D Gets Bustier With Each New Release

D for 7th Rose

D‘s recent activity has been a mixed bag for me. They got quite a makeover for their latest releases album 7th Rose and the up-coming (their 7th single) Akaki Hitsuji ni Yoru Bansankai. However, what’s new for a band oh-so-familiar with black leather slightly dom Gothica, has been tried and tired by our own little historical-fiction genre of bands such as Versailles~PQ~ and solo artist Kaya. I’m slightly disappointed to see that the only apparent changes to D‘s look since 7th Rose has been to add, well, to put it frankly, busts to his bustier.

Some added 'oomph' for 7th single

While I wouldn’t say that D has ever had the most creativity insofar as their image changes go, I’m just profoundly bored with this needless dominatrix drag. If a man wants to wear a dress, or bustier, for that matter, I wish him joy in it, and I will always have, and have always had, a deep appreciation for HIZAKI, Kaya, Mana, and other leading dragsters. However, in my biased and heavily judgmental opinion, I feel like the above mentioned artists have so personalized the style that now for D to attempt to pull it off feels like a desperate cry for attention. In the same way that I appreciate our favorite men in tights, I will always have a reigning admiration for a Visual Kei artist who is confident he can be popular without masquerading as Marie Antoinette.

On the other hand, I would like to add that although I hope I can go until their next makeover without ever having to look at the band again, I think that D has been able to carefully retain their creativity in the musical department. When I first heard the new album 7th Rose, I was skeptical at best. Once I gave it a 2nd chance, however, I was able to find so much to like about the album that all of my doubts were instantly put at rest. As long as they keep making music like this, ASAGI’s ridiculous dress and Ruiza’s equally obnoxious headdress will be forgiven…well…accepted, anyway.

Akaki Hitsuji ni yoru Bansankai will be released on July 28th, and the band will hit up 4 more dates for a second major tour, beginning with a sold-out show in Ebisu on July 18th.

D 2nd Major Tour – Spiral Castle-

Spiral Castle ~Second Door~
2010/07/18 LIQUIDROOM ebisu
OPEN/START:
16:00 / 17:00
Tickets: SOLD OUT

Spiral Castle ~Third Door~
2010/09/04 Akasaka BLITZ
OPEN/START:
17:00 / 18:00
Tickets: On sale July 25th

Spiral Castle ~Fourth Door~
2010/09/21 OSAKA MUSE

OPEN/START: 18:00 / 19:00
Tickets: On sale August 7th

Spiral Castle ~Fifth Door~
2010/09/22 Nagoya ell.FITS ALL
OPEN/START:
18:30 / 19:00
Tickets: On sale August 8th

Akaki Hitsuji ni Yoru Bansankai / D

Translation/source: neumania

Japan Gender-Bending Is a Drag?

 In the past few years particularly, the Japanese gender-bending scene has become more and more tolerated. Japanese guys have always been renowned as being meterosexual, but this is different. Statistics were drawn up sometime last year, where people were interviewed about the recent occurence of more and more guys going girl, so to speak. The results showed a surprising tolerance of drag among the Japanese. They said, collectively, “As long as the guy looks good in it, who cares?”

 However, not everybody agrees with this. For example, some of the nation’s higher-ups have the society as a greater whole to think of. The opposing opinion is that there’s a balance in society– feminism was bad enough, what do you really think will happen if guys do anti-patriarchism?

 However, what with idols such as Mana and Kaya running around charming the female population at large and inspiring those suppressed urges in young men to emerge and take form– is there really much anyone can do?

 Well, someone is trying. For beauty-king and scene leader GACKT, apparently guys going girl is a drag. Although reputed as one of the leaders of the androgyny movement in Japanese fashion, GACKT has been careful to always uphold his macho-factor and manliness, often remarking on his traditional values concerning male and female relations.

 According to this morning’s post at Japan Zone, GACKT is actively working to support manliness and gender-definition in Japan:

“Well, here’s an interesting way to hype a rock concert. Gackt (36) announced yesterday that his show at Club Citta in Kawasaki on Sunday will be a guys-only affair. That means no female crew or staff and no female members of the audience. Organizers have reportedly set up an examination room to deal with any suspicious ticket holders. Gackt says the move is his attempt to reverse the recent trend among Japanese guys to shun traditional male stereotypes and get in touch with their feminine side. The trend is encapsulated in the phrase “soushokukei danshi, nikushokukei joshi” which translates as “grass-eating guys, meat-eating girls,” and with his origins being in the visual-kei rock scene, Gackt himself has been a style leader for that scene.”

