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Visual kei (V系) is a Japanese fashion movement among Japanese musical artists with influences based in Glam Rock, Goth, Punk and traditional Japanese dresses.

The results of this conglomeration of influences include very flamboyant and big hair, heavy makeup, and elaborate costumes of varying styles. Determining whether a band is visual kei or not is generally rather easy - it can be as simple as looking at images of the band, and either the fans or the artists themselves will be sure to let you know if they are, as it's generally a conscious choice to be a part of the scene.  

As it is primarily a visual style, it's impossible to pin down visual kei by hearing alone, and to dismiss a band as "not visual kei" based on their sound is unwise, as the music can range from J-pop to extreme metal to electronic dance music.

Subgenres

Eroguro Kei

The name is the combination of the English words “erotic” and “grotesque” often utilizing such extreme themes in an unnatural and twisted manner. The culture influencing the eroguro style stems from the 1920s – 1930s with the birth of ero guro nansensu and artists like Edogawa Ranpo, leading to ero guro as an artistic genre influencing horror and erotic cinema as well as manganime (hentai included). With that in mind, Eroguro is something very old in comparison to Visual Kei. Eroguro Kei is the representation of this old theme in the genre. Cali=Gari, whose name comes from the notorious silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is considered the pioneer of the genre. Other bands considered eroguro would be Merry or MUCC. DIR EN GREY, especially during their Vulgar period is arguably Eroguro Kei.

Iyrou Kei

Iryou means “medical”. It features this use of grotesque medical themes such as bloody lab coats and eye patches. Bands that are associated with Iyrou Kei are Sex Android and +isolation.

Kote Kei

This type of Visual Kei is considered the oldest and most established form. It’s the type of Visual Kei that most people think about when they think about the genre as a whole. It is often refered to as the “classic” look. Usually the hair style is dramatic as well as the clothing. It is also important to note that this subgenre is found in two types “black” and “white” in which a band can portray a darker side as with the first type or a lighter more melodic side as with the latter. Types of Kote Kei are La’Mule, early Dir en Grey, Lariene, and Madeth Gray’ll.

Tanbi Kei

A subset of kote kei, the name of this style translates to "Aesthetical Style". The name refers to any aesthetic, although this style only focuses on a single aesthetic, a European inspired one. The outfits are usually extremely detailed and elaborate costumes, with dramatic makeup to match. The style is heavily influenced by the Baroque, Victorian and Rococo periods of European fashion. It also can employ the dramatic hairstyles seen in Kote Kei, as well as add in accessories like bonnets and period-typical hats. Bands that are associated with this style are Malice Mizer, Lariene, Versailles and the musician Kaya.

Fashion

  • Flashy hairstyles
  • Pale skin or shironuri
  • Piercings
  • Spiky hair with colorful segments or streaks
  • Highly elaborate outfits
  • Gloves
  • Rings
  • Platform shoes

Music

  • The GazettE
  • Dir En Grey
  • Kamijo
  • ACME
  • Miyavi
  • Luna See
  • X-Japan
  • Moi Dix Mois
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Versailles
  • Shazna
  • D'erlanger

Resources

There are many places online to get in touch with the Visual Kei community:

Sites

Blogs

Vendors

Gallery