GACKT in the Ghetto

I’ve been stewing over this for some time now. I can’t take it anymore, I gotta get it off my chest.  In anticipation of his upcoming YFCz European tour (extended and expanded version), GACKT switched up the ol’ tried-and-true approach of actually looking cool, and decided to go out on a limb with his newest makeover. His stylist must’ve felt bad for all the countries that haven’t gotten a GACKT tour yet, and decided to help console us by giving GACKT such a ridiculously WTF-worthy hairstyle that we would close out the tour schedule tabs on our browsers, going “grumblegrumbleGACKTwtfyourghettohairgrumblegrumble”, content to wait until a better makeover before we lament not being able to see him live. ¹

Who is he, Shimizu Shota?

 I mean, seriously, did I miss something? Is he a rapper now? Will Justin Bieber be featured on Episode .0 as a special guest? Or is this some inter-cultural attempt at Harry Potter in time for Deathly Hallows Part 2? What’s with the lightning bolt? Didn’t he read the books? It goes on your forehead, man!

 I’ve always accepted and been able to appreciate GACKT’s blonde haircolor– I thought he looked kind of like a Japanese sararii man with the straight black sleek look– not in a bad way, just in a Japanese-dad kind of way. I do think the blonde hair makes him look younger and certainly edgier…

Fo shizzle, yo.

My issues lie with the haircut.

 It looks to me like someone wasn’t paying attention when they were cutting it and accidentally hacked a huge chunk out of the bangs and did a rush job of trying to cover it up (remember, GACKT, don’t tell them about their salary cut while they’re wielding scissors by your head). It’s not definable by any hair-style known to man– it is not a low-cut, faux-hawk, or buzz. It’s like all three mashed into one, dyed blonde, with a random zigzag stuck on the side just to enhance…enhance what, exactly? The overwhelming lack of symmetry and coolness? Remember, there’s a difference between “asymmetrical” and “just plain awkward”. I doubt I need to tell you which side of that line this falls on.

 Following this disaster, cover-art for July single Episode .0 was released for 2 versions, the usual ltd and regular. I was originally planning on picking up the ltd edition because it comes with a DVD, but then they released the cover art…

…Which further proves my point that the Regular edition cover art is always superior. I don’t care if it is the OP to some new anime or game, to me it just doesn’t have the feel of a GACKT single. It also reminds me of those vocaloid monsters in which I have absolutely .0 interest.

 The regular edition cover art, however, hits the spot. It actually has GACKT on it, which always helps give it the feel of a GACKT single. Fortunately he’s wearing his cool samurai wig so I won’t have to remove and hide any booklet tainted by this new Faux-Low-Cut nonsense.

 Not my favorite cover by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done. I admit, I like the font a lot, but I feel like the design of the cover overall is “good” rather than “great. I live in hope that the songs and PV² far surpass the quality of their creator’s hair-style and the lackluster artwork.

Remember, GACKT’s birthday falls on the 4th, so if you’re starting to make plans to smash open watermelons on the beach or poke out innocent eyes with sparklers, save some time on your calendar to acknowledge GACKT (ghetto lightning-bolt-scar-wannabe and all). And if you have plans to do so, feel free to comment and explain– I’m always curious about how others honor these moments in their Visualife.

Also, July 7th is tanabata for Visualists and Japanophiles alike, Episode .0 drops the 13th, and of course don’t forget the premier of GACKT’s new movie.

Wait, what? Don’t worry about it.

¹–Note: I am obviously being humorous here…kind of. Even if he was bald I would kill to see GACKT live. I think.

²—Note: The PV has been leaked on YT, but, as is my custom with GACKT releases, I won’t be watching or reviewing the PV until I’ve heard the single itself.

Aoi Defies Dye Lot 335 “Asian Blonde”

“The New Look”, always a much anticipated release of information. In my experience, the disclosure of a Visual Kei band’s “New Look”, as organized for the promotion of a new album or single, is always a testament to rock bands’ abilities to create infinite variety with one or less colors.