 (Quoted from Japan Zone)

Youshikibi~ Playing the Part (Final)

More than just a bunch of complicated ideals and aesthetics, however, Visual Kei is a social stage upon which we are all acting out a role we have created for ourselves. It’s not just looks; it’s about playing the part.

Traditional Kabuki makeup

Having discovered Jrock and Visual Kei after already having a basic understanding of traditional Japanese culture, my first thought when I started watching videos of Visual Kei bands was This is Kabuki, if it was put on by a French opera company played out by metal-bands. I was surprised to find that Tiffany Godoy, the author of the photo book Japanese Goth took the same approach. There is no doubt about it: Visual Kei is a descendant of the Noh and Kabuki theaters of traditional Japan. Only instead of acting out a play with a script, the bands are acting out scenes and characters with their costumes, personalities, and music.

Versailles~ Philharmonic Quintet (3rd Gen.)

Each member is using costume, makeup, and personality (whether natural or affected) to play out a particular role, within the band as well as within the music itself. This is perfected in the affected personas of idols such as GACKT (ex-Malice Mizer), who says that he is a Vampire born in the 16th century, and Mana (Moi dix Mois, ex-Malice Mizer) who dresses entirely in Gothic Lolita and refuses to speak, claiming that the only modes of expression he needs are that of his music.

Gackt, Mizerable era (1999)

This “role playing” carries over into the topic covered in the “Manpires” post, where many of the vocalists and frontmen for Visual Kei bands assume a role of a protagonist or hero figure. This “hero” is often depicted as being the ideal man, repeat: like a character out of a historical romance novel. This role-playing and literal acting of the part selected, is part of what creates the allure and attraction around these rockers. They are like a palette onto which you can project whatever ideals you have, and your dreams will never be crushed, nor fulfilled.

Youshikibi~ Manpires (Part 3)

In the last installment of the Visual Kei series here on SG we talked about the Visual Kei subculture of drag and androgyny within the VK sub-culture of Youshikibi . Today we will talk about the non-drag male aesthetic directions of Visual Kei, which I affectionately refer to as: “Manpires”, the tortured aristocrats.

Versaille's KAMIJO

As I mentioned already in Prince & Princess, the 2nd generation of Visual Kei began developing heavy androgyny themes. Although this ran to extremes with the drag styles of Mana etc, it carried over into what the (normal) men were doing as well.

Although they weren’t putting on dresses, the more masculinely-attuned Visualists were tapping into their more elegant, feminine polarities, developing a physical aesthetic of androgyny, playing into the Japanese concept of the “bishounen”, or pretty-boys. What I mean by “physical aesthetic” is that the aesthetic here has more to do with how the man looks physically, rather than projecting the aesthetic onto the clothing (in my own experience, the dragsters tend to draw the persona from the clothing [as in the case of Mana and Kaya], whereas with the male Visualists, the clothing seem to draw the aesthetic from the personality itself, if that makes any logical sense.).

The ideal man...?

The desire to appear as androgynous and bishounen-beautiful as possible seemed to spring from a particular fantastical and fetishistic concept within the Japanese psyche surrounding Vampires and Vampirism. We all know how, through literature and film, throughout the past 100 years or so, the idea of Vampires went from ugly demons, to a sensuous mythology. The male-vampire image swallowed its monstrosity and became an exquisite seducer who used his beauty and cold charms to get at that delicate white throat.

This concept is personified in the artwork of Kojima Ayami, the concept-art mastermind who developed the character designs and cover work for the prolific, Dracula-hunting Castlevania Nintendo games. (In fact, one of her pieces for Castlevania‘s Dracula character has a striking resemblance to one of Gackt’s Mizerable era outfits.)

A Kojima Ayami vampire

Kojima’s artwork depicts coldly exquisite vampire males, with snow-white skin and aloof facial features. They are strikingly effeminate, and yet with a decided air of manliness at the same time.

This is the aesthetic of the Manpires, the tortured aristocrats.

