Visual Kei, or Visual Style, is an artistic movement among Japanese musicians that is characterised by the use of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, often, but not always, coupled with androgynous aesthetics, in the style of David Bowie. It came about in the early 1980's, spearheaded by bands such as X Japan and Buck Tick, and has existed in various forms ever since. (You can see more of the history over on the Useful Notes page, if you like.)
It is often considered a sub-genre of J-rock (a term referring to Japanese rock in general), with its roots in glam rock, shock rock, punk, metal and Kabuki Theater, though its use outside of Japan is making this somewhat an outdated definition. As is usual amongst more theatrical musical genres, the aesthetics are supposed to be as strong as the music in order to complement and enhance it, and although there have been many trends over the years there is no defining sound.
In the current scene, for instance, the most commonly used genres are hard rock and Heavy Metal (except for within the Oshare subgenre, which favours pop-punk or electronic dance music), but there is also horror punk, Power Metal, Gothic Metal, electronic, pop rock, nu-metal, Industrial, Metalcore and even Death Metal. Even some rare Rap Metal and straight-up rap can be found. Exactly which genres are used often depends on the time period: In the 80's rock and glam metal were popular; in the 90's a heavy goth influence came in and many bands developed a softer or more experimental sound, with the use of synth becoming common; and in the early 2000s Metalcore, Alternative Metal and Pop Punk have become the norm. As of The New Tens, Heavy Metal of various subgenres and Hard Rock are experiencing some renewed interest despite most said bands being unsigned or reunions of older HR/HM acts (or ongoing acts such as Buck Tick, Dir En Grey, and The Gazette), while the majority of label signings and promotion and publicity still tends to go to Pop Punk Oshare Kei artists.
Despite the highly feminine appearance of many VK musicians, the majority of band members, as with other rock genres, are male.
Visual Kei is often broken down into subgenres, the most common being:
Angura Kei: characterised by an emphasis on traditional Japanese culture, with band members often wearing kimonos, and occasionally Geisha style makeup. Heavy Metal and Hard Rock are the most favoured genres. Example bands of this style would be Kagrra and Heisei Isshin. Miyavi went through a phase as this and still has some elements of it.
Kote Kei: arguably the oldest and most established form of VK after genres began to split off from Visual Shock, it is characterised by incredibly striking clothing and hair. A common theme is to have every member of the band dye their hair a different color. There are two main forms, 'Black Kote Kei', which is faster, harder and more aggressive, and 'White Kote Kei' which is more melodious and focuses more on musicianship. Example bands are pretty much too numerous to name any one individual band, though this is arguably what both Luna Sea and Dir En Grey began as, though they would change to other styles... and this is what Versailles was said to be before it broke up, and its reformation as "Jupiter" seems to be similar.
Oshare Kei: Characterised by a more cheerful sound and brighter aesthetics, with softer colours and materials being favoured. Most bands play pop punk or soft rock, though there are a few who play straight-up Hardcore Punk. Some example bands would be An Cafe, LM.C or [SuG], some of the early works of Miyavi would qualify, though he was always on the fringes.
Nagoya Kei: Is defined by a gloomy, dark or harsh sound, and usually grim visuals. Darker than Lolita and less in-your-face than Eroguro, black is very much a favoured colour, and growled or barked vocals are common. There tends to be less importance placed on visuals in this subgenre than in others. The term has become the subject of misuse, with ignorant fans often applying the label to any dark and heavy J-metal group regardless of origin or musical style, such as the case with Luna Sea, despite not being from Nagoya (though it is somewhat acceptable nowadays to use the label for any VK band that shows the archetypal attitude, sound and image of true Nagoya kei bands, regardless of origin.) Dir En Grey also gets misclassified as this. True Nagoya kei bands, however, include acts such as Kuroyume, Deathgaze and Lynch.
Visual Shock (aka Veteran Kei): The arguable parent subgenre from which the others branched out, as pioneered by X Japan and the other Extasy Records bands, Buck Tick, and COLOR in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thrash Metal band Sex Machineguns also belongs here. (It also includes Seikima II, though simply because SEIKIMA-II fits nowhere else). It contains and can use any and all elements from these subgenres and arguably gave birth to them all, but Viewer Gender Confusion is a near-constant as are '80s Hair, Anime Hair, and You Gotta Have Blue Hair. Few new bands would fall into this genre, though cover bands and the occasional new band that doesn't fit elsewhere may try.
Neo-Visual Shock is primarily an invention of the middle of the Turn of the Millennium into The New Tens by artists such as Miyavi and Kisaki. A few artists around 2006-2010 and onward began to take a renewed interest in the foundational musical and artistic stylings of Visual Kei and either play them straight or reconstruct them for a new era. Example artists would be Miyavi (who created the flagship song of Neo Visual Shock with Neo Vizualizm with its shoutouts to "X, Kuroyume, and Luna Sea"), Kisaki in both his personal style and his bands Megaromania and Lin, and the bands Vagu Project, DEZERT, TSP, BORN and Gyze are all examples, featuring artists with long or impressively styled hair, more emphasis on makeup than Kote Kei, a strong, fast Heavy Metal sound and lyrics for most (that for DEZERT and TSP, is Thrash Metal). Along with Post-Visual and Oshare, it's one of the fastest-growing new genres.
Ex-Visual Kei/Post-Visual Kei: These are bands that started out as visual or tried to appeal to visual fans and then dissociated themselves from the genre/took on an unorthodox approach to the style, either as a form of aversion/subversion of its tropes or in an attempt to reach a wider audience. Good examples are L'Arc-en-Ciel (started out as Visual Shock, but referring to them as visual became a near Berserk Button for them), Dir En Grey (started out as Black Kote Kei, became Eroguro, and is now Death Metal or deathcore) and Miyavi (started out as Visual Shock, but has also tried different styles and even went through a non-Visual phase). Post-Visual Kei straddles a fine line between VK and non-VK J-music, leading to many controversies surrounding post-Visual artists.
There are always exceptions to this though. Many bands straddle genres and some don't really fit into any at all. Other bands start off visual and then leave the subgenre. Also, as there are no real rules to Visual Kei besides the fact that you have to put effort into a quirky appearance, there are often debates amongst fans as to which bands count as visual in the first place.
In recent years, Visual Kei has begun to be used by non-Japanese bands, especially bands in the underground metal scene. One such band is the Swedish Alternative Metal / Melodic Death Metal band Seremedy, which gained some mainstream success before disbanding in 2013 - and Kerbera, which is led by its former vocalist SEIKE. YOHIO, the former guitarist, has began a career as a solo guitarist and vocalist as well.
Some Visual Kei labels and associated organizations:
Extasy Records - Yoshiki's label, and probably the first specific Visual Kei label. Inactive (mostly) in recent years.
Under Code: Began as a sub-label of Free Will Records but became its own label, ran by Kisaki until it went bankrupt in 2012. Notable for being the only neo-Visual Shock label (though it also had White Kote Kei bands in its roster, and one Oshare band).
Media inspired by or making major references to Visual Kei (Visual Kei or at the very least Visual Kei artists are anything from a plot point to making a recognizable on-screen appearance)
Anime and Manga
It is worth noting, however, that DMC itself is never explicitly referred to as Visual Kei, but their bassist, Jagi, joins a visual band as a side project in one story arc. The band, Karisuma, is portrayed quite differently from DMC, and appears to be based on more recent Visual Kei. Could well be an intentional comparison between Visual Shock and modern Visual Kei, in that everything from fan behavior to stagecraft has changed and morphed into a form almost unrecognizable from the beginning. note While this isn't a place for debate on whether those changes were good or bad, just compare an 80s-early 90s video of X Japan or SEIKIMA-II to a more modern one of [SuG] or Uchuu Sentai Noiz. Also, unlike in Western genres where new generally overtakes old, the old Visual Shock bands and more modern Visual Kei bands tend to co-exist for a variety of reasons - and also tend to share from the same pool of talent.
"Bus Stop," which featured a two guys at a bar scene... one of the guys being Yoshiki. Barely counts, since it was filmed during a time in his life when his style was more "cool rich guy" than specifically Visual Kei - yet he was recognizable on sight enough to make it count.
Chrono Cross: One of the characters you can pick up in your Loads and Loads of Characters journey (and one that is arguably fairly plot-important) is Nikki, a Visual Kei bandleader and guitarist who is equal parts shoutout to hide (he's a redhead with eye makeup very much like hide's, and plays a yellow heart guitar) and Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe. In the Japanese version he was named Slash instead of Nikki, which made him a shoutout to the Guns N' Roses guitarist and to hide.
Productions for which Visual Kei or post-Visual Kei artists/bands have created music/soundtracks (please list in this section if the band existed before the anime or manga or film - if the band was created for the production, it belongs in one of the above categories)
Agent Peacock: As quite a few people stupid enough to get into a Bar Brawl with Visual Kei artists quickly learned, looking effeminate does not make one a weakling or wimp.
