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.