This aesthetic can be further analysed, however, as one ponders its popularity. The majority of Visual Kei fans are reported to be women– interesting fact, seeing as the Visual Kei aesthetic is one of prettiness and elegance. Shouldn’t these men be hulking out, wailing their ballads from 12-inch-thick Hokuto no Ken throats, flexing and exploding their rugged t-shirts mid-concert?

Apparently not. The aloof, beautiful Vampire figure is more or less an archetype of the “ideal man”. The perfect blend of manly and effeminate, both elegant and yet strong. Gentle, but dangerous. These Visual rockers are personifying this archetype. They are untouchable beings from a realm of fantasy– they can say that they are Vampires from past eras, and if you look at them long enough, eventually it will begin to make a lot more sense than that they went to high-school in Yokohama.

Klaha, ex-Malice Mizer

While Mana and friends were becoming princesses in their own right, the male personalities (I realized a few paragraphs ago that I can’t refer to Mana, Kaya, and HIZAKi as not-men, because they are men. But after watching Kaya videos all evening, I have to admit that I no longer even know what any of these words mean. So I’m groping for some way of defining genders that are extremely undefined. Bear with me.) were also finding their niche. In the realm of fantasy that is youshikibi, this was the tortured aristocrat.

But which aristocracy? Take your pick. Ex-Malice Mizer vocalist Klaha drew his inspiration from the Gothic-Lolita subset of “dandy” and “gothic aristocrat”, which was inspired by the sleek, streamlined suits and funerary attire of 19th and 20th century Europe.

Also-ex-vocalist of Malice Mizer, Gackt played on his affected persona of being a Vampire born in the 16th century, and dressed to impress in elaborate, classical European-opera-esque costumes and vaguely 18th-century French outfits. By 1999 and the 2000s (after he had left Malice Mizer), he was donning full-throttle ensembles that would have made Dracula drool with wardrobe-envy.

Gackt, 1999-2000 era

Kamjio, vocalist of Versailles~Philharmonic Quintet, who is featured in several images above, also plays on the “hero” figure that was adapted by Gackt and Klaha, as well as many other Visual Kei vocalists. This style of “character portrayal” is especially popular in the youshikibi subculture, where the historical themes and stylistic elements often have a story-telling air. You can almost imagine these men as characters out of historical-fiction romance novels. And, for all intents and purposes, that is what they are, and that is why they, and not Kenshiro, are the archetypal personifications of the “ideal man”.

Notes: Hokuto no Ken is an extremely popular manga and anime series from the ’80s. The characters were all extremely manly, with massive, hulking muscles and thick-necks. The aforementioned Kenshiro is the main-character of the series. Interestingly enough, the story was recently re-told by a female manga-ka, who took the original concept work and drew the characters as bishounen. Funny, that.

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).

Youshikibi~ A Visual Aesthetic (Part 1)

Youshikibi

all the angry, beautiful marionettes and marie antoinettes.

Now that we’ve been introduced to X Japan, one of the major figures of the First Generation of Visual Kei, let’s move on to what happened after the glamorous big-hair phase of the unholy and altogether wonderfully evil ’80s splattered across the windshield of the rockin’ 1990’s. Let me put it in terms everyone can understand: This crazy shit got pretty.

xaeron.net_Luna_seaAbove: First Generation Visual Kei (Luna Sea, ’80s) Below: Second Generation Visual Kei (Malice Mizer, 1996-2001)

f_malice8m_0d54d7f Youshikibi is a term I discovered while reading about the Third Generation VK group Versailles, who will be mentioned at a later date. The concept was, as far as I know, conceived by the Princes of VK (who have already been discussed at length here on SG), Malice Mizer. MM (as we will hereby refer to them) arrived on the scene as VK was turning a new corner. The First Generation was, in a manner of speaking, passing on the tartan. The term youshikibi means, loosely, the beauty of form, and is the definition of the VK aesthetic.

Unlike other sub-cultures of the rock movement such as Goth, Emo, Punk, etc, Visual Kei isn’t just a rebellion, it’s an aesthetic. It’s a culture, a style, a revolution unto itself. Visual Kei is, in short, about beauty and the appreciation of beauty. Beauty is in everything, and that is understood in the Japanese concept of wabi sabi and tea-ceremony. The basic concept of wabi sabi lies in a pure, unbiased appreciation of the natural beauty of the form itself. So, for example, a wabi sabi style cup or dish would be imperfect, crafted from something strangely shaped, usually with an inclination toward a natural, unsculpted form. Take that concept, flip it to the opposite extreme, and perfect it in the guise of hardcore punk culture, and you have, basically, Visual Kei as an aesthetic view.