All Part of the Show: During live performance, Visual Kei bands generally try to keep the show going at almost any cost, especially in Japan, because they must pay to play every show. This trope is often a result - a mistake or even an injurious accident is brushed off as intentional and part of the show.
Almost Kiss: Common as a form of fanservice, especially among straight male artists who don't want to really kiss.
Always Male: Pretty much, as in most rock genres, though there are a few exceptions: Fiction and Lucifer Luscious Violenoue from older VK, and the modern bands Exist Trace, DESTROSE, and Danger Gang are all female, as is the YouTubeX Japan cover band called SOX Japan. There are some individual artists too: the drummer Hina (who works now with the late Taiji Sawada's band which was and is otherwise all male) is one; Inugami Kyouko, the vocalist from Inugami Circus-dan, is another, Yui Itsuki of Yousei Teikoku is a rather famous example, and perhaps the most well-known outside the subculture is Kanon Wakeshima.
Inverted by the fans. It is not unusual for Visual Kei bands (even in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres which are usually heavily male for non Visual Kei acts) to have more female fans than male fans on average, or an almost even split of fan gender.
Amicable Exes: Not in the relationship sense, but in the ex-band member sense. While some bands and friendships break up due to intense drama and there are some artists who (or whose fans do, or both) intensely hate each other, many other people just drift apart for other reasons, bands break up for financial or label reasons or creative differences or a member being in legal trouble etcetera, and therefore they remain on friendly terms and will sometimes come back to work with each other. One example was Yoshiki and Taiji - while their split was a bit more acrimonious at the beginning, they reconciled, and before Taiji's death were actually somewhat close friends again.
Anime Hair: More common in modern Oshare Kei and post-Visual Kei. Older Visual Kei (especially Visual Shock) tended more toward '80s Hair at its most extreme, though the two did merge at points as both anime and Visual Kei developed side by side.
Art Evolution: Has happened in all of Visual Kei, though whether the changes brought by the evolution are good or not is very dependent upon the fan/the artist commenting. There's quite a few people, for example, who wish a specific subgenre had never developed (Oshare gets this a lot from metal fans, but so does Eroguro from people who find it a misogynistic, backward embarrassment), or that Post-Visual had never became a thing. On the other hand, there's a lot of fans and artists who are thankful that the scene has evolved and therefore survived at various points.
Artistic Stimulation: Very much so. Alcohol could be argued to be almost the lifeblood of Visual Kei because almost all performances are at bars, many band events center around drinking and drinking parties, and the amount of artists who are or who are close to The Alcoholic or Off The Wagon or Functional Addict are too numerous to count. Most Visual Kei artists also smoke, although many have quit. While recreational drug use in general aside from alcohol and tobacco is VERY much frowned upon openly due to Japan's attitudes toward drugs in general, methamphetamine abuse is also an open secret among some artists and has figured in the burnouts and/or deaths of some.
Attention Whore: VERY common in Visual Kei, except most tend to be a relatively harmless Shameless Self-Promoter at worst, because from the beginning of the scene, artists had to try to stand out and get attention to even be noticed as Visual Kei. There may be some of the more pathological type, but most VK attention whoring is simply for artistic and artist promotion purposes due to attention bids being an effective way to get one's message out - getting on the news, for example, is nearly-free publicity that might introduce you to a Periphery Demographic who thinks you looked cool, or filming your PV in a busy public location without proper permits gives you both the chance to look natural and induce Enforced Method Acting.
The Atoner: Many members of older bands will fall into this trope, becoming social activists or at the very least very nice people to make up for theexcesses and sometimes even criminal acts of their early days.
Audience Participation Song: Visual Kei is a genre very dependent on audience participation. Most bands will have at least one image song like this, complete with specific "furi" (hand gestures or dance moves) to go along with it.
Ax-Crazy: Some bands (generally Eroguro or Visual Shock bands, but Nagoya Kei sometimes as well) take posing as this trope Up to Eleven, at least for specific members, and many songs go around people with the theme. Then there are the few people who are Ax-CrazyJerkasses offstage - Wataru from the band 12012, who ended up in court for choking somebody after a night of heavy drinking, is one famous case.
Badass Biker: Visual Shock was a near-direct descendant of bosozoku and yankii style and fashion of The Eighties at many points. While Taiji of X Japan and Music/Loudness (among many others) was the most famous example, there were many, many others, although most of them either disappeared, disbanded, or went back to being more "ordinary" rock or metal artists by the middle of The Nineties.
Bad Boss: A lot of label owners/producers tend toward this, though with producers, they're under pressure from their overhead as well.
Banned in China: The Chinese Visual Kei band Silver Ash was actually banned in its own country in a literal version of the trope. While most Visual Kei bands aren't banned in China itself (in fact, Chinese fans make up a very large portion of X Japan's fandom) they have ran the risk of being banned or restricted elsewhere, or having to tone down performances in places to avoid it (for example, Adams can't perform in Russia or the Islamic world due to its very band concept being Ho Yay, and while Kaya has performed in Russia he faced similar issues)
Bar Brawl: Arguably somewhat less common now (though still engaged in by indies and unpopular bands and between fans, for variousreasons), this was common for a while among Visual Shock bands in the 80s and early 90s.
Base Breaker / Berserk Button: Almost anything that can be associated with Visual Kei can and would enrage someone somewhere in the fandom. From the usual, such as which bands, artists, or subgenres are better to more specific topics such as reasons for bands breaking up, members leaving/retiring from music/transferring to another band, or the deaths of famous artists.
Do not, ever claim to have slept with a bandperson or be dating them, even if you are or you have. This is a Berserk Button to many fans for a lot of reasons (everything from homophobia/transphobia to jealousy to their being convinced you're a liar, to anger over being invasive of privacy, to fear of the Gold Digger or Yoko Oh No). It is somewhat mitigated if you are a highly beautiful and conventionally attractive straight female and/or the artist himself or herself has announced the relationship first, but it's still very touchy for a lot of people.
Post-Visual Kei, in general, is the subject of much controversy. It is a major Base Breaker and Berserk Button for many fan circles. mainly because artists associated with the label are known for leaving the scene/denying they were part of it, actively loathing Visual Kei and VK artists, or appearing "different" from the usual, leading to many accusations of artists "selling out" or "damaging the image of Visual Kei". L'Arc~en~Ciel has been the target of many VK purists for leaving the scene, then showing off visuals despite constantly denying that they are VK. A similar controversy exists within the fandom of Dir En Grey.
Oshare Kei. Bring it up on any Visual Kei or J-rock (or any rock/metal discussion for that matter), and hope to escape alive and unscathed.
As a general rule, never, ever confuse Visual Kei with Emo, Scene, or Hair Metal, or label VK bands as such.
Deaths in general are a topic for discussion in all rock subgenres, but in Visual Kei, deaths are a touchy, touchy subject; to avoid causing controversies, many bands never disclose the reasons for their bandmates' deaths (though this practice is an equally controversial move, since it would attract curious fans and cause rumors to pop out). hide's death, in particular, is probably not a good idea to discuss unless you're absolutely certain everyone around agrees with what you're going to say. The roles of alcohol and other substances, whether it was accident, intentional suicide, murder, or whatever else are all flashpoints, the roles of other people in his life even more so, and people are so used to trolls using discussions around it to start fights that saying anything even vaguely controversial, even if legitimate (e.g. mentioning his alcoholism) can start a roaring flamewar or get you called out as a rumormongering troll.
Bonus Material: Much of The Merch is this, for attending shows and the like, and often special CD or DVD releases have at least a little "present" of some sort, whether it be a special version of a song, pictures of the band, the liner notes, backstage interviews, outtakes... among many other options.
Both Sides Have a Point: Applies very much to almost anything argued over in the scene by anyone, and why making judgments even on violent or seemingly criminal actions can be harder than it may seem on the surface.
Broken Bridge: The Real Life version of this is why many bands disband or never attain much notice. Due to the lack of financial stability, anything from a band member suddenly taking ill and being unable to be replaced quickly enough to perform at the venues bought, a major gear theft or vehicle accident, a venue closing and not paying back the fees, the label that just signed them going under, anything can be a catastrophic end to a band at the very least going on as itself, and possibly the artist's career as such.
Broken Pedestal: Can happen when one works with or meets with an artist and finds them to be anything from a run of the mill jerkass to something far worse, especially if said artist's image is incredibly different from this revelation (e.g. the effect is far more pronounced with, say, an Oshare artist than an Eroguro one)
Bros Before Hoes: Some of the misogyny and Misogyny Song in the scene originates from this, especially since it is heavily male on the artist side.
Camera Abuse: A very common stylistic trick in Visual Kei PV or live video. One very expensive example involved hide taking a signature Burny Fernandes guitar to an expensive stage camera. Just from looking at the footage, an estimate of that stunt probably cost at least the equivalent of US $10,000.
Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Almost all Visual Kei bands, unless the band is made of women or has female members, or the band is really old and hasn't had good luck with genetics or money for plastic surgery and/or makeup, or the band has intentionally decided to avert the trope and be as ugly as possible in hopes of being more shocking.