In the past, I’ve found The GazettE to be satisfactorily edgy in their looks. Veering shockingly away from the standard black pants, black blazer, and the occasional, unnerving splash of gray, The GazettE‘s image always pops up in my head dressed in colorful velour suits with perfectly coiffed blonde mullets.

However, when black became the new, well, rainbow circa 2009, and the word on the street was “chic”, it seemed like Visual Kei started getting a little less, y’know, visual. The host-boy hair syndrome overwhelmed the industry as the standard hair-fare, and, that-which-must-not-be-named (oshare) aside (out of the discussion, where it belongs), the universally accepted Visual Kei uniform became the angry angura badass bad-lands look. That is, blackblackblack.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t worn color since 2009 either. But I will pass judgment here and say, I think that Visual Kei bands could stand to break out of the angura thing and at least give us a splash of something that’s not just black clothes and blonde hair. I’m pleased to see that one of the most universally accepted “cool-looking” bands have let at least one member go out on a limb this time¹. First of all, let me just say that I think the concept for these shots is pretty epic. The industrial, utterly lackluster backdrop contrasts with the striking paint-splatters smeared over each portrait, giving a creative twist to otherwise standard Type A new look portraits. I’m actually astounded by this “new look”, simply because they actually did something with Aoi’s hair. Gone is the ultra simple black coif of their past, and present now is a spiky, edgy, and very……purple… style that totally defies the “Asian Blonde” I thought it was illegal for a Visual Kei band-member to not have. Whether he actually had a hair color for past single Pledge cannot really be known, as the PV was monochrome, and I bet they stood behind a monochrome holograph for all their promotions. Can never be too careful– you never know when a splash of color might invade your cool, black-clad life and ruin everything with its recklessness.

The hair and high collar also bring across something of a hide-feel, which I think is probably a healthy direction to be moving in.

As usual, Uruha, with his tumbling golden locks and smoldering glare, just begs to be worshiped by men and women alike. Putting all androgynous Visual Kei creatures eternally to shame as he does, even after all these years I cannot reason with normies who say he looks like a woman. No disrespect- you have to be utterly and irreparably confused to even attempt to deny it.

I like what they’ve done with his hair– some edgy layers and of course a pretty little twist of the hair-iron produces that little iconic curl. That being said, from the neck down I can’t help but have this feeling that he’s wearing one of Ozaki Nana’s outfits from the anime Nana. The signature leather jacket and….please tell me that’s not a tulle dress?

Some things may change, but Reita will forever look the same.

I can’t say I’ve ever disapproved of a Ruki look, unless you consider that one time he tried to be totally gangster, which I think was succeeded by The Perm….Which I think was succeeded by…Nah, just messing with you guys. The slight wave to his hair is acceptable, and all the clean lines and simple details make for a solid vocalist ensemble. No big shockers here.

Who is this ninja musician, and when will the waiter be here with my check?

All together now:


¹ – Would like to take this moment to also mention Jyou of exist trace who is rocking some fiery locks.

images from & google

Pink Panthers, Delicate Dragons, and Pop Poseidons: the disconcerting ratio of Sadie to SHINEE

Part I: The Set Up

So here I am writing from the farthest-most corner of the United States, some 4,000 miles north-west of my usual office, sitting in a bustling cafe attempting a record consumption of caffeine, flipping through the March 2011 edition of Arena 37c, front-cover: T.M.Revolution rocking hot military in distressed denim.

Since I currently reside in a less prehistoric city than usual, I’m located very close to China Town, the International District, and a little corner of Japanophile heaven—this particular patch of wonders being home to the unsuspecting Visualist’s den of colander-wallet syndrome, Kinokuniya books. It’s the one moment when I actually feel ‘at home’ in the US; the one place where I can find the CDs I’m looking for in the CD section, where I actually find magazines I want to (wish I could) read in the newsstand, and where names like YOSHIKI and AnCafe pop off the bindings of books. It’s a brief compromise between East and West.

