I stayed with it when Logan and his “squad” donned coolie hats and kimonos ahead of a visit to the Sensō-ji temple (from which they were later ejected, after being generally obnoxious and disrespectful). I even stayed with it when they visited the Kawaii Monster Café and asked a waitress to say “Pikachu”. I’m a different generation to Logan (Generation X, for anyone who’s interested), but that would be like me asking a Japanese waitress if she wouldn’t mind singing the theme tune to Monkey while pretending to magically summon a cloud.
Shortly after leaving the café, Logan described Tokyo as “a real life cartoon” and “content gold”, which perhaps suggests that Logan sees people – like the waitress who served him – as not entirely real. They’re just characters, props, things with which to create content.
The overriding theme in the opening vlog was for Logan to constantly pay lip service to the culture of respect in Japan, while brashly trampling over the very notion in almost every scene. Logan wrapped up the vlog by telling viewers that “the Maverick revolution is real” (Maverick Apparel being his clothing range), which is “a movement of the crazy ones, the different ones, the ones who go right when everyone else goes left”. By that, I assume you can only join the ‘Logang’ if you have a poor sense of direction and think that throwing a tomato at a wall makes you some kind of post-Millennial Keith Moon.
There’s not much to say about the second vlog. Logan bought a fish and an octopus tentacle from a fish market, then wandered around Shibuya thrusting them at passersby for no discernible reason. Even though most people politely declined his advances and went about their day – such is the non-confrontational nature of Japanese culture – a few fans actually posed for photos with him. For comedic effect, Logan adopted a sort of expressionless gaze for the photos, as if slightly uncomfortable with all the attention. If you screenshot those moments – when he’s standing there holding up the fish and octopus tentacle like Academy Awards – he genuinely looks like he’s experiencing a crippling epiphany. A man-child lost in a fog of witless, sophomoric ‘content’.
He later placed the fish and octopus tentacle on the boot of a passing taxi, which drove away. Because…well, why wouldn’t you? I mean, I’m sure it made that taxi driver’s day.
Logan’s third vlog of his Japan tour was the nadir of the series: a camping trip to the Aokigahara ‘Suicide Forest’, the second most popular suicide spot in the world (after the Golden Gate Bridge).
Around 100 people take their own lives in the forest every year, with teams of volunteers performing macabre annual sweeps to recover the remains of lost souls who wandered into the ‘Sea of Trees’ but never returned. Still, with 14 square miles of dense forest unfolding before you, the likelihood of stumbling across a dead body only 100 yards from the car park would seem slim. But sure enough, that’s exactly what happened to Logan and his “crew”. And similar to all the living people who find themselves featured in Logan’s vlogs, the suicide victim subsequently became the prop around which content could be created.
Naturally they filmed the body, including close-ups of the victim’s blue hands, the bulge of possessions in his back pocket, and the holdall he’d packed and taken with him. Logan also informed viewers that the face of the victim had been blurred to protect his identity, which shows that he was mentally editing the video in real time. There would be no late-night handwringing back at the hotel over whether they should release the graphic footage; the decision had clearly been made the second Logan discovered the grim scene.
Unbelievably, even finding a body didn’t curtail the air of jocularity for long, with solemn messages about suicide and depression not being a joking matter predictably giving way to laughter and frat boy buffoonery. (Although, the dead body scene did at least offer brief respite from the near-constant reminders to buy “merch” from the Logan Paul Shop.)
Back in the car park, Logan expressed disbelief that children were freely running around an area where bodies could easily be stumbled upon. But seeing as he planned to upload his video of the suicide victim to YouTube for his 15 million-strong audience of tweens and teens to gawp at, his concern was somewhat misplaced.
In the fourth and final vlog, Logan mentioned the discovery of the body only fleetingly, before reminding everyone that “life’s about the journey” and to subscribe to his channel. He then headed into Tokyo, bought a Gameboy from an electronics store, smashed it on the floor when it malfunctioned, then returned it to the shop owner, telling him – with a little help from his Carry on Abroad language app – that it was “mucho brokeno”.
He and his crew then dressed up in Pokémon onesies and ran around the streets throwing a Pokéball at random strangers, which not only irritated Japanese cyclists, motorists and one stony-faced restaurateur, but also pissed off the entire Pokémon community, who later denounced his behaviour as “repugnant”. To top everything off, Logan pulled down his trousers in the middle of a busy street in order to recreate an Instagram photo of himself from two years earlier, providing yet another notable moment for the history books.
After deleting his ‘suicide forest’ video from YouTube (but only after it had garnered six million views and a depressing 650,000 likes in just 24hrs) Logan announced that he would be “taking time to reflect” (i.e. laying low). And during his (so far) three-week hiatus, his impressionable young fans – who never shy away from telling people to go fuck themselves – have been swarming all over social media pining for his return, while challenging and confronting all the “haters”. (My personal favourite was the fan who, in defence of Logan Paul, pointed out that “not even Jesus pleased everyone”. My other favourite was a fan who tried to reason that “what he did was wrong, yes. But Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and we forgave them.”)
His equally irritating brother and vlogger, Jake Paul, recently released a video in which he said that Logan had learned from his mistakes and would eventually bounce back. In fact, it’s been rumoured that he’s returning to YouTube today, which has got his fans in an expectant tizz. (Incidentally, Jake opened his vlog by hurling a bike at some stepladders…FOR NO DISCERNIBLE REASON.)
But where can Logan Paul go from here? Let’s face it, when you’ve thrown a tomato at a wall and filmed a dead body, everything you do after that is going to pale in comparison. Towards the end of his final vlog, Logan said of Japan: “I feel like my mind is open. My creativity…my creative juices can just flow [here].” I’m aware that I’m not Logan Paul’s target audience, but what exactly does he create? It’s just vapid, inconsequential ‘content’; meaningless horseshit pumped into kids’ brains, who’ve been hoodwinked into believing that someone telling them that they’re unique and special – while encouraging them to purchase hoodies and t-shirts – is somehow life-affirming and inspirational.
Former Jackass member Steve-O recently released a five minute behind-the-scenes taster for his new YouTube Red show Ultimate Expedition, which showed him feeding street dogs in Peru and ultimately adopting one that he called ‘Wendy’.
“Forget what everyone has said, you’re not an asshole,” said freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy to Steve-O, as he cut up a plastic water bottle to give his dog a drink. There was more heart, inspiration, kindness and laughter in that five minute film than in 45 minutes of Logan Paul’s Japan vlogs. We’re living in the hopeless, desperate, bafflingly stupid era of Trump and Brexit – we need more genuine kindness and less bullshit. And we need something to aspire to, not a daily ‘How to’ guide to being an obnoxious, self-centered dick.
Still, like I said, I’m not Logan Paul’s target audience. In fact, I’m probably the kind of “drone” that he urges his fans not to become. But I’m happy with that.