Although you really can’t get any farther from wabi sabi than visual kei, that’s about where we’re at right now. Although I believe I glossed over this briefly in the Intro post, it bears repeating again here: the aesthetic of Visual Kei is an unbiased appreciation of beauty in any form. Whether that is expressed through gothic elegance, Lolita, or bondage and black nail-polish, if you find beauty in that, regardless of anyone’s perception of it or judgments, that is your source of inspiration, focus, and drive. That is your visual kei aesthetic.

BUCK-TICK_15

First Generation...

In the ’80s, everything was wicked loud and wild. In the ’90s, as we moved into the Second Generation of VK, a flip took place. A new wave swept in, and brought with them the influences of the classical opera, 18th and 19th century Europe, Marie Antoinette letting there be cake, mixed it up and blended it on High with a dash of goth.

Around this time, visual kei became about beauty, which is why you will often see a heavy emphasis on androgyny and effeminacy (talking from a perspective that most Visualists are guys…more on that later). Drag is another leading branch in Vis Kei as a fashion movement, however there’s a certain defining quality to Visualist drag and drag-drag. Visualist drag is usually a guy in a dress– they’re not trying to be women. They’re trying to say “I like this, and it flatters me, and that is all that matters.”

“Of Corset Is!”

Ha..ha..get it? AAAACzViJZYAAAAAAB1LVA

Crimson leaves are starting to fall, and rockers far and wide are digging up corsets, frock-coats, and implements of bondage to identify with the gloomy change in weather.

The other day I was talking about how Halloween is coming up, and how I will be spending it at a con. I hope the rest of you have interesting plans for the gloomy un-holiday. I at least hope that you have a party to attend, where much Malice Mizer will be blaring. Martha Stewart suggests complicated green curries cooked in gutted pumpkins, and acrylic-nail application parties for Les Halloween ’09. But we’re a long way from Connecticut, Visualists…

nail-art081

Visual style has wormed its way into the apple of rocker fashion. Most Visualists are rooted strongly in their individuality and creativity, hacking their own look into the world of Visual style. However, because of the nature of Visual style and the rising popularity of Visual Kei as a mainstream genre, it has also transcended personal style and gone into the, shall we say, band-boy-band-girl and/or cosplay modes of expression. A lot of people who appreciate Visual Kei style and music feel that cosplay and band-fan-dom is a way of forging a closer bond to their favorite artists and bands.

Although I personally believe in Visualism and Jrock as a life-source, not to mention life-style, I also believe in cosplay  as legitimate means of expression and appreciation of bands and idols. Even if you decide to do a simple cosplay, and can’t find all the Moitie accessories to glam up your Mana-sama, cosplay well, (and this goes for everyone across the board—) and cosplay with integrity. There’s nothing less appreciative of a band or specific band member than half-assing your depiction of them. If you’re short on time, cash, garb, gear, or all of the above, consider simplifying your effigy by focusing on several very characteristic traits (hairstyle and makeup, for example…whatever the personality is really defined by.) and toning down the other elements. For example, Kanon Wakeshima? Broke? Full-time job (yup, they do go together)? Con in a week? Simple solution! Focus on the hair and makeup and any accessories you can manage, and then try and emulate the experience and sentiment of her outfit without actually recreating it in full! This is much more appropriate than buying a $14 cheesy prom dress from Salvation Army and hauling a cello around.

kanon-wakeshima…and remember…next year, start making the costume right after the convention, not right before. (To be fair, I tried this and failed miserably. Wish me luck that I don’t return a hypocrite….Not that you’d know  either way :D).

Whether you’re seeking to improve your own Visual style, or considering cosplaying your favorite band-member, here is something that may help along the way– and remember, do your best, and have fun! ganbatte ne!:

If you’re totally green to Visual style, but want to go the whole nine yards, a DVD was released in September called Visual Makeup Lesson. The DVD has a variety of lessons to show Visualists how to do typical Visual Kei style makeup. Japanese language with English subtitles. Learn it from the best– and by that I mean, of course, learn it from the Japanese…