It’s hard to stay calm. Especially when hoards of giggling, daisy-dukes-and-tights-wearing Japanese girls are hurrying past with armloads of Tohoshinki CDs and those 30-pound, $5 fashion magazines they have to Saran wrap and rubber-band just to keep the inserts, posters, and packs of makeup samples all intact for purchase.


Although I, personally, tend to pre-order my CDs and singles months in advance via the internet, magazines are one product I want from Japan that I tend to stock up on once in a while IRL when opportunity strikes. My (exceedingly) infrequent visits to Kinokuniya rarely send me out with discs, but a few Shoxx, Fools Mate, and Arena37c’s usually find their way home with me (where they typically end up encased in plastic and stored carefully in an air-tight safe, hidden away from the dangers of fingerprints and dog-earing caused by ignorant mortals). With the yen-dollar + import mark-up on these publications, it’s clear I’m not saving for retirement.

As long as I could carry on singing the praises of the mystical waypoint, what I’m trying to say right now is not that I went to Kinokuniya and dropped bank on magazines I can’t even read yet, but more to do with the contents of said magazines.

First of all, I had a difficult time finding the content matter I look for. Is it the general fact that a lot of respected Visual Kei artists are playing it cool or on hiatus, or is classic Visual Kei just not front-cover news anymore? Whatever it is, the magazines that, in 2009 and 2010, were covered with abingdon boys school, D’espairsRay, The GazettE and GACKT, are suspiciously devoid of any of those holy names. Today’s issue of Arena37, featuring an excessively elegant yet somewhat lackluster main feature of T.M.Revolution, fills the rest of its pages with cutesy oshare-mania and WTF moments such as Jin Akanishi, Tohoshinki, and SHINEE. It’s nearly enough to make me feel more like a hardcore metal-head were I to buy Can Can Cream’s jumbo-edition featuring Koda Kumi’s latest eyelid surgery result story*. SHINEE….seriously? Is this what the Visual Kei industry has become? Spreads of The Kiddie making chocolate fondue and Jin Akanishi repping thug-life in a fitted-hat? On that note, who exactly is Jin Akanishi?

Also, what is with the interview on page 98 with a trio of guys dressed in white feather boas, calling themselves “Panther”, “Dragon” and “Poseidon”?

The most badass part of the magazine (aside from T.M.’s typical glitzy bride+groom-in-one shoot) is the back cover advertisement for SADIE’s newest releases and lives. Honestly, aside from the brief insert for The GazettE, it’s the only page reminiscent of classic Visual Kei.

The clean pastel tones of nude-gravure-fronted Shoxx promise a slightly more familiar lineup of content, including: The GazettE, Kagrra,, girugamesh, Vidoll, and heidi.. Mostly devoid of the collection of gawky 14-year-olds masquerading as promising Visual Kei musicians, Shoxx presented more interesting shoots of cooler looking people and better (in my opinion) bands.

heidi. still looks like a Visual Kei band, as do boogieman and TOON-FACTORY. The disappointments maxed out mercifully at having the same gravure of Sid as the Arena37 interview, and the shocking realization that Visual Kei stylists have outdone The Perm by instating the Goldilocks Regime. Page after page of tumbling gold ringlets unfold before my horrified Visualist eyes…

* Please note, Can Can Cream is not a factual magazine title, I invented it to serve my creative purposes, so spare your dignity any blows and don’t go out and try and buy it.. Also, don’t ever believe anything I ever say about Koda Kumi. I don’t even know who she is, let alone how much eyelid surgery she’s had or when.

Pledge Allegiance to GazettE 12/15

I’ll admit, The GazettE is, much like girugamesh, one of the mainstream Visual Kei bands whose releases I don’t procure religiously anymore. I more or less skipped over Red, although in retrospect it was a pretty decent single. In many ways, I’ve enjoyed their earlier work to such an extent that I’m pretty content keeping NIL in heavy rotation, and if something utterly mind-blowing is released, that’s okay too.

