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Kaoru Niikura, known mononymously by his given name Kaoru, is a Japanese guitarist, songwriter and record producer best-known as the bandleader and lead guitarist of the post-VisualKei experimental metal band Music/DirEnGrey. Since 1996 he has been involved in the Visual scene as a guitarist for CHARM and La:Sadie's.

He has composed most of Dir en grey's songs and is credited as the band's primary composer and producer (up until the ''Vulgar'' album, where individual credits were dropped). Many of his compositions display [[NeoclassicalPunkZydecoRockabilly great variety in terms of sound]], often ranging from soft, slow ballads to upbeat, aggressive metal songs. He is also a proficient soloist; his melodic solos vary greatly in feeling, tempo and technicality.

Like fellow bandmate Music/{{Toshiya}}, he is also an illustrator.

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'''Kaoru provides examples of:'''
* AmbiguousGender: Plays this trope straight as far as appearance is concerned, even more so in his early days in the visual scene.
* AscendedFanboy: Became this. He is a fan of Music/XJapan's [[Music/HidetoMatsumoto hide]] and entered the Visual scene in order to become as great as him. He and his band got signed to Music/{{Yoshiki|Hayashi}}'s Creator/ExtasyRecords in the early part of their career and took on his idol's image. He also become a household name in modern Visual Kei and received recognition as a promising talent in the metal scene. He is so praised for his guitar skills that he was eventually chosen as a candidate for hide's replacement as X Japan guitarist. The position went to Music/LunaSea guitarist Sugizo, however.
* {{Biseinen}}
* DudeLooksLikeALady: [[WholesomeCrossdresser Presented himself as this]] in his early years. Even in some recent photos, he doesn't look like the manliest member of the band.
* DyeHard: Has had flaming red, purple and pink hair before, but currently his hair color is around the red-black range and currently you can't really tell if his hair color is black or a really deep red.
* {{Expy}}: A blatant Music/{{hide|toMatsumoto}} clone; he is almost in competition with fellow bandmate Music/{{Die}}, and the two often seem to outdo each other.
** One of their more recent photoshoots has them looking like [[http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/images/artists/dir-en-grey.jpg mirror images of each other]]
* ElegantGothicLolita: During the band's most Visual phases, but averted in recent years.
* FanNickname: "God of Death".
* FollowTheLeader: A huge fan of [[Music/HidetoMatsumoto hide]] and wanted to be like him (see above). [[AscendedFanboy He did]].
* {{Guyliner}}
* HarshVocals: He tries to mimic Kyo's singing, though he ends up sounding like Music/MariaCross.
* LongHairedPrettyBoy: Has always been.
* LongRunnerLineUp: Part of one of Visual Kei's most long-lived bands. He is somehow proud of it and considers the band and his bandmates as important.
* TheMentor: Music/{{Yoshiki|Hayashi}} helped shape his Music/{{hide|toMatsumoto}} cloning attempt by injecting an XJapan-esque vibe to his early works.
* NiceHat: Loves hats and owns a rather extensive collection.
* OjouRinglets: He has been curling his hair more and more in recent years; in 2011 he went for loose barrel curls, in 2012 he went for EightiesHair and nowadays he seems to be going for a messier version of his 2011 hairstyle.
* OlderThanTheyLook: Almost in his forties, though he looks like one of the band's youngest members.
* OneOfUs / {{Otaku}}: Admits that he is a {{Gundam}} fanboy. Also loves playing video games and has once mentioned that he borrows games from Kyo.
* OurZombiesAreDifferent: Popularized Dir en grey's tagline: "Japanese Zombie Heroez" which is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin - the band is usually portrayed in music videos as a group of VisualKei zombies playing metal songs (as seen in the [=PVs=] for "Obscure", "The Final", "Hageshisa to..." and "Different Sense"). He claims that it first appeared on his ESP Ganesa VIII in a live show and ever since then the tagline has appeared on every one of his signature guitars, picks and straps. It has also appeared in the band's official merch and as a tattoo worn by some Visual Kei fanboys.
* TheRedStapler: ESP "Japanese Zombie Guitars" and [[Music/HidetoMatsumoto hide]] merchandise.
* RenaissanceMan: Aside from music, he once said that, during his school years, he was known as an excellent student who specialized in arts and sports. [[BrilliantButLazy He isn't exactly the most studious, however]]. He is also an illustrator.
* ScaryMusicianHarmlessMusic: Inverted and, occasionally, averted.
* StageNames: He goes mononymously by his given name.
* StylisticSuck: His unclean vocals.
* VisualKei: Went post-Visual, but still associated with the scene. Since the ''UROBOROS'' era, he has experimented with VK once again (same applies to the rest of his bandmates), though his style leans more towards "wealthy metal rockstar" at best.
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Had he been chosen as Music/XJapan's new lead guitarist, he would have raised the standards of VisualKei to whole new levels, brought some hope to the now-inactive Extasy Records by collaborating with Yoshiki once again, and inspired many non-VK metal artists to enter VisualKei. He would also have, like fellow candidate Music/{{Miyavi}}, brought a more youthful and dynamic vibe to Music/XJapan and VisualKei in general.