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?

 

Dye Lot 501: ‘Russet Mother’

I’m….I’m having some problems….and I was hoping if I put this up, someone would be able to offer me some kind of assistance…or at least some sympathy.

Ever since I developed my capacity to be neurotically fixated on something with those 5 posts dedicated to that Jrock phenomenon, The Perm, I have been highly sensitive to the hair trends among Visual rockers. I was checking out some of the “new looks” for this season, and I noticed something of a disturbing new trend.

This particular hair color was first introduced into the Jrock fashion scene when Nishikawa Takanori started wearing it about, what, 20 years ago?  The difference here is that Nishikawa actually has a cool haircut.

Tetsuya

Tetsuya no longer feels confident in his physical appearance. He has, for the past year or two, had his secret twin sister take his place for photo-shoots and album covers. Pink skulls, pink boots, and fashion-denim? I mean really? Gone are the good ol’ days when Tetsuya still looked like a man, wore rubber-soles, and was never to be seen without at least ten different plaid garments on at once. Only in Japan do all famous men become Californian women when they turn 40.

SCREW

Who’s the hot chick on the far left? And more importantly, why is Kazuki wearing traditional pajamas and a smoking jacket? Middle man Byou there is rocking a pretty much picture-perfect rip-off (just parting it on the right won’t fool me) of the look Ruki started wearing earlier this year.

The GazettE

Aoi and Uruha aside, I have so many issues with this new look for The GazettE— don’t even get me started. Between Ruki’s metallic layers and Kai looking like he’s about to strangle the chef who made the Chicken Cordon Bleu late for table 7, I just don’t know what to think anymore. At least their music is still— oh, wait…

Single COLOR to be released by the one band that has never worn color in their entire existence

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..


So is that what this is. Finally information pertaining to girugamesh‘s July single release has been released. But honestly, at this point I couldn’t care less about the track-list. Honestly, I’ve already decided to buy the single, so as far as that goes, it’s not like I was waiting around for anything. However, there is something vitally more important that happens when new singles come out (particularly at seasonal-junctures): the band changes their look.

I see what you did there, Visual Kei. I take it back. I take back all of the 5 scathing posts, the unflattering pictures (in my defense, isn’t it your responsibility to always look flattering on film?), and every wrong I’ve ever done The Perm. Just take the freaking hats off. For anyone who hasn’t seen any other mad-hatters running around, for their latest single LOVE IS DEAD, D’espairsRay vocalist Hizumi was also pimpin’ a hat. Granted, he looked more like a 1920s gender-confused mafioso rather than some sort of hobo (lookin’ at you, Nii). That said, however, because I think the new look is really quite cool and moving in the direction of fashionable, I’m going to let them off easy this time. Oh, and because it would appear that Nii finally got off the streets– maybe he’s just hiding a bald-spot now.

Satoshi's new digs

Again, I think the look of all the members this time around is actually quite cool. It’s downplayed and casual– denim, the signature black skinny pants, etc. The simplicity is cool because although the outfits probably aren’t anything you couldn’t see on the streets of a chic Tokyo neighborhood, within the scope of Visual Kei they feel fresh and minimalistic-stylish. A lot of the more vet bands these are starting to lay off the psychotic peacock hair-styles and everything…I’m not saying anything against those styles, as I think many of them are quite awesome as well, it’s just that as bands mature, I respect it when they can adapt their look as well. I’m also digging Satoshi’s lack of visible makeup. I guess I can stop secretly referring to him as “Raccoon”.

Ryo

And yes, I do happen to be rebelling against Visual Kei typography by refusing to type his name with a backwards R.

And Shuu is….Shuu. What can I say? Well, let me try: the harem pants will never die? The harem pants should have died? Most metro-sexual people understand the general rule that one does not pair a baggy T-shirt with harem pants? The harem pants should be left in Aladdin? Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with this final look.

SUMMER SINGLE RELEASE INFORMATION: “COLOR

Limited Type

Track-list:

01. COLOR
02. sunrise

Regular Type

01. COLOR
02. sunrise
03. フラワー (Flower)

On that note, though, I was not disappointed remotely by their cover designs. After NOW‘s total failure of an album cover, I was lying awake at night biting my nails over how they would scar us with the new one. It looks like they’ve captured their new theme/style well both look-wise and in the cover. No scarring– just more gloomy cool. I personally prefer the Ltd. type (which is weird, because for some reason I often prefer the regular type). I think their pose is cooler, and the color scheme is undeniable.