Character Tics: Nearly every band member has one of these that makes him stand out. Funnily enough, for the ones that specifically don't, that itself becomes a character tic: for example, Pata of X Japan is so quiet and focused on his instrument that that IS predominant of his Character Tics.
Chivalrous Pervert: The stage image and lyrical output of most of the more sexually-inclined Oshare work where it exists, and a fair amount of sexually-themed Visual Shock and Kote Kei, although there the lyrics can be a bit less of the "chivalrous" part than the stage image. Occasionally the stage image of someone at the softer end of Eroguro, though that's rare.
Clip Show: Most Visual Kei DVD are this - clips of performances, of tour events, sometimes interviews with the artists or other stuff. Many promotional videos and performance videos are also these, even when they claim to be live, they may be a pastiche of several lives. The latter is most notorious with anything related to hide, as all the official DVD for him are Clip Show rather than the film of one single complete live show.
Clone by Conversion: Accidental, perhaps, but one source of the Fountain of Expies for hide is that he is such an influential artist to the scene and that rightly or wrongly, many visual kei artists see doing tributes to him or looking like him as personally important for at least a while or to at least rake in a ton of cash from his fans. Therefore, the artists do this to themselves, accomplishing his physical looks and occasionally his mannerisms, for some, to the point of Uncanny Valley.
Cluster F-Bomb: Somewhat less common than the Atomic and Precision varieties but a lyrical device used by bands that have Nu Metal or Metalcore influences.
The Corruption: Methamphetamine. There's two primary routes of entry into the Japanese v-kei scene - band members who happen to use the drug turning their bandmates onto it, and the very nice gentlemen who often supply people in labels and/or have dealers working the scene. Either way, it spreads virally - one artist using meth almost always ensures that at least some of his/her associates/friends/kankeisha/groupies/fellow artists/bandmates will, and then those people expose others to meth, and then those people do, and on it goes. Users first experience euphoria, the lack of need for sleep, weight loss to be thin enough for any standard, and increased sex drive - all good things for a Visual Kei artist in Japan... except the drug is slowly addicting them, depriving them of needed sleep and nutrition, and causing physical and mental illness, one horrifying example being amphetamine psychosis followed by, when the drug is quit due to the loss of touch with reality, a depressive crash that can last years and drive users back to the drug just to feel alive or normal, or be capable of work. Or it can just blow out someone's heart or brain with a heart attack or stroke instead. Quite a few deaths in the scene have resulted (though, due to the "shame" of using illegal drugs it's rarely mentioned even if the use was detected on a tox screen or the person was found with pills and/or needles.)
Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: The scene itself is one, when you consider the amount of people all trying to make money (often by less than ethical means), all the business deals and intricate yet concealed relationships (business, personal, and otherwise), and amount of criminal activity and drug use and similar that only occasionally get noticed. Which leads to the presence of the...
Conspiracy Theorist: Any visual kei band fandom will have at least one person spreading various rumors and various conspiracies/secrets/etcetera. The larger the fandom gets and/or the more the band keeps secret/the more things that happen to it or its members that could have more than one explanation, there will be more than one, and sometimes they will have a Flame War over who's right or wrong. If there's an unexplained or suspicious death, a sudden disbandment, or any other type of major incident, there's a strong possibility of a majority of the fandom becoming one, at least in regard to the incident. Sometimes, they can even be right.
Contractual Purity: Some labels and band leaders (generally Oshare ones, or those trying to market as available or alternately to Yaoi Fangirls) forbid band members to talk about their relationships. Almost every band and label (with a few exceptions) demands its members keep quiet about using drugs/substances other than alcohol and tobacco.
Convection Schmonvection: VERY common in early Visual KeiPerformance Video, promotional video, and even occasionally live performance. Visual Shock bands such as X Japan and Buck Tickloved pyro back then, and often the determinant for "should we set this on fire" was the Rule of Cool, not anything related to safety or sanity or even if it made sense in the video. When done in live performance or practice or otherwise, belief in the trope actually led to accidental fires and even to a few incidents of Man on Fire as mentioned below. When people began to get tired of taking said risks with actual pyro, CG became good enough to render semi-realistic fire, so the trope continued on in videos even as it somewhat died out in lives.
Conveniently Common Kink: BDSM and related fetish are fairly common at least as ways to invoke a shocking stage image/outward image, especially in Visual Shock (and the parts of Black Kote Kei and neo-Visual Shock that are its Spiritual Successor) and in Eroguro - while occasionally making appearances elsewhere. Some of the most famous photoshoots and stage performances and songs are themed around some idea of BDSM.
Cool Bike: These occasionally make appearances in videos or photoshoots - especially from the early days, when bosozoku and yankii and Visual Kei had a larger connection. Probably the most famous Badass Biker visual kei artist is Taiji Sawada, but there's many, many more especially from The Eighties and early in The Nineties.
Cool Loser: Early on, many Visual Kei artists were this - ex- or present Japanese Delinquents, people who tended to be hard-drinking, hard-partying societal outcasts as opposed to easily marketable polished professionals.
Costume Porn: Defines some parts of the scene, specifically Angura and Lolita, and is very common in other subgenres and elsewhere.
Crazy Enough to Work: When Visual Kei began, no one wanted to sign the first Visual Kei bands (which necessitated one of the founding bands of Visual's bandleader to create his own label for his and other bands), believing that there was no way anyone would want to see it, that it wasn't accessible or interesting or marketable. Yoshiki, hide, Imai, Atsushi, Demon Kogure, Rolly, and (D'erlanger)'s Kyo (and all the many, many other people who are far less famous) proved absolutely otherwise despite what was, until roughly 1988 when they all hit the Popularity Polynomial, an entire industry that thought they were too crazy when they were exactly this - by appealing to the incipient desire for freedom and change and as a way to express the frustration of not only the disaffected Japanese Delinquents that made up much of the scene but of a large chunk of "normal" society as well, and by making Hard Rock and Heavy Metal local to Japan rather than imports (and eventually by making it an export), Visual Kei worked.
Cruel Twist Ending: Disbandments, usually, unless everyone really just wanted to go different directions and there's no hurt feelings. Band members becoming sick or dying, especially if the illness or death is sudden, unexplained or badly explained, or the result of criminal activity or negligence.
Crutch Character: A place where this occurs outside of Video Games. Many times, a member from a far more famous band will be brought in for name recognition purposes and/or will start a solo band, or members from other famous bands will form a supergroup. These bands rarely succeed at the time, and almost always collapse when the most famous member or, in the case of supergroups, anyone walks (though there are some exceptions). Some good examples of this are nearly every band featuring Taiji Sawada after Loudness, and any band featuring Kisaki, and the failures of S.K.I.N. and The Killing Red Addiction, two superbands. One example where it actually did work was Vamps.
Cultural Posturing: Pro-Japanese cultural posturing is Serious Business to the few artists in the scene that are hardcore right-wingers, and occasionally engaged in by fans if a "J-Rock vs. Korean Pop" Flame War begins. There's a little of it scattered everywhere around the scene, but generally it doesn't reach the level of hating on other countries than Japan outside of right-wingers and that flame war.
Cultural Rebel: The entire Visual Kei scene for both Japan and elsewhere in the world.
Darker and Edgier: Compared to pretty much all other output of the Japanese music industry. Averted by Oshare Kei (see Lighter and Softer below), which developed as a backlash to the domination of Heavy Metal and Goth in Visual Kei and a way to make the genre more "accessible."
Dead Artists Are Better: As with many forms of rock, it is generally agreed upon that dead artists (especially very popular or talented ones) are better than their living counterparts; consequently, many of them have achieved legendary status, even among non-rock fans. Taken Up to Eleven in Visual Kei, where bands see their members as highly important that, should one of them (typically someone very popular or with exceptional talent) pass away, it would be nigh-impossible to find someone of equal skill or influence to take his place, resulting in many bands listing them as "eternal members" and/or carrying on as if they were still alive, with a substitute musician (preferably an expy) filling in for their absence. Often, the death of one member is a valid reason for a band to break up, go on hiatus, or change into darker styles. Famous examples include hide and Taiji of X Japan for old VK, and Jasmine You of Versailles for modern VK.
Almost anyone in a Long Runner band, because you have to be to keep a band together over 15 or 20 or more years.
Indies or broke artists who manage to stay in the scene and keep performing anyway, even if it's obvious their bands are too old/too weird/too something to get a major label signing.
Almost all the still-surviving founders of the scene from Yoshiki to Imai, with all they had deal with to get to where they are.
hide, because he suffered mental illnesses, financial issues, the breakup of his first band, and more things that would make most people quit music and still became one of the most influential figures in the scene, even though he's not still surviving.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: A VERY contentious debate within Visual Kei. Some people (many fans and including some artists such as Yoshiki) see piracy and bootlegging as a means of promotion, of making their art widespread and popular, and generally relatively harmless in the sense that many people who pirate couldn't afford to buy or wouldn't buy them unknown anyway, and therefore tolerate a certain level of piracy (usually from those who do buy some things to their ability, and of bands that either make relatively little money off of CD/DVD sales or are disbanded), subverting the trope. Played straight officially and by JASRAC and the record companies. Double Subverted by hide fans who insist on defunding Hiroshi Matsumoto by buying nothing official from him.
