If you threw Hot Topic and a Renaissance fair into a blender and fed the resulting slurry to Ziggy Stardust, you'd get "Visual Kei." Visual Kei is a Japanese genre of music that ... actually, that's not right. It's not so much a genre as it is a set of aesthetics that ... no, that's not right, either. Visual Kei is ... okay, what the hell is Visual Kei? Let's start there. We asked "Sonya," a hardcore fan who follows a Visual Kei band around on tour, like somebody adapted Phish into an anime.
Visual Kei Fans Will Sacrifice Everything For Their Favorite Band
Pierrot de Lioncourt/Wiki Commons
Despite the country's reputation as the world's largest, open-air insane asylum, Japan has pretty standard musical tastes, with pop reigning supreme and Visual Kei bands being more of a niche market. But what they lack in mainstream appeal, they more than make up for in frightening, almost-religious devotion from their fans.
"I had the opportunity to go to Japan when I was 19," Sonya explains. "Back then, I was still a casual fan until I found my 'honmei,' or favorite band. Soon I was going to concerts three to five times a week and spending my life in venues. I went back to Europe to finish my degree. I was accepted for my continuing degree at an elite university ... Then one day I said 'fuck it' and went back to Japan to become a professional insane person who wore too much makeup, didn't sleep enough, and lived for her shiny boys in leather and lace. My mum cried when I told her, but I had to do what makes me happy ... I haven't gone back to reality since."
Georges Seguin/Wiki Commons
Neither have the bands.