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-Visual Kei
experimental metal band Dir En Grey
. 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 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 Toshiya
, he is also an illustrator.
Kaoru provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Gender: Plays this trope straight as far as appearance is concerned, even more so in his early days in the visual scene.
- Anime Hair: Ever since the beginning. Downplayed in recent years, though.
- Ascended Fanboy: Became this. He is a fan of X Japan's hide and entered the Visual scene in order to become as great as him. He and his band got signed to Yoshiki's Extasy Records 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 Luna Sea guitarist Sugizo, however.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Presented himself as this in his early years. Even in some recent photos, he doesn't look like the manliest member of the band.
- Dye Hard: 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 hide clone; he is almost in competition with fellow bandmate Die, and the two often seem to outdo each other.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: During the band's most Visual phases, but averted in recent years.
- Fan Nickname: "God of Death".
- Follow the Leader: A huge fan of hide and wanted to be like him (see above). He did.
- Five-Man Band - The Leader: Composes most, if not almost all of Dir en grey's music. He also exudes a mature, leaderly presence whenever necessary.
- Harsh Vocals: He tries to mimic Kyo's singing, though he ends up sounding like Maria Cross.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Has always been.
- Long Runner Line Up: 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.
- The Mentor: Yoshiki helped shape his hide cloning attempt by injecting an X Japan-esque vibe to his early works.
- Nice Hat: Loves hats and owns a rather extensive collection.
- Ojou Ringlets: 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 '80s Hair and nowadays he seems to be going for a messier version of his 2011 hairstyle.
- Older Than They Look: Almost in his forties, though he looks like one of the band's youngest members.
- One of Us / Otaku: Admits that he is a Gundam fanboy. Also loves playing video games and has once mentioned that he borrows games from Kyo.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Popularized Dir en grey's tagline: "Japanese Zombie Heroez" which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin - the band is usually portrayed in music videos as a group of Visual Kei 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.
- The Red Stapler: ESP "Japanese Zombie Guitars" and hide merchandise.
- Renaissance Man: Aside from music, he once said that, during his school years, he was known as an excellent student who specialized in arts and sports. He isn't exactly the most studious, however. He is also an illustrator.
- Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted and, occasionally, averted.
- Stage Names: He goes mononymously by his given name.
- Stylistic Suck: His unclean vocals.
- Visual Kei: 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.
- What Could Have Been: Had he been chosen as X Japan's new lead guitarist, he would have raised the standards of Visual Kei 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 Visual Kei. He would also have, like fellow candidate Miyavi, brought a more youthful and dynamic vibe to X Japan and Visual Kei in general.