Does Not Like Guns: While this trope does not apply to P Vs or lyrics or fashion where (usually flash-paper non) guns make frequent appearances, it does apply in Real Life to the scene, which is partially why, despite all of the violence that was in the scene in The Eighties few people actually died as a result (and those who did were not usually shot) and why the homicide rate is still fairly low enough that outright murder in the scene is shocking and newsworthy when it does occur. Due to Japan's strict anti-firearm laws and the personal distaste for firearms most people in the scene have being a dual version of this trope, Visual Kei has managed to fairly successfully avoid major issues with Real Life gun violence.
Don't Try This at Home: Generally, trying to teach oneself a skill or instrument off of the most extreme artists for it is not a good idea, because those artists generally have thrown safe technique and care for their own bodies to the wind, which is why they often get hurt and hurt badly from doing what they do. For example, using Kyo or pre-1991 Toshi as absolute technique models for your singing may very well give you the same vocal polyps they both had, or burst your own eardrum or break your vocal cords. Trying to drum exactly like Yoshiki pre-1995 may give you the same injuries and pain he now has to deal with, or if your neck snaps in a different place, just outright kill you.
Double Entendre: Common with the earlier works or "marketable" works of Visual Shock bands, mostly done as a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar or Refuge in Audacity. Still in use by Oshare bands, for similar reasons of marketability. Averted by Eroguro bands, which generally are far more direct with sexual and violent imagery and lyrics.
Most bandmen will use forms of Double Entendre or other wordplay to communicate being gay/bi/trans or communicate drug use, if asked about such subjects in an interview or other context without actually saying it. This plays into Japanese culture, where admitting, say, that one finds one's own gender attractive would be seen as crass and outre - so to say one is "embarrassed" by their reaction to a man flirting with them, or to vaguely mention "taking pills" to refer to drug use or to refer to a mental breakdown as "nervous exhaustion," are ways to convey the meaning without being too public.
Drama Queen: The "diva" or "princess" type is fairly common in Visual Kei. Some that became notorious for it include Yoshiki, Gackt, Kisaki, Hizaki all fell into this at some point or another, among many others.
As a matter of fact, one of the US-English sites covering Visual Kei is called "Shattered Tranquility," in a form of Lampshade Hanging.
Driven to Suicide: A very common theme in much Visual Kei work, to the extent that if you are easily triggered with themes of suicide it's probably a good idea to avoid many songs or bands, unless you find music/discussion of it helpful to your healing.
Drunken Master: Quite a few people in Visual Kei are The Alcoholic but this doesn't seem to affect their stage performance or skill. Pata (and the late hide and Taiji of X Japan) are probably the best examples - all of them could perform at insanely skilled levels despite their level of intoxication.
Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend: A common reason for band drama or breakups, and why relationships between band members are actually often looked down upon: members who become closer friends or especially romantic partners are far more common to give their closer friends/romantic partners preferential treatment, to the degree of someone who's with the bandleader in such a way having Ultimate Job Security, even if it means the band implodes for it.
Epic Rocking: The bands that lean toward Power Metal or progressive rock/progressive metal usually have a song like this, although the crowning example that no one has so far dethroned is X Japan's Art of Life.Versailles has come close with the full edition of The Revenant Choir, though. Also, almost all of the more metal leaning bands will have a long solo at one point or another (usually guitar, but sometimes drums, or even bass with an especially talented bassist).
Explicit Content: It's everywhere, at least if you know where to look and can find translations/can understand Japanese. From the very beginning - while X Japan may be better known for such ballads as Forever Love and Endless Rain now, a quite large amount of its work is Intercourse with You, including Stab Me In The Back, a song released in 1987 that was explicitly about the joys of male/male sex, and of course Orgasm, which is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Buck Tick is nigh-famous for it, as a short browse of its page will show. Serial Escalation and Seinfeld Is Unfunny means that Dir En Grey and The Gazette have stuff that makes X and Buck-Tick look almost innocent in comparison. Almost the only part of Visual Kei that doesn't indulge (openly) are some Oshare bands, and even they have it, they just prefer to hide it behind a lot of innuendo, Lyrical Dissonance, or similar tricks.
Explosive Stupidity: Back when actual pyro was more of a thing and the bands using it were a bunch of young drunk and high guys... you could probably guess explosives and incendiaries handling wasn't the smartest, though the amount of people who actually died was surprisingly small, and somehow there weren't any venue incidents that killed everyone inside.
Expy: It is quite common for 1990s and late 2000s-era Visual bands to have members that resemble other Visual kei artists. Frequently imitated artists include TM Revolution, Reita of The Gazette and Dir en grey vocalist Kyo (who himself was an expy of not one, but three artists: T.M. Revolution, Ume of Tokyo Yankees and Kiyoharu of Kuroyume). Of notable mention is Gackt, who has inspired legions of imitators in terms of both musical ability and visual flair. There's also a thriving industry of hide clones...
An entire band of Mana expies in Moi Dix Mois, a band founded and produced by the original Mana, who is also a member. (Watch and see for yourself.)
Kisaki's Under Code Production label is particularly notable for having Dir En Grey clones and imitators of Visual Shock-era bands, with the only seemingly original artists being Kisaki's own projects (Phantasmagoria and Lin) and Megaromania, bands that are well-known for reestablishing the Visual Shock image (though Megaromania slowly shifted to Kote Kei).
Early on, Visual Shock bands adopted 80's glam stylings, to the point that early Visual Kei looked more like a Stealth Parody of Hair Metal than a distinct style. Most of these bands have since established their own image (with the notable exception of Seikima II)
Eye Scream: Often used in promotional videos that want to invoke Nausea Fuel or GASP for it being one of the easier CG effects at first (all you needed was a closeup shot of an eye animated or real or a long view on someone "operating" on someone's face etc)
Fake-Out Make-Out: Because yaoi fanservice is a cheap way to distract fangirls from lack of musicianship or intelligent lyrics or... pretty much anything.
Family Versus Career: Why a lot of Visual Kei artists retire, go indies or on hiatus, or alternately keep performing but get divorced/insist on their partners having abortions or pay them off to go into hiding/similar. It is hard if not absolutely impossible to maintain a somewhat profitable touring and recording schedule as a label-signed artist and have a family with especially young or special needs children.
Female Gaze AND Male Gaze: Most Visual Kei bands to some extent. The most well-endowed men will generally tend to show off, providing lots of eye candy for women and gay/bi men alike...
Fighting Your Friend: Instrument "battles" such as guitar or drum battles. Most people who compete are friends, often in the same band or friendly bands.
Financial Abuse: As you can likely imagine in a scene with lots of money circulating but relatively little going to the artists themselves, this is incredibly prevalent. Everything from band/label contracts that wouldn't make it for a second before being thrown out in a fair court of law but enforced by the very nice gentlemen or rougher band members, to mitsu forcing bandmen into unwanted relationships, to religious "self-help" seminars and gurus recruiting people claiming to save them from the scene/from Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, it's all there and it can happen to anyone who loses control of their finances or who isn't a business and financial wizard.
First Person Snapshooter: A Real Life one, for concert and rock magazine photographers. Some photographers are almost as famous as onstage performers, especially if they had the good luck to cover a band that succeeded, such as Hideo Canno, famous for his photography with X Japan and hide, among many others.
Flame War: There's one raging in pretty much any corner of Visual Kei at one time or another. Some fairly common causes are, but are not limited to:
Trolling of almost any form imaginable, ranging from the silly obvious attempt to get flamed to cruel cyberbullying, and a Flame War between the troll(s) and the people they are targeting/people defending that person or band
Sexual orientation or relationships of any given person
What band or artist is better, what band or artist is worse, what band or artist has "sold out" or "remained true"
Rumors, gossip, conspiracy theories, etcetera
What some song did or didn't mean
Is Visual Kei still alive or is it dead with Korean Pop being the better genre
Pretty much anything people can find to fight with each other over
Gag Penis: Occasionally achieved by various tactics of pants-stuffing, done to often absurd Compensating for Something levels as per Arena Rock and Shock Rock stage trick standard, sometimes even lampshaded with the person wearing a codpiece, chastity belt, or similar attention-drawing costuming, for which Demon Kogure of SEIKIMA-II and Himawari of Sex Machineguns were famous. Some possibly aren't stuffing, but they will not be named for obvious reasons.
Gaia's Lament: Environmental themes and a Crapsack World via environmental destruction are common themes with some artists: Sugizo is probably the most famous for it, though everyone from Buck Tick to Dir en Grey has used such themes in PV or lyrics or both.
