Youshikibi~ Prince & Princess [Part 2]


Rococo-period portrait

In the era of the 2nd generation Visual Kei (’90s-early 2000’s), pioneers of the Visual beauty-aesthetic goth-opera band Malice Mizer introduced a heavy historical, classical-opera look into the Visual Kei aesthetic. They took imagery and aesthetic views from the French rococo period, and added unique Jrock sentiments, mixed the two together with some pretty serious gothica, and gave us the aesthetic of 2nd and 3rd generation Visual Kei: essentially, youshikibi, the beauty of form.

Mana, Versailles era (MM)

The silhouette and fashion statement became much more costumey and elaborate, pinching no pennies in design and construction. Lace-up, corseted dresses with full skirts, enough lace to wrap around the world 7 times, and elaborate hair-dos topped with massive headdresses were the staples of this style.

During this era, drag and androgyny took form. This is interesting to note, because the majority of Visual rockers are male (the majority– but in the past few years some female bands have sprung up as well), catering to a primarily (but certainly  not entirely) female fan-base.

The concept of “drag” was begun by Mana, founder and guitarist
for Visual Kei bands Malice Mizer and Moi Dix Mois. Despite being decidedly male (although you would never know by looking), from the very beginning Mana dressed all in elaborate Gothic Lolita and Rococo-inspired fashions, wore women’s makeup and hairstyles, and refused to speak (although he claims that the only mode of expression he needs is his guitar, it’s probably because once he accidentally spoke on a live broadcast interview, and revealed his ultra-manly, deep voice. Oops.)

Although this was “fathered” by Mana, it branched off after the end of Malice Mizer and became its own sub-genre of Visual Kei in its own right. Many of the later 2nd generation and 3rd generation bands sprung from this well-spring of fashion, most notably Versailles ~ Philharmonic Quintet.

Like Malice Mizer, Versailles is an all-male band, however Mana’s concepts of fashion and style were highly appreciated, and the entire band assumed a very historical appearance.

HIZAKI

Homage was especially paid by two members, guitarist HIZAKI and bassist Jasmine-You (who passed away on August 9th, 2009) . Both men assumed the dress and attitude of women, although neither went so far as to refuse to speak in order to hide their voice/gender. In fact, HIZAKI has been known to speak quite readily on occasion, proving that this is not about trying to be women, but about being free to wear and act as they choose.

Jasmine-You

The look was also readily adapted by vocalist KAYA (ex-Schwartz Stein), who was, mysteriously enough…, one of a few of Mana’s known proteges. Kaya sings now as a solo artist, and is perhaps one of the most shocking and mind-blowing of all of the aforementioned personalities in this post. Unlike Mana, HIZAKI, and Jasmine-You who silently thrash on guitar/bass, Kaya has no choice but to flaunt his manliness, being solo as a vocalist.

When you first start listening to a Kaya song, it’s electronicky pop-rock, with a decidedly popular-type Jpop male type voice. So you’re expecting to look up images of this swashbuckling, handsomely-voiced male suspiciously named “Kaya” (sounds fishy to me, anyway) and see:











Results will actually yield the shocking– beautiful, but shocking– true face of Kaya:

To be honest, although I’m a long-standing fan of all of Mana’s work, and although I am no stranger to his level of drag and gender-bending, the entire concept of Kaya is still a little bit difficult for me to wrap my head around. I can’t tell if I really like it, or if it is still mildly disturbing.

Video: Kaya’s Chocolate

Guide to Images: Mana, guitarist for Malice Mizer and Moi Dix Mois. HIZAKI of HIZAKI GRACE PROJECT and Versailles~ Philharmonic Quinet. Jasmine-You [Versailles P/Q]. Insert image: normal male, idol boy Kamenashi Kazuya from the Johnny’s group Arashi. Kaya (Schwartz Stein/ Kaya).

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4 responses to “Youshikibi~ Prince & Princess [Part 2]

  1. This is quite interesting and informative. Thank you! However, I have a question about the second part. Is Mana truly the “father” of the drag style of Visual Kei? I thought so, too, for a long time, until I found out about Yoshiki of X Japan. He began wearing dresses, makeup, and feminine hairstyles before Mana-sama, although he still played a male role in the PVs. What do you think?

    • To really say Mana or Yoshiki or whoever is the start of the drag movement in Visual Kei is already inherently incorrect, as it wasn’t any of their idea to begin with. The system of males playing female roles goes way back to Kabuki and Japanese theater throughout history way before the electric guitar. As in the rest of the world, Japan restricted its stage to men, and although I don’t know now as to whether this has changed or not, I do know that at least many of its female roles are still played by men. Presenting an interesting juxtaposition, Visual Kei is also an industry dominated by males (although some really talented babes are working on changing that, kudos to them), some of whom represent the missing female polarity by donning feminine makeup, hairstyles, and clothing.

      In Visual Kei, there are a lot of different forms of “drag”. There’s the typical full-drag (Mana, HIZAKI, etc), where they do everything in their power to appear as beautiful women, rarely, if ever, breaking from character in the public eye. There’s the occasional drag which many Japanese stars succumb to, including T.M. Revolution, GACKT, etc. And then there’s this kind of questionable drag that was especially popular in the ’80s. It’s really a step up from androgyny, and in my personal opinion even better represents the concept of “beauty for beauty’s sake” than extreme examples such as youshikibi and full-drag, because it shows artists such as Yoshiki and Sakurai Atsushi (BUCK-TICK), Chachamaru (Gacktjob), etc, wearing classifiably feminine clothing, hair, and/or makeup without actually presenting the concrete idea that this person is a “woman”.

      Personally, I think that Mana, as a rising star in the early ’90s, popularized the idea of full-drag, by appearing in the fancy historical ball-gowns and, a little later, Gothic Lolita. In my eyes, artists from the ’80s such as Yoshiki appeared more avant garde and androgynously devil-may-care than consciously drag-queen. Even today, Yoshiki will always look like a woman to me, despite years of conditioning to the Visual Kei aesthetic.

      In any case, that’s my own personal reasoning and thought-process on the matter. Visual Kei is an interesting thing because there is no one authority on it; even if you say Yoshiki has all the answers, it’s important to understand that even he is viewing Visual Kei from his own perspective, and everyone’s perspective is going to be slightly different.
      You are more than welcome to take what you find helpful or informative from my posts and continue on to research your own theories and I think that’s exactly how it should be. My work is to take your questions to heart and use them as inspiration to ask myself if what I know is complete (it’s not), and continue to learn and broaden my knowledge base of Visual Kei and Jrock. And, as Visual Kei is my passion, that seed of inspiration is a gift to me. So thank you.

      Take it easy–

  2. I really enjoy reading all of your posts they are very infromative!! Thank you very much for writing all of this! However I just want to say one thing that picture you have of Kaya with no make-up on is actually a picture of Kamenashi Kazuya from KAT-TUN. ^_^

    • Thanks for your comment; it’s nice to know that someone is still reading these posts and finding them useful. And yes, I am aware that that is a picture of Kamenashi Kazuya. Although, scanning the post I see it’s a little unclear, I meant it as a comparison – that if you searched for “Kaya” based on his voice, you might expect to see Kazuya, rather than what you would actually find. I appreciate knowing my readers have a quick eye, though! Glad to know if I ever mess up, someone is there to keep me up on my stuff. ;) Keep reading. ++

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