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.

Takanori ‘Manicure’ Revolution

Taiko-drumming, dancing ninja. Tactfully sheer pants. Slow motion. Anime-theme-song god almighty T.M.Revolution, as my good friend and fellow blogger sakurayume would say, can truly do no wrong. Not only has the PV for part one of his latest double A-side Naked Arms/Sword Summit been released, I have even been able to find an HD version that will actually play stereo.

I don’t know what it is, but lately Jrock and Visual Kei PVs (and now apparently badass Jpop as well) have become really monochromatic. Perhaps it’s the promotional-video version of the custom of only ever wearing black and white (guilty as charged). Whatever it is, it makes everything look cool.

My only complaint about the Naked Arms PV is that I didn’t feel like it went anywhere. Finally T.M. just spontaneously combusted and returned to whatever divine realm he came from, and left the ninja to disrobe mysteriously off screen. Despite that, both the PV and the song were both satisfying and powerful. I am highly anticipating hearing Sword Summit (although out of the two it interested me the least when I heard the previews), and of course putting it all together as a complete single, which is where, when it comes down to it, the magic happens.

Finally, it’s not a T.M. PV without the extended manicure fan-service. Yes, T.M., you have the best nails in Japan.

Also check out the actual OP clip for the game Sengoku Basara 3 in which this plays:

TMR Naked Arms / Sword Summit / Nosebleed

Despite the crazy release schedule for this summer/fall in the world of Jrock, Jpop, and Visual Kei, I think that there’s a certain voice in particular that some of us, at least, have been missing. I’ll give you a hint: he can wail and warble like nobody’s business.

Well, get down on your knees and give thanks. T.M.Revolution will be gracing us all with his tremulous tenor talents on August 11th with the release of Naked Arms / Sword Summit. The song is being used as the second intro theme for the PS3/Wii game Sengoku Basara 3 (he has previously done work for this game with abingdon boys school) and intro theme for the anime take, Sengoku Basara 2.

Check out the CM preview for the single:

Personally, I think that TMR is looking better than ever. His outfit is cool enough to make the best-dressed out there feel like they’re wearing sweatpants and a jersey, and the tough sub-masculine image works wonders for the fashionisto.

The CM is quite cool. If Jrock PVs get any more aerodynamic and stylish I might have a nosebleed. The black and white themes all over the place are so clean and timelessly cool, and I am particularly liking it for TMR because a certain someone has a bit of a history for over-the-top flashiness and outrageous PVs. Now that he’s more of an ani in the J-music scene, I appreciate this more mature (yet still totally rockin’) image, and alongside GACKT’s recent styles, I have to say I think this is one of my favorite looks out there right now.

I’m really looking forward to hearing the full single, as Naked Arms sounded especially cool. I think it would be safe to say that we always know we can leave it to Nishikawa Takanori to always keep up the standard.

The single will be released in 3 versions:

Regular Vers.

This is my least favorite cover out of them all. Honestly, I think something about how it’s been shot is kind of unflattering.

Anime Vers.

This one, however, gets my approval 100%.

Game Vers.

This cover is also awesome. I really like how they steadily zoom in on his image and get gradually more flattering.

All versions first-press edition come with a poster (which is hopefully not of the regular version cover)– which I want, just throwing that out there.

Pre-order and get your poster (I didn’t list it first for any particular reason) and a sick new single: Naked arms / Sword Summit [w/ DVD, Limited Edition (Animation Ver.)] / T.M.Revolution

Video credit: test69rock

Image credit: TMRevolution official Twitter @TMR15

Visualist Dementia: Symptoms

If you’re a serious fan or follower of any type of media, from music to film to theater, then I’m sure you understand the level of masochism, devotion, and psychological confusion that aforementioned fans and followers deal with as a result of their fandom. As anyone who follows my blog knows by now, I prefer to refer to other followers of Visual Kei and Jrock, and be referred to, as “Visualists” rather than “fans”. For some reason the word “fan” has some negative connotations in my experience, and while I don’t refuse the word strictly, I work with it hesitantly.

In any case, whether you’re a fan, follower, devotee, acolyte, or Visualist, we all experience the same pain, and regardless of where you are, who you are, and how you express your appreciation for the (fill in the blank), we all share a common ground: appreciation. And pain, of course. With great devotion comes great capacity to suffer. At least, I hope you have a great capacity– otherwise I don’t envy you.