Gayborhood: Is, to some degree, in the same way theatre is in the West. The scene developed an almost immediate reputation for Ho Yay for several reasons (mostly from its inspiration from Glam Rock and Kabuki theatre, and that the percentage of at least to some degree bisexual men in the early scene was much higher than that of Japanese society in general, and that early on being openly and dramatically out was seen as a way of flipping normal Japanese society off as opposed to fanservice for Yaoi Fangirls). These factors, while not making it an entirely safe space for gay/male-preferring bi men, crossdressers, transwomen, made it far more accepting than the rest of Japan or the rest of the Japanese entertainment industry for much of The Eighties / The Nineties. (Lesbian and transman representation was and is still fairly limited in the Japanese scene because of the lower percentage of women or men with current/once externally female bodies being directly involved, but in non-Japanese Visual Kei both are also fairly heavily represented). Even in The New Tens, it's a Reconstructed Trope: gay or male-preferring bi men who wish to remain closeted can pass as simply doing fanservice for Yaoi Fangirls, while those who wish to be out can be out with relatively few problems from anyone. While most men in Visual Kei are heterosexual or female-preferring bisexual men, despite what some of the more rabid Yaoi Fangirl would claim, it's undeniable that there is a far higher percentage of out gay/male-preferring bi men in Visual Kei than in a random sampling of the Japanese mainstream society.
That said, don't make the mistake that you can necessarily tell someone's sexuality by how androgynous they are. As an example, Kaya is out as gay and one of the most convincing crossdressers in Visual Kei, but Mana, another of the most convincing crossdressers, is straight. Also, in Japanese culture, androgyny and crossdressing are not as equated with same-sex attraction as they are in the Western world - whereas being overweight or heavily muscled and hypermasculine behavior are (for an example, see Bara Genre and its page image).
Arguably makes sense due to some deep divisions in the scene, for example, a Black Kote band consisting mostly of hardcore metalheads is not going to be pleased if the singer suddenly decides he wants to go Oshare and claims Avril Lavigne as his greatest inspiration. This is why the bands that have survived Genre Roulette and Genre Shift usually either survive with different members, or when all of the band is in agreement about the change to some degree.
Going Native: Non-Japanese Visual Kei artists and the picking up of Visual Kei tropes and styles by underground metal artists outside Japan, and the creation of western Visual scenes, are such in a downplayed way. As in, they developed from admiration of the Japanese style and scene, but not all artists involved are Occidental Otaku (and being considered as such for the "music only" ones may be a Berserk Button) and have major differences from the Japanese scene (e.g. more women and/or men with female bodies involved, no rules on what one may or may not disclose - for just one example, in the US scene, there are even some Straight Edge v-kei people that even shun drinking and sexual activity - which in the Japanese scene would make them Acceptable Targets for at least some major ribbing if not outright laughingstocks)
In the Western fandom, there are the (usually LiveJournal based, but they're possible anywhere that allows anonymous commenting on a post) "hate memes" which consist of anonymous commenters (many of whom are actually sockpuppets of each other) trashing people they hate. Unlike Tanuki, these tend to target fans and fandom people as much as they do active artists, and posts are often even more grudgy than Tanuki or the like, because even the pretense of the discussion being anything but a bash-fest is gone.
Gossipy Hens: See the above entry for Tanuki, the 2ch community for bangya, mitsukano, tsunagari, bandmen, fantasists, haters, and Trolls. Anonymous memes for the Visual Kei or jrock scene elsewhere attempt to approach its level of nuggets of truth mixed in a massive shitstorm of insane vitriol, but can barely compare.
Gratuitous English: Depends on the band. Some artists in the scene have incredible English (and other language) skills despite having accents: Demon Kogure from SEIKIMA-II, Yoshiki and later on (as of The New Tens) Toshi from X Japan and Yama-B ex Galneryus are among those few. Others have learned English very badly if at all, and the result shows up in their lyrics, stage patter, interviews, and nearly everywhere else.
Gratuitous Rape: Fairly common as a lyrical or art theme among Visual Shock bands and more so among Eroguro bands, owing to Shock Rock and Heavy Metal's "acceptance" of rape for shock value. Some examples can include the Old Shame that is X Japan's cover for Vanishing Vision, the entire band concepts and names of Gilles De Rais and Rapes, and Dir en grey's video for Obscure,Agitated Screams of Maggots, and Different Sense, among many other examples. What usually differs this from Rape as Drama (also used) is that there is no reason aside being shocking for the (usually graphic) rape imagery or use of the word "rape.''
Groupie Brigade: Visual Kei bands often have the organized version, their respective fan clubs. Outside of the fan club (and often including it) the front row/pit can become this, and if a band is popular enough, the Groupie Brigade tends to pop up anywhere the fans are.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Averted, to an extreme degree, in The Eighties, in regard to what drinking establishment owners thought of blondes. Visual Kei artists were known for two things: huge, often blonde 80sHair and getting into lots and lots of Bar Brawl and similar trouble . The signs that didn't single out Yoshiki for being banned from a venue often said "No Blondes" to keep him and others out.
Hair Metal: Visual Kei is what happens when Hair Metal is taken to extremes, allowed to mature, and become experimental in nature, both musically and in terms of aesthetics. While some hate is directed towards the movement, due to it being the Spiritual Successor to its parent genre, many VK artists are accepted by purists as legitimate rock and metal artists.
Handicapped Badass: Yoshiki is probably the crowning example (his split neck and back vertebrae and wrist tendonitis, yet still capable of playing drums and piano almost at the same level as when he felt better, along with having suffered a combination of apparent unipolar depression, PTSD and complicated grief), but there's quite a few other Visual Kei artists who became very sick or very injured. For mental handicaps, there was hide (Bipolar 1, alcoholism, bulimia) and Jasmine You (major unipolar depression) and Taiji (dissociative disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy). For more physical, there is Kyo of Dir En Grey who screamed his own eardrum out and had to have surgery on his vocal cords, and the late K from Pay Money To My Pain, who suffered from an apparent combination of heart and other issues and yet maintained a career as a singer before his untimely death.
Harsh Vocals: Some Visual Shock bands (Tokyo Yankees became famous for the late Ume's vocals). Became primarily the province of Angura, Eroguro, and Nagoya, with the best representative being ex-Eroguro Dir En Grey vocal Kyo.
High Class Escort: Prostitution is rampant in Visual Kei. Many indie artists can't afford to finance their bands and due to the stigma of being in a Visual Kei band they often can't get a conventional job. The result is that many VK artists engage in "Mitsu" (dating or having sex with fans for money) or work in host clubs. Even some of the popular VK artists such as Gackt and Yoshiki have histories working as hosts.
Heavy Meta: Some songs are meta or snark on the scene itself, or even Take That directed at other artists or styles or songs.
Ho Yay: One of the most common forms of onstage fanservice.
Iconic Logo: Visual Kei bands have become rather well-known for their band logos, with the crowning examples being X Japan's (it is arguable that the logo of Manga/X1999 was based on the band's logo), The Gazette's and Versailles' respective logos.
Identical-Looking Asians: A major part of Japanese Visual from very early on was averting this. Many people realized that they all looked alike and so they relied on hair colors, makeup, contacts, clothes, different gear, and anything else they could think of (including plastic surgery or the like) to set themselves apart from each other.
Part of the reason why Visual Kei experienced a renaissance in the 2000s is the increasing number of non-Visual Kei idol singers and solo artists adopting a Visual kei image and sound, to the point where, as of The New Tens, Visual Kei-influenced J-pop artists have become so common that even casual fans will have little to no trouble finding Visual Kei almost anywhere in the J-music scene.
Ignored Epiphany: Many people have these in regard to things that later lead to anything from disbandments to their own deaths. For a truly sad example, look at the text of Taiji Sawada's final communication to his apprentice bassist and friend, if you can find the posting of it. In short, he knew how much trouble he was likely in, but chose not to panic or ask for help from others - which he most certainly should have done.
One common reason for the invocation of this trope is that due to the various sources of paranoia in the scene, people often find it hard to tell if they are being Properly Paranoid, and a common reaction to detecting a potential issue both as overcorrecting for paranoia and Japanese Politeness is to pretend it doesn't exist.
I Hate Past Me: Why Post-Visual developed, and why many people who leave the scene entirely and retire to a more "normal" life or to performing in non-rock, non-metal genres tend to look down on the scene or their life in it. Sometimes this extends to being a Fan Hater or hating/having Condescending Compassion toward people still in it.
IKEA Erotica: Some Intercourse with You songs fall very flat, due to poor language choices or translation, Unfortunate Implications, or feeling as if the band was ordered to make a song about sex when they didn't really want to. That doesn't even begin to describe the often execrable output of many fanfic writers.
"Exhaustion/Nervous Exhaustion" = Sudden physical/mental breakdown, usually either from an episode of mental illness or amphetamine psychosis/amphetamine withdrawal crash.