Heading into mid-November now, a new wave of release dates are being announced for the December and January rounds of economic Visual Kei worship. I find it quite fascinating when I’m paying the bills…There’s always Rent, Cellphone, Internet, List of Visual Kei singles to pre-order for [insert month]. It’s one of the few I pay cheerfully and with a sense of great reverence. Coming up to reward your December tithe is new single Pledge from The GazettE on 12/15, just in time for their first Tokyo Dome performance on Dec. 26th. I bet that leaves no mystery as to how I want to spend my holidays.

Check out the preview for the heavy ballad (Yeah, I wasn’t surprised either), and Gazerock fans, censoring any spewing of “Reita omg kawaii kawaii!”, let me know what you think.

Mug Shot

Finally the stylists stopped being on strike, recognized that Kai is, in fact, part of the band and not a misplaced member of the catering crew, and outfitted him accordingly. For once in their career he is actually starting to fit in with the band, and it’s working wonders for him. The sharp black outfit (what can be seen of it, anyway) is…a…y’know, sharp black outfit for which too much can never be said. The extreme layers and long hair bring me way back to Visual Kei in the late ’80s and early ’90s, before Host Boy Hair Syndrome (HBHS) took over the scene.

Mug Shot

Best part of my weekend: when The GazettE changes their look, and all the fangirls spam comment all over our lives with “Oooh omfg Reita kawaii kawaii!” When…his look never changes. Ah, a world without GazettE fangirls would be a sad, sad place indeed.

Mug Shot

Aoi always tends to pull off these minimalistic chic looks, with simple hair and normal-ish outfits to which he lends his natural enigmatic charm and makes everyone else look like they’re trying way too hard. He, like Reita, never surprises me. At least it’s in a good way.

Mug Shot

Uruha says, If my face ends up on another British T-shirt ever again… least send one to all of my band members.


I’m not too much of a man to admit that I got a nosebleed.

New Look Needs New Designer

While twiddling our thumbs waiting for alice nine‘s SENKOU single to hit shelves and counting the days of September to see how much longer we have to wait for MIYAVI’s promising new album due out in October, the Visual Kei community has been busying themselves with snaring a scandal.

It would seem that there’s a bit of a border issue that comes up every now and then in the world of international creativity. While art is meant to defy all borders, its ownership, legalities, and respectful usage shouldn’t be brushed aside while leaving the country– or appearing on the web.

There are a lot of vague gray areas and many questions concerning copyright and the internet. With the vast amount of media content being posted for all to see, save, and upload back into the viscious cycle that ravages the entire concept of sharing-is-caring, it can become confusing as to what belongs to who and who can use what for why and when and how.

However, if one thing is clear to me, at least, it is this: art may defy all borders, but what goes up on Deviant Art stays on Deviant Art unless the Deviant Artist says otherwise. It would seem, however, that British fashion brand New Look disagrees.

It has recently been uncovered by GazettE fans that a likeness of guitarist Uruha’s goddess-like visage was used as the graphics on a New Look top. But not only that, the image, described on the online store as a “Pixelated punky girl illustration”, doesn’t credit the illustrator, Deviant Kyunai, whose remarkable Uruha fanart originally appeared on their Deviant Art page in 2007.

As I haven’t received permission from Kyunai to post their image here, surf on over to their DA page and check out the original illustration. It is absolutely worthy of appearing on a stylish top…however, the artist’s permission should be solicited, their affiliation approved, and their dues delivered in that clear, clean-cut and very legitimate fashion (no pun inten– well, ok, fine).

Using an image like this is a terrific idea- the illustration, and the face captured in it, are both exquisite, and such a depiction could be incredible promotion for a lucky artist as well as the band. Unfortunately, this interesting marketing op has been massacred by the tactlessness of whoever ‘designed’ the shirt for New Look. Now, instead of great promotion for the band and the artist resulting in an awesome piece of clothing, we are left simply with image-theft, a bad rap for New Look in the Jrock crowd, and a bunch of people hoping Kyunai’s request that the brand recall the item be peacefully passed.

Original artwork by Kyunai…Used without permission by New Look UK.

Thanks to Tweeps @ToshiChica @JanecutiehWARP for spreading the word.