関ジャム VK special episode

Was I right or was I right???

関ジャム (Kan Jam) aired last night with the anticipated MALICE MIZER clip!!
I'm a little excited about it, maybe for stupid reasons, but somehow it felt good to see my predictions come true!

For those who don't know, Kan Jam is a show that focuses on music and on last night they had an episode focused on Visual Kei history. Mana mentioned on Twitter that a MALICE MIZER clip might be shown on this episode, so of course fans had their hopes up that the clip would air.

I then took to this blog in the last entry to talk a little about more recent updates, which included a commentary about this show. In that entry I talked about how even though the TV show had requested to use the clip, it may not be guaranteed that it will actually be used. However, considering the fact that this was VK history and MALICE MIZER certainly had a big influence within that world surely it would air.

I also commented that I believed the subjectivity of the MALICE MIZER clip would likely be something generic and easy to understand by a large number of viewers. When I said that originally Gekka no Yasoukyoku was the first thing to pop into my head. In fact, looking back at that entry I'm surprised I didn't say it! Did I write it and then erase it?? Anyway, thats exactly what appeared.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to record any high quality footage of the show since I don't have a DVD recorder or anything, but I did live broadcast it on twitter as it aired!!

I'm sorry the quality isn't great, but as of right now this is all I have. I think the MALICE MIZER portion is somewhere towards the middle mark (30 mins in or so) of the episode. I had to hold the camera up to the TV for the full hour because the ledge I had it sitting on broke off right from the beginning (><)

If you're interested in the commentary, Shou Kiryuuin (Vo. Golden Bomber) talked about how MALICE MIZER was his first band and how they made a huge impression on him. He mentioned particularly how he questioned if they were really playing instruments at all since they were often dancing or creating productions where they may not have seemingly been able to truly play, but in fact they do play their instruments. (For those who don't know Golden Bomber, they're sort of an air rock VK band that doesn't actually play instruments, so the reference was somewhat of a tie-in to Golden Bomber's band activities)

In terms of MALICE MIZER, the focus was more on their music style and quite a bit of attention seemed to be payed on Gackt and Kami's piano and drums duet.

The MALICE MIZER video of the clip used for Kan Jam can be found here:

Kami & Gackt Duet

When thinking of the entirety of this show, it brought back memories of bands I used to listen to all the time but have somewhat forgotten over the years. It was actually refreshing to hear songs that made me think "I remember this!!!"
I miss those days a little......

More interestingly to me though, the show divided it's content up by decades and it made me think about the timing I got interested in VK and which era I feel the biggest connection to. They even talked a bit about the western VK boom in the US and Europe and how its popularity arose, as well as its connection to anime and "cool Japan." Their explanation was exactly right, but its fascinating to think about the situation from the perspective of Japanese people (essentially the artists). In fact, thats a topic I really wanted to add my own thoughts to on here!!


What should I call this section?

Sarah's International VK Perspective ??😂

Heres a stupid old picture of me so you're not too bored looking at a giant wall of text.

Maybe this isn't a point of view many people get to hear about, which is why I wanted to share these thoughts.

So far I’ve been living in Japan for 8 years, but actually my first visit to Japan was 10 years ago! Going back even further than that, I probably became interested in VK about 15 years or more ago at this point.

As I recall, when I first learned about Visual Kei it still wasn’t something that was widely known but it was on the verge of breaking through to western audiences. The information I was able to find at that time was scarce and relatively dated, but I think in some ways the trend of outdated information prevailed for a long time until finally social media started to shorten the gap between Japan and western countries.

As VK was gaining popularity there was a common urge among fans to find as much material as possible despite the limitations we faced. It was also such a new concept to us that we were all consuming as much content as possible in order to embrace VK to the best of our abilities. It felt like a scavenger hunt, particularly online, because you could forget finding anything in real life.

