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.

image: cidbia.org

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.

Get ready for gladiator sandals, The Perm, and the Satoshi-boogie…

I hope they leave the gladiator sandals at home.

I admit, I’ve entered a sort of state of denial about the lack of orange-highlighted dates on my sidebar calendar.

I like to flatter myself and primp my shameless vanity by assuming that lulls in the activity of Secret Garden are duly noted out there. Although I’m daily shelving a hankering to be on here spewing my snotty opinions about the noxious new releases of Jrock Today, likely setting out on the road to becoming some kind of embittered critic, while squirreling away my secret adoration of the more Kpoppian ventures of girugamesh, I hope to be able to post more regularly again eventually. In the meantime, I will continue to ask for your patience.

I notice that I’m not the only one who has been lagging in their post count lately, though. In fact, most of the blogs I read regularly (you know who you are) seem to be kind of slow these days. I remember those sweet, sweet, broke days of living on a whim and blogging sun-up to sun-down without a care in the world other than being totally cash-strapped. But remember this, kids, make good use of your blissful free time and become magnanimous forerunners of the future before the shackles of the 9-5 routine enslave you and stunt your entrepreneurial developments. What these other slaves to the system tell us is partly true, you get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stop being  frustrating. Ah, who am I kidding. The life of rampant hedonism is obviously the one for me. I’ll start a terrible Visual Kei band and do nothing but wine, women, and sleep, all in varying degrees of debauchery.

Now that we have my future sorted out, shall I spend the next thirty minutes of our time (so precious, according to the previous paragraphs) talking about something else equally inane and patronizing while I try and remember what I started this post to talk about? Nah, just kidding, I’m not that depraved yet.

This news apparently popped up over the weekend (proof that the world continues spinning even when I’m out of the loop. How dare they.), and although I admit it’s taking some time to sink in to the remains of my mushy brain, melted to the consistency of chunky 3-day-old applesauce zombifying slowly on the kitchen counter by too little sleep and too much caffeine too many days in a row, I’m pretty pumped to be able to announce this at last.

girugamesh WORLD TOUR Confirmed!!

2011.3.05 Tochka
Moscow, Russia

2011.3.06 GlavClub
St.Petersburg, Russia

2011.3.08 Nosturi
Helsinki, Finland

2011.3.11 Columbia Club
Berlin, Germany

2011.3.12 Diesel
Budapest, Hungary

2011.3.13 Backstage
Munich, Germany

2011.3.15 La Laiterie
Strassbourg, France

2011.3.16 TBA
Paris, France

2011.3.18 O2 Acedemy Islington
London, UK

2011.3.19 Zeche
Bochum, Germany

The band has apparently taken a leaf out of D’espa‘s book and is reaching out to fans for suggestions regarding their, y’know, tracklist for the tour. Hurry–together we can make a stand against having to ruin our current record by accidentally hearing Color live…

All snark sheathed for the time being, this is actually news that, once it fully establishes itself in my gelatin-filled skull, is worth getting psyched over. They are one of the bands that I would really stretch to see…and although Europe is a bit too much of a stretch (especially at risk of showing up to a disco-ball and Satoshi’s shuffle-boogie), ShuU started rumors on their official Facebook that more information (cough dates and locations cough?) is to follow. Holla, US? I think we’re ready for Color.

Not only that, but they have also announced a brand new album. The question I want you to answer, Visualists, is that of whether the album actually still runs a chance of stirring some response by returning to their raucous roots, or striking a new chord by actually going out on the limb of innovation and, god forbid, inspired creativity. This positive anticipation of giru‘s actions (recently so disturbing) is edged, we all know, by the woolen itch of doubt; the fear that it could really be rock-bottom. The maker or breaker. Takers?