If all of the beautiful, talented, elegant “women” in Visual Kei are actually men, then where does that leave girls and Visual Kei?
From a commercial perspective, a very large percentage of the Visual Kei fanbase is teenage and young women. It makes sense, therefore, that the majority of Visual Kei bands and front-men would be male– you can even take that a step further by applying our previous analysis of the archetypes of male androgyny, idealism and fantasy. However, in the past decade, a few badass babes have been getting fed-up with these pretty boys thinking they can shred, and are (although not often) showing up on the Visual Kei scene to tear things up– girl style.
Since the early 2000’s Visual Kei has seen the rise (and, for better or for worse, the fall) of a good handful of all-female Visual Kei bands. Unfortunately those that actually receive recognition and become popular are few and far between.
Continuing on the topic of commercialism, many people argue that the reason female Visual Kei bands are practically unheard-of is because Visual Kei is targeted at women– as a crustaceasly-brained forum poster put it (but with worse spelling), “it’s the same reason why there aren’t female members in Arashi“. This I first of all must contest do to this person’s apparent total lack of understanding concerning Visual Kei; secondly because (generalizing here, but for the sake of making a point, so bear with me) Visual Kei is typically a hardcore/hard-rock/metal music scene, which, as far as I know, is not a typical genre for Japanese female musicians and vocalists.
On that note– how many all-female heavy-metal bands can you name in the west? Probably not as many as all-male bands, I’d put money on it. In the end, I think that if you’re going to analyze it (which of course we are), you have to realize that a) Yes, the reason they can’t become as popular as quickly is from an aesthetic perspective. They aren’t men, therefore they don’t appeal to the teen-girl masses in the same way. b) However, musically they are still on par with many of the all-male VK bands, and many of the all-female bands have more interesting music and melodies. And c) On sort of a “big sister” level, it seems that the individual members would receive recognition from women on a level of aesthetic in that these are strong, confident, beautiful women being who they are and embracing the musical culture they love, regardless of stereotypes or expectations.
What I really find interesting is that Visual Kei bands are strict in their lineups. They do not bother with that tedium that is co-ed creativity (with the exception of a few bands, such as Decola Hopping— a decora-style band whose vocalist is female). Visual Kei bands are either all-male, or all-female. In an interview that guitarist and band-leader of exist trace, Miko, did for JaME, Miko addressed the topic by saying that before she joined exist trace, she was playing music with a lot of friends and so on, many of whom were boys. She said that although they were not necessarily consciously excluding men from joining the band, their distinctive sound and feel comes from them being all women, and that would be very different if there was a male adding his maleness to the quality of the music.
More on the topic of defining sound and music qualities…. For anyone interested in experiencing Japanese rock music with a female vocalist who doesn’t sound like how bubblegum tastes, I highly recommend checking out female VK bands. Although the music is still usually rock as hard as we like it, there tends to be less metal (exist trace excluded. Approach with caution.), giving more of a general appeal (exist trace excluded. Approach with caution.). Deeper altos seem more favorable– almost to an extreme, in the case of Araune, whose vocalist has one of the deepest voices I have ever laid ears on.
As you can see in the example of Danger Gang (above), the aesthetic style tends to be quite different among all-female VK bands. Although some bands such as exist trace have established a look not too far a-cry from that of the male bands, decora (extremely heavy accessorizing and mind-destroying color schemes) seems to be popular, as are the garish, costumey styles (Danger Gang, GallowS). Although these styles are also known among all-male bands, the classy sub-gothic/sub-militaristic look seems to be more definitive of the male VK bands.
Elements of the fashion may appear among female members of VK bands, however Gothic Lolita is not usually incorporated into their styles. Possibly due to its popularity among the male youshikibi-ites, or the social gap between Lolitas and Visualists.
If you are interested in checking out some all-female Visual Kei bands, here is a list of a few:
GallowS (disbanded 2010)
Necro Circus (disbanded 2007)
Decola Hopping (male musicians, female vocalist)
Gagaaling (male musicians, female vocalist)