Heres a trivia question: Do you know what my first MALICE MIZER song was?
(I'll answer it at the end)

As a result, my VK music library slowly grew with samples of various band's most popular songs. Finding full albums to listen to was a little tricky, so sometimes I was limited to only a couple songs by each band I came across. If I was lucky I could find more than that, but for a while I had to make do with what I could find. I think thats why when I watched Kan Jam it brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings. I'll never forget those early days sorting through a huge mesh of various band's songs and attempting to reach out to anyone possible to share music and information with.

The short samples contained on this CD were the first Moi dix Mois songs I ever heard because at the time no full length songs were available.

But finally the boom hit. Lots of bands came to the US and played at anime conventions because thats the market where VK would likely have its highest chance to succeed. And succeed it did! However, notably, just as it was discussed on Kan Jam, Dir en Grey eventually became an exception to that rule and was able to tour and perform outside of anime conventions.
VK bands at that time were able to have an ever stronger hold in Europe where they were able to have concerts and tours in major cities that weren't connected to anime conventions.

Old picture of me with Shun (Gu.) from the band Duel Jewel. This was my first encounter with a VK band in person and a first for VK bands at anime conventions in the US.

Online communities focused on VK started popping up too, especially on websites like Livejournal where people could create "communities" focused on their favorite bands. I wonder if there are many people still around from that time period?

When the VK craze was at its highest, in the mid-late 2000's, information about Japanese pop culture found a sharp rise in interest too. Suddenly US anime conventions became polarized. It was obvious who was explicitly going for VK bands, who was there for fashion (lolita, ganguro, oshare kei, etc), and who was there for anime/manga/cosplay. These groups isolating themselves from the others (for a lack of better words) caused a lot of tension, particularly between anime/manga fans and VK fans. Those who were interested in street fashion seemed to be somewhere in the middle, but more or less leaned towards the way of VK fans.

Thinking about it now, I feel like even the more hardcore VK fans outside of Japan still didn't entirely have a grasp on the insight of their favorite bands. I say this while thinking specifically about MALICE MIZER and Moi dix Mois (probably to an extent bands like Dir en Grey too). While it was easy to understand and appreciate their music and aesthetics, I often felt like we westerners may have been missing out on some deeper meanings lost in translation. Perhaps that contemplation came from the fact that MALICE MIZER's intent was to explore the ideology of "What is human?"

With obstacles such as language gaps creating barriers, it seemed we were about 10 years behind the actual current trends in Japan. Everyone talked about the infamous Harajuku bridge and how loads of VK and Japanese street fashion enthusiasts gathered there on Sundays as a sort of a huge fan frenzy. However, you could imagine my shock when I finally came to Japan for the first time in 2007 and didn't see the spectacle I had been anticipating. All the people at the bridge in Harajuku were.....GONE!

Well, that is, except for this very small group of kids who were fighting to keep it alive.

I think as time progressed on there was another sort of "soft revival" of interest in places like the Harajuku bridge and VK bands in general when speaking about Japan, but I wonder if that had some kind of connection to the enthusiasm coming in from overseas? When I finally moved to Japan permanently in 2009, I noticed a short lived boost in participants at the cosplay bridge, but a key element of that was the sudden influx of tourists specifically looking for the illustrious Harajuku bridge cosplayers.

Once I gained a deeper understanding of the VK culture from within Japan, my own perception was changed. I think before then my mentality was pretty typical of most overseas VK fans, and I think that implies a lot of misconstrued ideas of VK's current status at that time...or at least the era I was most familiar with.

This is why when I say the west was about 10 years behind Japan, it created a lot of inaccurate portrayals of the reality.
The bands I was most familiar with mostly came from the 90's (and to some extent the 80's), but since almost all VK bands were considered "new" outside Japan, I was looking at older content that depicted how popular/famous many of these bands were in Japan and believed those sentiments still applied today. Thats not to say they weren't famous, but a lot of major recognition of these 90's bands were already in the midst of diminishing due to the changing of times. Its like talking about groups such as the Spice Girls in the west and claiming they still hold major relevancy today in 2017. Of course there are still people out there who are very passionate about them, but the bulk majority of people would probably say "Oh yeah, I remember them! I used to love them when I was younger!"

