Visual Kei wa nan desu ka?

28 Apr

Warning: the videos in this post do contain mature content, and are not for young eyes or the easily creeped out.

Yes, that man did just descend from the sky wearing giant black wings, and had fake blood dripping from his mouth.

I took Japanese as my foreign language in college. Sometimes I wonder what possessed me to decide it was a good idea; I wasn’t a huge anime fan, didn’t know much about Japan, and wasn’t particularly fascinated with the language in the first place.

I already spoke Spanish. That was my line of logic. Note that I don’t own an I’m with stupid shirt with an arrow pointing at myself yet, but probably should. I gave up after two years, with my foreign language requirement fulfilled and balking at the idea of taking classes solely devoted to Kanji (I was miserable at it).

One day I was browsing a Japanese website (with minimal Kanji) and saw an article about the band Malice Mizer. To my young goth brain, their guitarist was BEAUTIFUL.

Mana Sama

The guitarist was also a dude. Lucky! That article ended up sparking a fascination with Visual Kei that lasted me for years. I made myself some Gothic Lolita outfits, ended up reading a lot of Japanese online (which I’m sure helped my grades), and started purchasing Gothic Lolita Bible (it’s a magazine) from the local Japanese grocery store.

Visual Kei is a Japanese music style wherein people get to play dress up. American musicians get to play dress up too, so that’s not an odd concept in and of itself. But they don’t gain mass popularity and play dress up as giant lizards. And if a man decides to play dress up as a woman in American music, it turns into the media questioning his sexual orientation at every step and turn. In Visual Kei, none of that matters. You can dress up as a woman, as a giant lizard, as a video game hero, as a kid in their school uniform, and it’s all gravy.

I still love Visual Kei, I still think Gothic Lolita style is adorable, and I still think Kanji is hard. I have to admit, it bums me out when I go to a concert and the band members are wearing jeans and t-shirts. I feel a bit guilty for this; part of me thinks a concert should really be about the music. After all I studied classical music in school and frankly orchestral penguin suits and black dresses are not much of a show. Stravinky’s Rite of Spring rocks, even with the penguin suits to look at. But Visual Kei has some great music too; Malice Mizer remains one of my favorite bands to this day. If you want to listen to an amazing album, get a hold of Merveilles, it’s mind blowing. They just happen to also have 15 foot black wings and fake blood dripping from the lead singer’s mouth, and damnit, I love it.


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