"Our band is on temporary hiatus" = "We're breaking up" or "We're looking for different members so we don't break up" or "One of our members is really out of shape/ill/not good"
"Ongoing personal issues" = The band breakup or member departure is because someone got pregnant OR there was an inter-band relationship that went either very bad or very good, derailing everything related to the band itself
"A contract matter" = The bandleader or label didn't want to pay the guy who left what he deserved, so he walked
"Troubling conduct" = The guy that just got kicked out got popped for drugs or some other crime
"We are very sorry for troubling everyone" The bandleader just got popped for drugs or some other crime/the label and/or bandleader got popped for tax evasion or the like
Important Haircut: Haircuts and hairstyles are, obviously, a very big deal in Visual Kei, especially in Visual Shock, Neo-Visual Shock, and Kote Kei. They are often the most expensive part of the style (someone can expect to spend anywhere from US $100 to US $700+ on a professionally done haircut/style/color depending on its elaborateness, the stylist, the current condition of their hair, and more and around US $30-$50 a month to maintain it until it needs to be done again), they are often seen as the way of "presenting yourself" or "coming out" as a lifestyle Visual Kei artist, and most people only do dramatic changes to their cut or color when they start/leave bands, debut new albums/tours, or for a specific photoshoot or the like. Intentionally ruining someone's hair (or even touching it without permission in some cases) is a huge affront that can often lead to a fight.
It's All About Me: VERY common in Visual Kei, and a very common reason for various drama or band breakups.
I Work Alone: Solo artists, who don't join a band or who are only the Guest Star Party Member for a number of bands. Usually they tend to be singers or guitarists (or singers and guitarists) - solo drummers are even more vanishingly rare than drummers in general, and bassists tend to work in bands.
Jerkass: There are quite a few of them in the scene.
Jerkass Façade: Far more common than actual jerkasses, if only that people are advised to keep one up if they don't wish to be bothered by the Loony Fan and Groupie Brigade and others (because it's common wisdom that being seen as a Nice Guy just welcomes tons of undesirable people while turning offalpha females), and/or it's part of several popular stage images/public images.
Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: On the other hand, some people really do want to seek unnecessary attention, play Small Name, Big Ego and Attention Whore blindingly straight, just hurt and upset other people, start drama and trouble, cause problems for anyone they can, and never take responsibility or do anything that could mitigate people's opinions of them as being anything but jerks.
Juggalo: Defied: most Visual Kei fans are notInsane Clown Posse fans, and assuming a Visual Kei artist or even fan dressed in style to be a Juggalo (even if the makeup is vaguely clownish or mimelike) can make you look ignorant or seem insulting.
Junkie Prophet: The scene boasts at least one, now dead - hide, who among other things described The New Tens culture alongside current Japanese culture in Oblaat and who told people he knew about a recurring nightmare of earthquake and nuclear disaster. If Loudness could be considered part of the scene, its late drummer Munetaka Higuchi also qualifies with his work on the lyrics of Pandemonium, the band's album that foretold The War on Terror and its outcome.
Just a Kid: There was a drummer called Riku who could drum on the same level as Yoshiki at 13 and debuted at that age. He was dismissed because of his age and because the band he was in was Toshi's formed while he was a member of his former religion, and once the band broke up, he faded into obscurity.
Just Eat Gilligan: Just pay your band members fairly/equally, because not doing so causes more trouble than it's ever worth. Same for paying taxes.
Kaleidoscope Eyes: The subversion of color contacts is very common, to the degree that people who naturally have odd-colored eyes (blue or blueish or violet or gray in Japan, odd shades of all eye colors elsewhere) are assumed to be wearing them.
Kaleidoscope Hair: Richer artists or artists with hairdresser friends or who are hairdressers themselves will often tend toward this, as they are not constrained by finances or the like. hide was probably the crowning example of it, being both a hairdresser himself and with enough money for frequent changes. Imai of Buck-Tick also changed hair frequently as opposed to for reasons like a band style change or a new tour or the like.
Kayfabe: Visual Kei often has its own version and it is why you can never trust something you see onstage or that is otherwise for public show to be the truth. This includes Ho Yay, age, origin story, and almost anything else. Magazine and TV interviews are slightly more trustworthy sources of legitimate information, though some artists choose to maintain kayfabe even there, making the "truth" and "rumors" almost interchangeable.
A lyrical case involves Dir En Grey's Mazohyst Of Decadence, which, ripped from its context of abortion being a primary method of birth control in Japan, seems like a right-wing anti-abortion rant and Victim Blaming, when it's actually lashing out at a society that refuses to acknowledge the need for birth control and sex education and uses the most painful and traumatizing last-ditch procedure as a substitute for preventing pregnancy in the first place.
A Real Life story example is the rumor that Toshi "abused children" during his days in the religion he abandoned. Combined with a dash of Pædo Hunt, this has created one of the scene's nastiest rumors possible - except that the abuse wasn't physical or sexual, it was overseeing them in working for the cult instead of being allowed to go to school. Which was bad (if he even did it, he was found not guilty), but which wasn't raping or savagely beating them.
LGBT Fanbase: For reasons that are probably very obvious if you've been reading this far. It's probably one of the most Ho Yay filled genres/scenes of music there is with both real LGBTQ performers andFaux Yay and Ship Tease, quite a few bands themselves have a sizable LGBT Fanbase in Japan and in the West, and in general Visual tends to have one, especially outside of Japan.
Limited Wardrobe: Poorer Visual Kei artists. You can actually tell the financial status of an artist or a band on how limited it is: a very poor artist will have hair in a "drugstore dye" color (usually black or blonde) and simple style (straightened, curled), and maybe two or three outfits that have been rotated over the past four years. A poor artist will have better hair (e.g. they can afford a stylist visit every few months) but around the same outfit rotation give or take one or two outfits. Someone just outside of poverty will have maybe a ten outfit rotation with at least two new per year, and so on, all the way up to rich people who can have a different outfit every day and different hair every few weeks... or days if they like wigs.
Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Many, MANY Visual Kei artists early on. That said longer hair is out of modern fashion and is more likely to be seen now with non-Visual Kei heavy metal bands, post-Visual bands or with neo-Visual Shock bands.
Long Runner Line Up: Very uncommon in the movement, as bands would often tend to break up due to Creative Differences. However, there are bands that last for years with the original lineup, with the longest-lived lineups spanning more than a decade.
Luna Sea's lineup remained the same from 1989 up until their dissolution in 2000. They have reunited in 2010 and resumed activities ever since.
Buck Tick is probably one of the longest running lineups in Visual Kei, if not the longest, if one is only counting consistently Visual Kei bands. They have had the same lineup since 1985, have only gone on long hiatus once (due to an external factor, the lead guitarist/co-founder's LSD arrest in 1989), have not broken up, no one has died or been hit with a career-ending or capability-limiting injury, and aside from that LSD arrest, they seem the beneficiaries of extreme good luck. As well as, of course, flexibility, being able to work with each other, and general apparent avoidance of major drama.
Loves My Alter Ego: Many fangirls/fanboys/groupies would hate artists they "love" if they knew anything beyond the stage image. Often causes Broken Pedestal when these don't realize the people on the stage are actually human beings off of it.
Lowest Common Denominator: Some bands and some styles (none of which will be mentioned here) are often accused of being sellouts to this, for varying reasons.
Machine Empathy: Instrument players can develop a form of this, as can programmers, light/sound techs, or photographers, due to knowing how what they use is supposed to work.
Made a Slave: Some labels which shall not be named have contracts very similar to indentured servitude, which is why being an indies artist often works out better for the truly talented who can promote themselves.
Made of Explodium: Obviously, pyro. Unfortunately, very sprayed up hairstyles and elaborate clothes and some stage props can be, while not made of explodium, very conducive to catching on fire.
Malicious Slander: There are some rumors and similar that exist only to hurt people or get people to hate them. Specifically, anything that claims someone is a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer or contributor to someone's death, in major financial trouble and only seeking a signing or relationship or whatever to get out of it, a direct active criminal member of the Yakuza, or that they have a uniquely dangerous/disgusting fetish they wish to force on other people is usually something to wait for collaboration from multiple sources or the artist themselves before believing or worse, sharing with others.
Man in a Kilt: Skirts are a common fashion item for Visual Kei bandmen.
Man on Fire: Visual Shock bands (and some modern bands) tend to use a lot of pyro. Combining pyro with the amounts of flammable hair products + costumes + props can occasionally result in this. One notorious incident in the 90s led to major burns on the side of hide's face during one of his solo performances, and a close brush with it occurred during X Japan's 2010 Yokohama show when a pyro went off too close to two band members, surrounding them with smoke and soot.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Happens frequently, since especially for Eroguro and some metal bands, the kayfabe involves being angry or rageful or even downright evil.
Meaningful Name: Many band names and stage names, though often averted, subverted, or inverted.
Men Are Uncultured: Depends on the band. Many bands play this heavily straight offstage and onstage, others avert onstage and play straight offstage, and a rare few will avert it both places (usually when education or wealth or the combination of both are involved.)
The Merch: Merch is a very large portion of the Visual Kei experience. Every band has a fairly large (and sometimes strange) range of branded merch. Sometimes, the amount of merch can lead to a band being accused of "selling out."
Metal Scream: VERY common for the more metal-oriented bands, obviously.
Mind Screw: Visual Kei is prolific of seemingly bizarre artists and material, some crazier than others...
