Visual Kei Got Game

WARNING: This post may contain content inappropriate for some readers. I will not require you to confirm your age before reading the insights of a jaded Visualist and their opinions about the feisty side of Visual Kei, but I would like to make it clear that you read at your own risk, and I will not be held responsible for your corruption in any way.

Today I was surfing Youtube and went to watch the newly released PV for VAMPSDevil Side single that’s coming out next month. As I clicked on the link, it seriously took me to a page that said something along the lines of “this video has been flagged inappropriate for some viewing audiences by the Youtube community. Please confirm your age to continue.”

Being a long time viewer of Visual Kei and Jrock PVs and live footage, and having enough comprehension of Japanese to understand lyrics, I’m no stranger to the casual trashiness of some Visual Kei and Jrock. It can be kind of shocking if you’re not used to it, probably because the Japanese don’t have the serious hang-ups around sexuality that Puritan-based western cultures do, so in order to be really trashy and shocking, you have to get kind of ridiculous. Blatant raciness became standard fare in Visual Kei in the late ’80s and early ’90s, with leaders like BUCK-TICK, who filled their live performances with all the sensuality and raunchiness of the lyrics– with that in mind, however, it was all in good taste. At least, I don’t think that’s my visualist dementia speaking for me. Fan-service was usually enacted by vocalist Atsushi, the god-father of on-stage sensuality, who romped around the stage drawing on monitors with crimson lipstick, and pole-dancing with his microphone stand bound with roses. It didn’t stop there, though. The late ’90s and early ’00s saw the rise of GACKT and his solo shockers.

Any standard GACKT fans will probably be at least relatively familiar with his long line of major-hit-atrocities such as Vanilla, Papa Lapped a Pap Lopped, Dispar and Koakuma Heaven. The earlier pieces like Vanilla and Papa Lapped created the friction that set off a spark in J-music genre-wide, but which particularly set fire to the edgier Visual Kei groups. I think every self-respecting Jrock fan has witnessed his 2004 live footage of the hip-thrusting classic, Vanilla.

And that was the tame version.

Within Western music we have raunchiness, yes, but it has such a profoundly different feeling. It’s practically seething shock-value; if so-and-so can have a more inappropriate video than who-and-who, then they’ll most likely have a greater sales spike. In Jrock the same applies, I think, but there’s also a different attitude around sexually themed music. As I already mentioned, there aren’t the same hang-ups around sexuality in general that there are in our so-easily-shocked culture.

There’s also a bit of a misconception about the lyrical content, though. Many of the above-mentioned GACKT songs have pretty dirty lyrics when translated, but actually have a wide range of innuendo and implication involved in the word-choice and kanji use. His Koakuma Heaven, which deals with the theme of host-girls, is packed with the female innuendo that trickles out of the Japanese “water-trade”. Therefore a lot of it isn’t as brutally obvious as the translations sound.

In any case, now that we’ve had “the talk”, today I want to showcase some of the trashiest PVs in Jrock and Visual Kei. These videos may offend you.

DIRTIEST PV: 19sai (Ju-Kyuu-Sai)/ Suga Shikao

I give this award to Suga Shikao’s [スガ シカオ] 19-sai [19才], which was used as the opening theme to the anime XXXHOLIC (which actually wasn’t XXX at all, except for maybe the theme song). Although there are plenty of trashier songs lyrically, it takes a lot of guts to actually show enough that the video has to be censored. Plus, the whole energy of the song and the characters is so depressing, it’s all a bit disturbing. Awesome song, though.

MOST BLATANTLY XXX: Gather Roses / SCREW

Pretty self-explanatory, really. One of the raunchiest VK PVs on the ‘net.

