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.

Advertisements

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.”