With that realization, I began to struggle with the VK community outside of Japan. Before I knew it, getting involved with the Japanese community was giving me an inside look into VK culture that painted a more realistic picture of the situation. If I tried to speak about this reality to people outside Japan I would be demonized because it didn't match the image that was being perceived. As a natural course Visual Kei in the 2000's and early 2010's was handed over to newer bands and some older bands that had achieved massive commercial success. Several of the 90's bands I knew and loved didn't quite fit into that mold anymore, but a lot of westerners were convinced that they did.

Dio, Rentre en Soi, 12012, and Sugar were a few of the many bands I met in the 2000’s who were quickly entering the forefront of the VK world.

Since I took the route of following Mana as an artist over other VK musicians, my understanding of the VK world also gained some other unique perspectives. As Moi dix Mois toured Europe a couple times, a lot of the western Moi dix Mois/MALICE MIZER fanbase was centralized in Europe, and it seemed the attitudes of those fans matched up with the views of American fans as well. That is to say, everyone was under the impression that Mana was a major star, implying some kind of major commercial success. Statistically speaking Merveilles was the commercial success of MALICE MIZER and of course Mana is without a doubt one of the most important components of that. However, with the progression of time, a major observation I've noticed is that when speaking to the general public in Japan, Gackt's role seems to be what people remember the most of the band. Thats not to undermine Mana or any of the other members, but in all my years of working in Japan I think I can only count the number of times I've met people who understood who Mana was on one hand...

So was Mana a success? Yes absolutely, of course! I have no doubt in my mind about it. But when looking at the bigger picture, I started to gain a sense of "people who were invested in VK at one point or another certainly know who Mana is, but people who may have casually listened to music related to MALICE MIZER or VK in general without much investment may not remember." So I felt like the western perspective was somewhat misplaced. I think a lot of these fans didn't take into account the difference between "fame within the VK industry" and "fame in general." This is exactly why I claimed "Gekka no Yasoukyoku" to be "generalized material for a wider audience." Since Merveilles was MALICE MIZER's most famous album, Gekka no Yasoukyoku often seems to be used as a major representation of their success.

I think this point of view applies to a lot of the VK world, so I absolutely love what Kan Jam tried to achieve on their show last night. It showed the culture of Visual Kei and where fits in the world. They not only talked about it's history, but a deeper understanding that is rarely touched on nowadays. Visual Kei is at the forefront of things I have been passionate about the longest in my life, and being able to see it from various angles is something I cherish a lot. Since I connect with the 90's era the most, I don't tend to go to many concerts anymore outside of Moi dix Mois, but that doesn't mean I don't respect what it has become today. Its amazing to see how VK has changed over time, and I think its important that it does so it can continue to peak the interests of people who will strive to keep that passion alive.

Trivia Question Time!
What was my first MALICE MIZER song?
The answer is Seraph!!
I will never forget, the moment I heard this song it felt like something clicked inside of me and from that instant I said "THIS is the music I have been looking for!"
Ever since then the rest is history...


If anybody actually reads this to the end, thank you!!

Visual Kei, especially MALICE MIZER and Moi dix Mois, is something I've been very passionate about for a long time and it was nice to go in depth about the topic again after many years.

As one last remark before closing this entry, I wanted to make a special note that the other day on Mana's blog, Monologue†Garden, he made a small commentary about the upcoming Novmber guest appearance. It seems my hunch that this event will never officially be announced was also correct. Heres a translation of that post:

† シークレットゲスト
† Secret Guest
I have decided to play a little bit of guitar at a certain live in November.
The live is with an artist I am very connected to.
It will be pretty rare, so find out who it is and please come~


Anyway, I hope this entry was fun to read. I was so happy to finally see MALICE MIZER on TV first hand!!
Its like a dream...
Really, I'm so glad for the opportunity!

If any of you enjoyed this entry, maybe it would be fun to make this into a more regular column on here?
I could talk more exclusively on information pertaining directly to the history and details of Mana, MALICE MIZER, Moi dix Mois, Moi-meme-Moitie, etc. if that seems interesting.
If you like the idea of it please let me know!