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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Have a Ball January 20th…

Get out your finery and throw a ball, because on January 20th, to put it (fittingly) in the words of Marie Antoinette, Versailles ~Philharmonic Quintet is going to “let them eat cake” by serving up a slice of Renaissance VK.

"Let them eat cake..."

Let them eat cake...

Following the extremely unfortunate death of bassist Jasmine-You, and the resulting announcement of a suspension of activities, there was a lot of speculation and concern over just how much activity would be suspended, exactly. It seems like the band has pulled together, though, and is carrying on with the release of their first major-label album, appropriately named JUBILEE.

The album is available for pre-order now (pre-order now and receive an exclusive CDJapan only poster), and will be released on January 20th. Jubilee features a satisfying 12 tracks:

Track listing~ JUBILEE~

1. God Palace -Method of Inheritance-
2. Ascendead Master
3. Rosen Schwert
4. Ai to Kanashimi no Nocturne
5. Amorphous
6. Reminiscence
7. Catharsis
8. The Umbrella of Glass
9. Gakkoka
10. PRINCESS -Revival of church-
11. Serenade
12. Sound in Gate

This long-awaited major debut will surely come as a great delight to Versailles fans, despite the melancholy of the loss of an excellent member.

Get your copy (and your poster…of course) now~
Jubilee / Versailles

~Welcome….to Versailles ~


Sayounara

If anyone else is becoming scared of 2009– join the club. 2009 has so far seen the passing of several major pop-stars and idols– including Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett (totally irrelevant to this blog, but hey, they died, they get added…), and  Koakuma Ageha top-model Sumire passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in June, and now, as of August 9th, Visual Kei band Versaille~ Philharmonic Quintet‘s bass player, Jasmine You, has passed away.

Not to focus on the negative, or anything, but hey, I’m just sayin’….doesn’t do to pretend it doesn’t happen.

0154c3c8e47aa0_fullOn August 3rd, Versailles~ Philharmonic Quintet‘s official website stated that bassist Jasmine You would be taking an indefinite break due to poor physical health. It was announced that the band would continue without Jasmine You in the production of their up-coming album.

On August 9th, it was announced that Jasmine You had passed away. The band stated that they had known nothing about any serious illness or condition that would have warranted such an abrupt passing. Few details are known, and the band is waiting for approval from Jasmine You’s immediate family before they can release information.

In the meantime, the band has asked that their fans kindly support them in their decision to indefinitely suspend all further activities, including the release of the album in production.

Jasmine You

Jasmine You

Known in Japan as Versailles, the symphonic-rock project of vocalist Kamijo (ex-Lareine), guitarist Hizaki (of Hizaki Grace Project [solo]) and bassist Jasmine You (ex-Jyakura) may be better known to non-motherland-fans by its American dub, Versailles~Philharmonic Quintet. The band took on this “alias” due to the prior existence of singer Versailles (it gets majorly confusing when you try and listen to Versailles radio on last.fm, I’ll tell you that much).

Although Versailles is a young band, having only kicked off in early 2007, it met with success world-wide, and is a promising facet of Visual Kei culture. The band carries on the proud tradition of powerful opera-rock as laid down by Visual Kei prince Mana, from the days of Malice Mizer. Following in the footsteps of MM, who popularized the style of VK called “youshikibi” (beauty of form), Versailles seemed intent on taking it all one, two, three, or ten steps further.

Let’s put it this way– at least Mana looks kind of, well, androgynous. 1st guitarist Hizaki looks anything but androgynous– the only reason we know it’s a man is because everyone says so (presumably he does, or has at one point as well). But you sure wouldn’t guess it by looking. Hizaki has perfected the “hime-gyaru” (princess girl) style with rose-colored lace panache, crowning it with a headful of creamy blond ringlets and a face to make ageha-ites weep.

Hizaki

Hizaki

Versailles made their western-world debut in 2008 with a tour in Europe and the US with Visual Kei band Matenrou Opera. 2nd guitarist Teru remarked that a performance at A-Kon in Texas drew a crowd of 3000, and a performance in L.A. sold out completely. Quite an international debut for such a young band. However, they have what fans want, it would seem. Their perfect visual appeal and symphonic heavy sound are aesthetically pleasing and aurally exciting– how could you resist?

In June, 2009 the band signed with a major label and on June 24th released their first major album, Ascended Master. To say sayounara to their indie days (which were shockingly short-lived), Versailles performed a nationwide Last Indies tour called The Fragment Collectors.

Although I hate to have to draw attention to the band under the shadow of Jasmine You’s tragic death, now is a good moment to feel excitement and anticipation for this band~ surely its members and their families will be comforted by the good feeling of support their fans send to them on rose-scented airways.


Versailles official website

Versailles official Myspace (English)