Rated PG for Thematic Content and Some Sexuality…except I don’t actually recommend you have ‘parental guidance’ for this one. I wouldn’t show it to my parents, and probably, neither should you: Devil Side /VAMPS


And despite the two above, I actually had to confirm my age before viewing. Hyde is really turning into a horrible influence on Visualists. Setting the stage for your PV in a nightclub complete with scantily clad poledancers is sort of inappropriate, I guess, but VAMPS never pretended to be tame. Probably this was flagged by a frustrated fangirl when she got to there scene where…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Image: byouto.blogspot.com

2 responses to “Visual Kei Got Game

  1. Nice article & glad to see someone writing who can remember Buck-Tick. Although, I have to say that I was very surprised by how blatantly sexual Gather Roses was back when I first saw it. I’m actually quite used to many of the underground bands taking things to a much more perverse level, as opposed to being so “normal” about it. Though, I suppose the fact that Screw isn’t just playing coy is what puts the video in the running…

    Hyde’s newer work is finally starting to look like his older work after he was done being so cute (Heaven’s Drive.) I can’t really say I’ve enjoyed his image overhaul….the Christian theme paired with the raunchiness just really seems so contradictive, especially with his image getting even more sexual (if it’s even possible.) It’s hard to tell if it’s for shocks, to help expand his audience, or he really believes in some part of it.

    • I enjoyed reading your comment, and a lot of what you said in your second paragraph struck some chords in my mind. I think this is an interesting discussion that, if it doesn’t ride the wave, at least buoys along the beach of the whole matter of where Visual Kei is going these days, and the future we can anticipate for it in the next, say, two to three years. It’s hard to foresee where things will go, especially as time seems to fly by, and a million new developments seem to take place each day. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all whining for a new single from so-and-so, and now my wallet can hardly keep up with them.

      What I found particularly interesting about your comment was the last line: It’s hard to tell if it’s for shocks, to help expand his audience, or he really believes in some part of it., and I think this question should be applied to a lot of what is happening in Visual Kei — and even in music and entertainment across the board. I think that Visual Kei had something of a punk rebellion activism anarchy theme going back when it first started up. The outfits and everything were defiant and didn’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone thought. Now I would say it’s become just about as commercially re-mastered as marketing-wise-possible. Now much of what comes out isn’t gnarly for the sake of being pissant rock musicians who want to make some sick music and be illin’; now a lot of it does seem to be “shock-factor” (and it always was “shock-factor”, just for different reasons) for the sake of hitting OriCon’s top 5 with the most risque new single.

      Particularly with sexualization and raunchiness levels of content, I think it’s important to realize that sex sells–everything. At least in America, and certainly Japan, culturally we’ve become desensitized to seeing T&A plastered all over everything, whether it’s cigarettes and alcohol, or cell-phones. Because we’re desensitized to it, I think we tend to lose sight of just how much it’s there in marketing. And the more desensitized we become, the more the shock-factor needs to be increased in order for us to see it. All of the movies, video-games, novels, and magazines now are packed full of blatant violence, gore, sex, nudity, and those mysterious “thematic elements”. It just doesn’t shock us anymore to see a spray of blood– now we have to see the actual act of the leg being amputated, the knife making the incision, the blood spurting out, you name it. We go home and tell everyone we know “Damn that movie was really gross,” and then they all go and see it, and we just sold the film and perpetuated the cycle.

      The same can probably be said for the sexualization of Visual Kei (I’ll say that it can be said, and why, but please note that I’m not saying this is how it is by any means)…I say sexualization specifically because I have yet to see Hyde lopping anyone’s limbs off (but who knows, right? There’s always 2011). Highly apparent in the overblown hype over GACKT’s Vanilla and, lately, Koakuma Heaven (among others), and the fuss caused around Devil Side, sex sells…especially to foreign fans. However, in order to sell it, it has to feel like a novelty, and it feels like a novelty when Hyde is wearing crosses and sucking face with saucy dames in dom-wear in his music videos. (Cue a conversation about fan-service in general that we won’t get into here).

      I believe that there are many artists and bands that still truly believe in what they do, wear, and make. And this is what really keeps Visual Kei going strong. Personally, if SCREW really believes in Gather Roses from a creative sense, or if they want to sing about Little BoPeep with real fervor, then I can roll with any of that (well, okay, maybe not that last one, but for the sake of making my point). Who can say what Hyde really believes in? Maybe he has a strong sense of conviction in all of this, and that would be great.

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