A great many songs come across as jarring and hard to appreciate for the uninitiated; it is not helped by the fact that most songs are written in Japanese or nigh-unintelligible Gratuitous English, and sound like a mix of different and disparate musical styles. Whether this is Mind Screw or not depends greatly on the listeners, but more often than not, the music comes across as bizarre and alien-sounding for most.
Mighty Whitey: Double Subverted: The bands that inspired Visual Kei were American and Western bands mostly composed of white people, but there have been very few successful Western Visual Kei artists white or otherwise, and those that have been successes have been so not by rewriting the rules of the scene, telling the Japanese what to do, or similar.
Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Inverted intensely by the Visual Kei scene. You're far more likely to find white fangirls and the occasional gay or bi fanboys seeking out Asian men for their power and sexuality and status as rockstars and (rarely) rich and powerful (in the case of the label owners and older bandguys) there than almost anywhere else.
Military Brat: Some of the very earliest Western fandom (which is almost vanishingly rare as of The New Tens and the internet) consisted of these: US or other military brats checking out Dementia or Yokosuka Saber Tiger or X or Buck-Tick, being "this is actually really cool," and bringing cassettes back to their native country.
Misogyny Song: Unfortunately...Some bands have written songs with misogynistic lyrics.
Mistaken Age: Very, very easy to do, and most band members want their age mistaken for something younger, so they actively try to invoke the trope with makeup, plastic surgery, and lighting among other tricks.
Mistaken for Junkie: Name anyone in the Visual Kei scene and they've probably been accused of using illegal drugs when they don't, using more serious illegal drugs than they do, or of being an actual drug addict. A very common mistake is assuming any injection scar = track marks from injecting drugs, when said marks can be from medical injections or intravenous lines (meaning anyone in recent medical treatment likely has them for that reason). Another is assuming using drug imagery in songs or art is encouraging it.
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Visual Kei bands can range anywhere from one to eleven, often with this kind of variance among a single band's discography. Generally (though this is very much a generalization), Angura, Nagoya, and Eroguro bands tend to be higher, whereas Lolita and Oshare bands tend to be softer. Visual Shock and Kote Kei bands, on the other hand, often tend far more toward having this variance in their own discography - good examples being X Japan, a Visual Shock era band which has songs that range from one to eight or nine, Tokyo Yankees, another Visual Shock band with songs at the higher ranges of the scale, and Matenrou Opera, a New Tens Kote Kei band with songs ranging from two to eight.
Motive Decay: Originally, Visual Kei was similar to Punk Rock and Thrash Metal as a movement of social and political protest via shockingly different appearances, lyrics that often referenced issues the Japanese (and occasionally Western) mainstream media didn't wish to touch, its embrace of delinquents and outsiders and such, and advocated extreme individual and social freedom - it could have been considered a combination anarcholibertarian and individually libertarian/politically left-wing libertarian to left-wing socialist movement. Very little of this strain is noticeable now - most artists wish to pander to mainstream wealth or power, or are entirely divorced from what goes on outside the scene itself. The scene itself, both in Japan and elsewhere, has also become about attaining the most fashionably chic looks and producing music for money.
Motor Mouth: Some artists, singing, in interviews, or elsewhere, sometimes as the result of certain substances.
My Country, Right or Wrong: Occasionally happens when geopolitical issues regarding Japan vs. China or Korea or similar are brought up and the band members aren't educated about the issues or wise enough to defer: they will almost always become pro-Japanese nationalists, even if they aren't fascists normally or aren't politically active.
My Hair Came Out Green: Bad or unfortunate hairstyles happen on occasion, either due to poor band members self-styling or asking equally drunk/unskilled bandmates to style their hair or fix their current style, or stylists who really shouldn't be doing visual kei hair, or a variety of other reasons.
My Nayme Is: Stage Names often are odd spellings or character uses in otherwise "normal" names. hide (all lowercase) is one example, Tosh I another.
Nausea Fuel: Some of the imagery produced by Visual Shock, Kote Kei, and Nagoya Kei bands handily qualifies, especially depending on what Squicks you personally, but this has become the true expertise of Eroguro bands, whose express purpose is creating a mixture of this, Fetish Fuel, and Nightmare Fuel - and which are not welcome for discussion here.
To a lesser degree, sometimes unintentionally created by Glamour Failure or Special Effects Failure. Good examples of this are when severely unflattering information about an artist's appearance, behavior, or fetishes leaks to fans, especially when photographs are involved.
Never Accepted in His Hometown: A very common reason why the early Visual Kei bandmen converged on cities such as Tokyo/Yokohama, Osaka, Sendai, and Nagoya, creating scenes in each one that eventually somewhat united. Many bandmen came from rural areas or even the few Wretched Hive areas of Japan (US military towns like Yokosuka, where hide was from, or Okinawa, where Gackt spent some of his youth). If the bandmen make it (as in the case of hide and Gackt) the trope becomes soundly averted, as the hometown now has a hero with a lot of publicity and money from his fans coming to visit (which is especially good for the Wretched Hive areas especially - hide singlehandedly turned Yokosuka into a place of interest for more than sailors looking for trouble, and Gackt has drawn some attention to Okinawan issues at points)
Nice Hat: A common fashion accessory. Use was pioneered by Toll from Buck Tick and Taiji Sawada from X Japan (at the time X), and now the Nice Hat is almost as ubiquitous as showing hair, especially for bandmen who have day jobs, are balding, or have other reasons that none of the hair tropes can be put into effect.
Nightmare Fetishist: Lyricists/producers for many bands, especially of the Eroguro persuasion. Some of the more famous would be hide and Kyo.
Nightmare Fuel: It exists in many, many forms. So much there's even a subpage for it here.
Nobody Loves the Bassist: Almost completely averted. Two of the most memorable figures in Visual Kei history are late bassists: Jasmine You of Versailles and Taiji Sawada (formerly of X Japan). Bassists tend to be highly noticed in general, if only that usually the person picked for bass tends to be one of the most attractive members of the band. And when he's musically capable too, as You and Sawada were, you have legends ready to be made.
Nobody Poops: Averted, obviously as the people involved are human beings, but some of the aversions have been a TMI cut above: Minoru Niihara once posted about his anal issues and hemorrhoidal difficulties on his blog, a now-retired artist, Juka/Shaura, became famous for a fecal fetish, and a famous artist who shall not be named because he didn't reveal it himself was once photographed next to a nursedominatrix and enema equipment.
Noodle Incident: Almost every band has one somewhere in their history. Some more public than others.
No One Could Survive That: Some artists have been examples of this, mostly due to sheer luck as opposed to anything else. Some good examples are pretty much all of Taiji Sawada's life until his death, Yoshiki, who survived sustaining a broken neck onstage without dying or being paralyzed and carried off by roadies with no idea of how to handle spinal cord injury, only because he was lucky enough that what broke wasn't essential to breathing or neural connections to most of his body, and Atsushi Sakurai of Buck Tick, who survived abdominal peritonitis from a burst appendix (which is nearly impossible to survive)
No OSHA Compliance: Obvious, since there's no OSHA in Japan, but even according to the Japanese equivalent of OSHA, there was very little worker protection in Visual Kei for a long while and there still isn't much. Pyro and its usages and proximity to things it shouldn't be close to were/are probably the biggest example, as is water/water effects being in way too close proximity to electrical equipment or electrified things, slip and fall hazards, improper technique, toxic hair dyes and other products and toxic makeup (including items that could permanently damage hair or skin), tobacco smoke exposure, vehicles and travel to and from gigs and other events, and many other things are or were major, unmitigated hazards for performers.
No Periods, Period: Played straight by most bands and their activities with the predominantly male bent of performing acts. Averted by a few Visual Shock and some Eroguro bands who will depict menstruation, period sex, bloody childbirth, abortions, and the like in their lyrics and PV and stage imagery.
No Swastikas: Averted during the early days of Visual Shock and up until The New Tens, because Putting on the Reich and/or using actual swastikas and the Imperial Battle Flag were seen as "shocking." The Imperial Battle Flag is now generally no longer used by anyone who isn't a fascist (with the exception of Music/Loudness), and bands have become more educated/publicly shamed for Nazi-themed shock/have tours in countries that have No Swastikas as law, so this trope is now often played straight.
No Tell Motel: Most mitsu activities and inter-band hookups tend to take place at love hotels, for the reason that it is far easier to evade media, curious fans, and other people who might begin rumors at them.
Old Shame: There are a few examples, some specific and some more general.
A lot of bands have had a Contemptible Cover or other art (whether it be a poster or an entire PV) that they really want everyone to forget about. The worst is when an actually good or important production was overshadowed by the Old Shame of the awful art - as in the case with X Japan's Vanishing Vision, one of their first and best albums with some of their rarest work - but which has an infamous cover of drawn and photoshopped rape being depicted as erotic. The album will likely never be rereleased by the band, but its musical value ensures fans keep spreading it via piracy - which spreads the cover along with the music.
