I just picked up Akemi Oshima's VISUAL ROCK PERFECT DISC GUIDE 500, one of the only books in existence that covers the history of visual kei -- and written by a credible group of people. At the forefront is author Akemi Oshima, who has been involved in the visual kei scene for years and years. I'm personally stoked that there is literature being written on the deep and impressive history of visual kei, so I thought I'd like to share some excerpts from the book.
Before I go any further -- I want you to seriously consider buying the book (still available on Yesasia). "But," you say, "it's expensive," or, "I can't read Japanese." Yes, it's a little pricey, but this is a must-have for fans of visual kei who want to reach beyond their favorite bands and understand the scene better as a whole. And as for the Japanese -- even if you can't read it, this book can give you a list of excellent CDs to check out.
But you know what else buying it does? Buying it sends a message straight to the publisher and the author; a message that says "There's a demand for this! We want to see more! We want to know more!" and, "A visual kei market DOES exist overseas, see!!"
That said, I'm off my soapbox... Ahem.
It's highly unlikely I'll translate the entire thing if only for a lack of time. However, if you have any specific requests of content you'd like translated from the book, feel free to comment here!
Before we get into the text of the Forward, I'd like to leave Akemi Oshima's biography bit from the book here, in case you aren't familiar with her and her experience/qualifications.
A music writer, producer, and MC known as "the walking encyclopedia of visual kei."
A a radio DJ and TV reporter-turned-writer. As a writer specializing in Japanese metal and visual kei, she does a great deal of writing. Additionally, she also produces numbers literary works such as shojo novels and games, novels, and original manga works. Having begun as a personality on TV Saitama's "HOT WAVE" in the 1990s, she has appeared as an emcee on many TV and radio programs. She also has experience having produced "Saijou Hideki ROCK Tribute" (BMG Victor), "KISS Tribute Jigoku no Shousan" (Mercury), and "Visual-kei DVD MAGAZINE Vol.1~4" (MARU MUSIC). She has also been one of the sponsors of the world's most prominent visual kei event, V-ROCK FESTIVAL.
Currently, on one hand she is the emcee and producer for the two-hour broadcast "Visu☆Love☆Cafe" (Worldnet.TV) and a visual kei DJ at the monthly "Visu☆Love☆Night" events, but she also produces rock band NINJAMAN JAPAN and is working on production for "DEAD END TRIBUTE" (avex), to be released in September 2013.
More than twenty years have already passed since the genre of visual kei was born into the Japanese music industry. While it is a genre of music, it is in fact different from terms that directly express kinds of hardcore music, like metal or punk. Without knowing its true form perfectly, we’ve been dazzled by visual kei having swollen completely into one big movement. One after another, bands are entering the market which decorate the front covers of magazines, appear on television hit chart programs, and play shows at the Nippon Budokan and the Tokyo Dome. However, the perception for those other than music industry members and fans that “visual kei = bands that wear makeup” may be the truth. If one were to put it simply that equation might not be incorrect, but perhaps it is not only that. Perhaps I should say – the dazzling world of visual kei goes extraordinarily deep.
Since it is not necessarily a fixed musical genre, there is no set manner of expression in musicality or style. If you consider that there are bands that perform typical heavy metal, you’ll also find there are bands that specialize in a dark sound mixed with the flow of British rock or positive punk, and bands that first adopted mixtures and digital rock. From bands that apply thick makeup with the sense that they are painting a picture on their face like “makeup is art,” to bands that wear casual styles that can be seen walking around Shibuya or Harajuku, appearances are also diverse. Dancing without an instrument, adopting theatrical components or pantomime, performing a skit in the middle of a live – anything can happen. The flexible stance that if it’s fun then it’s okay; if it’s cool then it’s okay has, on one hand, given birth to wild fans, is a double-edged sword in that it also adds to the number of people who express disapproval.
Perhaps because this situation has continued for so long there is a large number of magazines which cover visual kei bands, but you can scarcely find books which introduce them neatly. When I heard the editor at SHINKO MUSIC talk about this “VISUAL ROCK PERFECT DISC GUIDE 500,” I suddenly realized that. Thus, I thought the reader would also enjoy it if we made a book that was packed with more varied information rather than a book that simply introduces five-hundred visual kei CD titles.
The flow since the birth of visual kei which has traversed the golden age and ice age and come to the present; how to enjoy characteristic fashion and lives; a discussion with visual kei musicians spanning generations. My thought is simply that it would be nice for this to be a book full of elements for readers to nod and think, “Is that so,” and grow to like visual kei even more.
For the album introductions, I asked writers who have been active at the front lines of the visual kei scene. At first I had chosen the five-hundred, but after that, I received different insights from the writers and it turned into a hard-hitting lineup. Though I’ve been working in the visual kei scene for a considerably long time, the fact is there are bands I know well and bands I don’t know so well. There were many times when I would receive precise advice from a knowledgeable writer about a band’s work on which I’m not very knowledgeable, and I’d agree with an “Is that so.”
Actually, it was fun to read everyone’s drafts and it made me want to listen to CDs I haven’t listened to in a while, so there were several times when I pulled them out of storage and put them in the player.
Considering it aims at not only CD introductions but being a perfect guide for visual rock, this book is a rule-breaker that hardly contains any of the musicians’ visuals (laugh). But, I think the glamorous introduction to visual kei has been tightly condensed and packed in. I think it’s a worthwhile read with plenty to it, so I’d like you to pick it up and enjoy it without rushing through. I hope that after reading, readers will come to love this wonderful scene overflowing with originality, even more.