The single is released on 7/7. Make sure not to order along with any GACKT related product if you ever want to get your copy…. UNTITLED [w/ DVD, Limited Edition / Jacket A] / girugamesh

Source: official Facebook, neumania

The Saga Clone Wars

Although highly praised for its ingenuity and fashion-forward consciousness, Visual Kei has its own fashion trends– especially now that certain bands have begun to see moderate international renown. It happens in every genre, really, that the bands that really make an imprint on the market start to create some horrible monster within their business. This horrible monster is called simply a “blue-print”, and is what every aspiring artist succeeding them follows in the hopes of finding similar levels of success. For example, ever since princeling band Alice Nine built a veritable fan-girl fan-base, pretty much every new Visual Kei band’s bassist has been styled to look identical to A9‘s Saga. They even try and match their physical appearance. It must be a tough world for any bassists who don’t look like his identical twins. I guess there’s always plastic-surgery.

But, to be true, my perspective on the whole thing isn’t nearly as bleak as I make it sound. It’s not all just grasping at the fame of the forefathers– not at all. I do believe in genuine and sincere appreciation of the preceding groups– they do become famous, and thus they do become role-models for the bands that follow. In this case, of course they want to get the same perm– they’re trying to invoke the same energetic power of the person they admire. I’m sure every single Visualist has experienced, on some level, trying to copy the style of their favorite artists in the same exact attempt to draw on the strengths of their role-model. Why we choose to judge so harshly the fans who are actually trying to make music for a living, I guess we will never know. “Plagiarism” and “copying”, we call it, without actually even thinking about what it is they’re doing, or trying to achieve. Those are cruel words, I think. While certainly there are agencies behind a lot of it, saying “dress him like Saga, and then he will be popular and steal Saga’s fanbase.” I think that there is also just as strong a possibility that the member himself is saying I admire and respect Saga-san and his bass playing. And then, whether done consciously or not, he begins to style himself in the same model he so respects.

Fortunately, many people who start out copping someone-else’s style usually (hopefully) come to draw on their own unique style and strength. At the beginning, though, the effort that it can take to move from Point A to Point B can be so great that the person in question may not feel like it’s possible, and as a result, they draw from someone else and use that as their inspiration that drives them to be able to summon the courage it takes to actually put themselves forward. Once they have moved from Point A to Point B, and it becomes time to move to Point C, then, they can actually look at who they have become, and realize that they no longer need to draw directly from the source that initially gave them strength. They are able to find their own strength, their own style, and emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon, stretching out its own wingspan, colored with its own unique patterning.

There Is a Higher Power…

There is a higher power, and they’re mocking me. After finally emotionally letting go of all the issues I have around Jrockers and their perms, I did an innocent image search looking for an image of MUCC‘s latest style. I clicked through an image…and lo and behold, it takes me to a website with nothing to do with the original image….and all I can see, is this image:

Can anyone tell me about this picture? If you guessed that it’s an image of SADIE with a PERM, then you got it in one. Congratulations, there is now officially a higher power, and they are mocking me. Not only is it a perm, it is the quintessential perm.

Image: Neu + Mania

The Perm: Round 4

I can’t believe I am seriously still finding these…On the news front, GACKT (forget prom-kings, he’s going to be crowned perm king 2010) straightened out his prominent perm for the Otoko Matsuri (I guess this hairstyle doesn’t exactly promote Samurai Spirit in the Japanese male population, does it?) and Nemuri project comments he made recently. The super-straight black hair is something you don’t see on him often, and, to be honest, it’s a little shocking. Not to say I think it should stick around or anything (it should go. Soon.), but the more I look at GACKT with the perm, the more I just get used to it. However, if anyone had the fortune to see GACKT’s CM for Wonda Coffee, then you will be well-aware that he sported the worst perm-like hairstyle ever for that video. This should cleanse the palate:

I think this style is quite cool

This round is Hyde (VAMPS, L’arc~En~Ciel) from 2009[?], a closer look at Karyu (D’espairsRay), and (strangely) a glimpse of Korean rapper Outsider.

These are slight variations on the classic perms we’ve been analyzing thus far. Hyde’s is really just too much. Karyu’s suits him because it’s a very feminine style, and he has that face…the blue eyes, the soft lips…He could do with attending an Otoko Matsuri, that’s for sure.

Although this is a slight rule-bender, Korean rap phenomenon Outsider also sported a wavy perm-variation for his Maestro album…This is actually a really cool picture, and he’s really pulling off the look.

Photo credit:

GACKT – xrytalmad

Hyde – LoveInDeathsArms /Jassmine J.

Karyu – D’espairsRay Official Facebook

Outsider – ??