Now, it’s not that we just like something and can’t get enough of it because it makes us happy. But if you say it’s obsession then I’ll be offended- I don’t have some unhealthy mental affliction that needs to be rectified by luminous Vitamin B supplements. (Although I hear that a vitamin B [niacin] deficiency is characterized by ‘aggression, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, and in serious cases may lead to dementia.’ Which means I should probably be taking it). It’s just…visualist dementia. I use the term ‘visualist dementia’ as an excuse for all of the erratic behavior caused by an acute devotion to Visual Kei. (Before you ask– yes, I have a highly advanced case.) The only Visualist that they’ve been able to ‘cure’ underwent severe correctional treatment involving brutal methods such as putting them into a padded room and playing Arashi at high volume for countless hours….something you and I can only fathom in our darkest nightmares… Particular symptoms of visualist dementia may or may not include: lack of sleep due to waiting for overseas tour announcements (however factual or fictional), lack of an ability to measure distance based on miles rather than love of a band, and strange lapses of musical hypocrisy.

Now, the misconception that many Visualists may or may not be under, is that Japanese record labels don’t know about visualist dementia. But in fact, they know. They know very well. And based on scientific research on the topic, they invented a form of psychological torture that is widely utilized to improve sales and overseas awareness of artists. This intense form of sadistic punishment….is called marketing. (Note: As of 2010 synonymous with Twitter).

It’s amazing how concentrated our dementia becomes the instant hopes for overseas activity becomes possible. I mean, how cruel is it for band PR to throw around the words “important announcement”? “Important announcement” in our language is synonymous with “overseas tour in our region”. I mean, come on, don’t they know that? (oh trust me, they do) And then they go and announce that it’s not a tour at all, just the release of  some single that we can already get direct from Japan, complete with pre-order bonuses. When that happens, we have no choice but to do our best not to drown kittens in a kiddie pool because no kidding we already got the single, with all of the pre-order bonuses, and don’t need the local version, because we’re saving for CONCERT TICKETS.

And then when they finally announce a tour in Location B, certain people cancel all of their plans with normal people using the excuse that “Sorry, I can’t make it to your event, because Band A will be releasing their tour announcement for my area, and I want to be there when they do so I can get tickets.” Your friends get angry and think you’re going insane, you stay up all night getting jazzed off NesCafe because you don’t want them to release the information at your 4AM which is their 5PM (next day) and have the tickets all sell out before you can get some.

I’ve been thinking about this because there’s been quite a lot of ticketing activity lately. Between MIYAVI, D’espairsRay, VAMPS, and then GACKT’s Europe tour (I know some of you hardcores from this side of the great blue are going), more than a few nerves have been frayed and fried over the past few months. I don’t know about you guys, but I sure got a psychological milking from D’espairs when they took like three months between the “US tour announcement to be released tomorrow!” and the actual promised announcement making an appearance. (For some reason I actually fell for that one.) In a way this is a perfect example of our rabid existence. We spend so much time whining about why won’t the bands ever come to us, and then they come to us and it’s like man, can our nerves even handle this? Can you handle this?


Takanori Makes New Single

It’s an inside-joke.

I want to move to Shiga prefecture when I move to Japan. Shiga, located a little north of Kyoto, is where amazing rock artists come from. Including, but not limited to, GACKT, Tetsuya (of L’arc~En~Ciel), and T.M.Revolution (Nishikawa Takanori). That’s a busy area for talentos in general, as Kyoto is also a regular outlet for major stars and idols. In any case, it’s T.M. we’re talking about today.


Being the biggest, most internationally renowned star to come out of Shiga (Tetsuya fans don’t hurt me– it’s true), last year Nishikawa was named the Cultural Ambassador of Shiga. In any case,  on March 3rd T.M. will release a new single, available only as digital download. The song, titled “Lakers” was performed live several times last year, and will also be used as the image-song for the 65th Biwako Marathon. Lyrics were written by Nishikawa’s personal friend, Inoue Akio, and the production was taken care of by Asakura Diasuke.

Biwako, (Biwa Lake) is a beautiful regional lake located in Shiga, and the new song, LAKERS, is dedicated to this regional natural monument. Nishikawa comments:

[Last year in September I was able to take a look at the landscape around Biwako during the Inazuma Rock Fes. During that time, the impressions of the Taiko-Drums and the sound of the wind have influenced the making of the song. I think the greatness of Shiga-Prefecture, including all the players, and its landscape can be felt, while the tempo is a little more daring. With the tempo of a lake without waves, the song is completely influenced by Biwako and its surroundings.](1)

On March 24th T.M. will also release the song Imaginary Ark, which will round off his collaboration for the T.M.R.×GUNDAM SEED SPECIAL PROJECT [X42S-REVOLUTION] for the 30 Anniversary of the GUNDAM Series.

(1) From MusicJapan+