Aesthetics Wiki
Advertisement

Visual Kei (ビジュアル系) is a movement among Japanese musical artists with influences based in Glam Rock, Goth, Punk and traditional Japanese clothing. Female visual kei fans are referred to as "bangya" (バンギャ), a shortened form of the English phrase "band girl."

History[]

Visual kei originated in the late 80s, but was heavily influenced by early 80s Japanese Goth rock and Post-Punk bands in its visuals (particularly bands like Auto-Mod, Madame Edwarda, Phaidia, and Die Zibet).

Going even further back, the Japanese Post-Punk bands were musically and aesthetically influenced by members of particularly theatrical Goth and neo-Glam bands, like Japan, Hanoi Rocks. Bauhaus, Gene Loves Jezebel, and Christian Death. (Zin-Francois Angelique of Madame Edwarda and ISSAY of Die Zibet took from this style especially.)

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 - 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[]

Okeshou Kei (お化粧系)[]

The earliest form of visual kei, predating the coining of the term "visual kei" itself. Throughout the 1980s, Japanese media tended to refer to all bands who wore makeup on stage, such as Japanese Hair Metal and Goth bands, as "okeshou" (makeup) bands. As time went on, okeshou bands began to coalesce into a more unified scene. In 1991, the term "visual kei" was coined by the editor in chief of SHOXX magazine, inspired by X Japan's slogan "Psychedelic Violence - Crime of Visual Shock,"[1] and many of the okeshou bands which still existed at that time began to refer to themselves as visual kei, with the stylings of the 80s/early 90s bands being called "okeshou kei." Due to their influence, okeshou bands which had already broken up before 1991 are often considered early visual kei bands despite never using the term for themselves.

Eroguro Kei[]

A subgenre of visual kei that deals with the topic of macabre fetishism in both its visuals and lyrics. It is derived from the Ero-Guro art movement, the name being a combination of the English words “erotic” and “grotesque". 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 (their Vulgar period is arguably Eroguro Kei).

Iryou Kei (医療系)[]

Bands that utilize hospital and medical themes as part of their songs, often in a sort of horror theme. Bands that are associated with iryou kei are Sex-Android and +isolation.

Kote Kei (コテ系)[]

A label originating in the 1990s given to goth-inspired bands. These bands tend to have much less polished looks and sounds than other bands. Some bands considered kote kei are La’Mule, early Dir en Grey, and Madeth Gray’ll.

Tanbi Kei (耽美系)[]

Bands that are highly inspired by historical European styles such as Baroque, Victorian, and Rococo, as well as elements of classical music (whether in the form of light baroque pop or heavier symphonic metal). Tanbi kei has heavy overlap with the Aristocrat aesthetic. The outfits are usually extremely fancy, detailed and elaborate costumes, with dramatic makeup to match. Bands that are associated with this style are Malice Mizer, Lareine, Versailles and the solo musician Kaya.

Soft Visual Kei[]

A subgenre whose popularity coincided with the height of the scene's domestic popularity in the 1990s, soft visual kei (also called "sofubi"/ソフビ for short) is a stripped-down visual kei aesthetic. Rather than loud, elaborate costumes, soft visual bands wear plainer (but still stylish) clothing, and their hairstyles and makeup are usually much less dramatic than average visual kei bands. Examples of notable soft visual bands include Glay, L'Arc~en~Ciel, and Janne Da Arc.

Oshare Kei (お洒落系)[]

Main article: Oshare Kei

Also called "osare kei" (オサレ系), this is a "happier" form of visual kei that came into popularity in the 2000s. Oshare kei bands wear bright clothing inspired by 2000s trends, often with bold and sometimes clashing patterns. Their music is most often pop rock or pop punk. Popular oshare kei bands include An Cafe, LM.C, and SuG. This form of visual kei eventually evolved into the kirakira kei subgenre in the 2010s, with several late oshare bands becoming kirakira bands.

Koteosa Kei (コテオサ系)[]

A subgenre of visual kei which combines the gothic aesthetic of kote kei with the stylish, colorful trappings of oshare kei. This subgenre became extremely popular in the 2000s and is often considered the "default" look for a visual kei band, especially among fans outside of Japan.

Kirakira Kei (キラキラ系)[]

A bright, happy subgenre of visual kei that originated from oshare kei in the early 2010s. Kirakira kei bands utilize even brighter colors than oshare bands, leading to a glossy look. Kirakira kei bands are heavily inspired by pop idols and usually include high electronic influences.

Fashion[]

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

Footwear[]

  • New Rock Boots
  • Gordon Jack Platforms
  • Swear Alternative
  • El Dantes Boots
  • Demonia

Media[]

Manga[]

  • Bangal a Go-Go
  • Bangal-chan no Nichijou
  • Bangya Loop
  • Bangya Tensei
  • Imouto Bangya
  • Layla no Hogosha wa Bandman
  • The Himitsu no Bangyaru-chan

Music[]

  • The GazettE
  • Dir En Grey
  • Sukekiyo
  • Kamijo
  • ACME
  • Miyavi
  • Luna Sea
  • X-Japan
  • Moi Dix Mois
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Versailles
  • Shazna
  • D'erlanger
  • Buck-Tick
  • Die Zibet
  • DADAROMA
  • Mejibray
  • Malice Mizer
  • Madmans Espirit
  • Schwartz Stein
  • Femme Fatale
  • gulu gulu

Playlists[]

Resources[]

External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.

Communities[]

Vendors[]

Gallery[]

Advertisement