In the case of an entire band being an Old Shame, there is the 80 s band Rosenfeld, which took Putting on the ReichUp to Eleven, to the point where it was almost impossible to tell if they were just very skilled insulting Stealth Parody of Nazis or if they had actual Nazi sympathies. Had they just dropped or toned down the Nazi image, they would have been seen as one of the pioneers of Visual Kei (especially since there is some debate as to whether they or X Japan copied some of their hairstyles, their non-Nazi musical stylings, etcetera from each other). Instead, they faded into obscurity as anything but a flag for elitism or trolling when they pop up in a discussion of early Visual Kei.
Performance Video: Almost every band has at least one, and it's almost always best to check out a few of these (especially lives) before you decide whether you like a band or not, because some bands with admittedly lackluster recordings are great live performers or have incredible videos. Other times, the videos are crappy while the music is good, and other times it is all crappy...
Precision F-Strike: A common lyrical device for many bands, along with the aforementioned Atomic and Cluster varieties.
Putting on the Reich: Unfortunately common in early Visual Shock and in some other bands, though becoming less so over time as bands tour in countries where No Swastikas has the force of law, get negative feedback for Nazi-themed costuming from fans, and as some educate themselves. Some artists have been direct aversions of this: Sugizo in particular is known for his anti-fascism, left-leaning political views, and disgust with glorifying Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany.
Rape as Drama: Also a fairly common device used by Visual Shock, Neo-Visual Shock, and Eroguro artists. Differs from Gratuitous Rape but can also overlap with it (often in shades) but the general difference is that the lyrics/art takes it seriously to some degree, or the song is about rape or using rape symbolism with a reason other than trying to arouse the viewers or getting attention when something else would do, such as The Gazette's Taion which is a somewhat respectful treatment of the Real Life Junko Furuta case, or hide's Genkai Haretsu PV where the point is to show just how pathetic the Villain Protagonistis.
Rearrange the Song: Early on, most retakes/rearrangements/remixes/demos were released with the "studio version" or "primary version" as b-sides or "special presents" or similar. Remixes/rearrangements took on a life of their own as Visual Kei grew, and many artists and bands will release entire albums consisting solely of remixed and rearranged songs.
This is also the work of the rising amount of DJ type artists within the scene, although many are original artists as well - the idea of DJ/beatmaker as solely remixing and playing others' work is not much wanted in a scene heavily dependent on live shows, so DJ s and beatmakers and the like working within Visual Keihave to be capable of their own original electronic works and/or at least some form of truly unique appearance and style.
Taken Up to Eleven by Dir En Grey, with rearranged songs being considerably harder than the originals (some even going as high as 10 or 11 in terms of hardness). They've also released The Unraveling, an entire EP of rearranged songs, save for the title track.
X Japan has translated and rearranged several of their non-English songs into English. Some that were primarily Japanese with English lyrics at points were also flipped to be mostly English but with a few Japanese lines. Among them are Kurenai (which actually had a complete English version as early as 1987) and got a new retool as of 2009, Rusty Nail (2010, complete English version), Rose of Pain (2010, half the song was redone in English). Combined with Toshi's much improved English over 2008-2011, the effect is sometimes jarring for those used to the older songs, for good or for ill.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: A common reaction to '80s Visual Shock and Kote Kei by modern fans. Oshare Kei is slowly getting this as of The New Tens; almost everyone who is a fan of Visual Kei sees Oshare as exceedingly juvenile and cutesy host club music for Yaoi Fangirls. That being said, styles in Visual Kei seem to be a Cyclic Trope of sorts with the popularity of many styles being largely dependent on the Popularity Polynomial.
Serial Escalation: Visual Kei in general is an example of this trope in nearly everything, but the Eroguro subgenre is probably the biggest example of it. Just take a look at lyrics from hide's X Japan and solo work and Kiyoharu of Kuroyume in The Nineties - the co-founders of Eroguro - then at Dir en grey, Nega, or even The Gazette (which isn't technically Eroguro but is close) in The New Tens.
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Technically, the drugs part is very much frowned upon in Japan and even marijuana possession is highly stigmatized to the point that all of a band's music and merch can be pulled from shelves and boycotted, and arrested users are often kicked out of bands or their bands go on hiatus. That said... it's definitely around to a huge degree, it's just not to be discussed except in lyrics.
Played straight by indies bands, bands not on labels associated with major record companies, or established overseas artists, some of whom have far less fear of such societal punishment (or might even take it as a badge of honor) - and can, therefore, somewhat openly support marijuana use and legalization - therefore playing this trope straight and averting the "no drugs, really, we swear it" rule...
Sick and Wrong: You will react this way at something in Visual Kei at some point or another. In fact, that's the point of much Visual Shock and Eroguro - to make you have exactly this reaction or "It's sick and wrong but I'm turned on."
Slash Fic: Quite a lot of Slash Fic is written about Visual Kei artists and bands, due to the Ho Yay everywhere in the scene: it's like a gigantic signal for Yaoi Fangirls and other gay romance/gay erotica writers. Much could be considered yaoi, but there's also quite a lot of stuff that is closer to ordinary slash than "yaoi," and there's even some Bara Genre thanks to the presence of some older and more masculine/normal weight/muscular artists.
Spiritual Successor: To Hair Metal and shock rock, as well as being a fusion of the two. It should be noted, however, that Visual Kei doesn't sound exactly like its parent genres...
The preference by some fans for male artists over female can sometimes reek of sexism, even if it's a personal preference with a justified reason in some cases (for example, someone wanting to see someone attractive to their own orientation, or someone who prefers deeper voices to the higher shrieking/squealing that characterized a lot of female singers until Exist Trace proved there was a market for deeper female vocals). Where this crosses into the Unfortunate Implications is when female musicians (especially those who aren't singers) are automatically seen as inferior or less capable of playing "real" visual kei / "real" rock and metal, and unfortunately that attitude is still present in a lot of Visual Kei fandom.
The preference by fans for Japanese artists as "real" Visual Kei can sometimes become racialized to the degree of being racist. Again, sometimes this has justified reasons for being a personal preference (a fair amount of non-Japanese "visual kei" bands that have popped up have been crappy owing to their tendency to try to mimic Oshare or to try to fuse Oshare and Angura or Lolita and to at the same time be pandering to Occidental Otaku). Where it crosses into the racist Unfortunate Implications is when people either automatically assume any Japanese artist to be better than any Western one (e.g. assuming Maria Cross to a better vocalist than Freddie Mercuryjust because Maria Cross is Japanese) or when they take non-Asian racial/ethnic attributes as "strikes" against someone's ability to do visual kei fashion (e.g. one's skin color/eye color/hair type/height/features)
The trivialization of rape in some corners of the scene (generally older Visual Shock and modern Eroguro) and use of rape imagery and the conflation of rape with BDSM or erotic imagery can create some nastily triggering images for survivors, and can convince some people in the scene that rape is anything from a term of endearment to a funny joke to, when it actually happens, something that must be written off and covered up with the victim blamed.
The use of Ho Yay as fanservice can sometimes be seen as a homophobic insult to real GLBTQI people and their issues if it's handled flippantly or poorly. Especially if the people doing it are obviously straight men offstage who have no support for gay rights except to make money onstage (though once this is found out, said bands/artists rarely maintain popularity), or alternately, if the people doing it are Yaoi Fangirls who are only wanting to use "the hot guys" as fantasy rather than acknowledge the reality of their lives in Japan (and that Japan is still not, outside of visual kei, the most gay or bi friendly place in the world, especially for gay or bi men but also for lesbians).
The scene (especially in its Japanese iteration, and in some parts of the American scene) is known for excessive drinking and unsafe sexual behavior (despite the efforts of some bands to plead for safer sex openly).
Suicide: The Japanese Visual Kei scene has a huge problem with it, partially as an outgrowth of Japanese society's own massive suicide epidemic/problem, and partially due to the conditions in modern Visual Kei (limited finances, oppressive working conditions for label signed bands, societal othering, and more). Then there are the possible times murder or involuntary manslaughter is written off to suicide...
Yoshiki is probably one of the most opposed to suicide musicians in the scene having been a survivor in both senses of the word (of his father's intentional suicide, his closest and best friend's accidental suicide, and at least one attempt of his own), but his lyrical explorations of his grief and feelings could be a trigger to some (and were one to his own vocalist which he didn't know until Toshi left to join the religious cult in the hopes of it healing his mind) as much as they've been possibly lifesaving to others (what with the nature of the beast - the very thing that helps one person back from the edge can shove another over it)
Values Dissonance: Incredibly so between the West and even mainstream Japan, and almost everywhere, and the scene and artists in it often glory in it, making it an Invoked Trope. Androgyny and open acceptance/embrace of male/male sexuality is often a huge issue here, along with displays/imagery/lyrics that are Nausea Fuel / Nightmare Fuel / NSFW / any and all of the above, as are the approaches toward religion and religious symbolism taken by many artists... among just a few of the things that Visual Kei artists and fans like or see nothing wrong or bothersome with, but which enrage mainstream societies, Moral Guardians, politicians, Internet or Real Life bigots, and more...