No true research starts without letting the reader know why it is important to research on such topic and I want to do the same: Visual Kei must not be studied as the Japanese version of glam rock, but it can’t be defined worthy of research just because it is a peculiar genre of Japanese music.
I think that its research value is its capability of transforming and adapting traditional as well as foreign values into a product different from the starting point and presenting it to a young audience in an underground/indie context. To give some examples, 9Goats Black Out quoted greek myths and philosophy as well as european art in their works, Kiryu pretty much re-wrote the image of many characters of medieval and classical Japanese Literature, D and Kamijo wrote something like a vampire-legend giving an extremely original take on the figure of the Vampire taken from European folklore, Dadaroma (and especially Yoshiatsu) started portraying themselves as a joker heavily inspired by the figure of Stanczyc, the jester who became the symbol of Polish culture during a specific time in Poland, and much, much more. With such a lively scene, literature students would be surprised of how much this figures have been adapted to Japanese culture, maybe to an extent that nobody could even imagine, and made somewhat coherent. It’s the paradise of comparative literature and presentist research. Researchers out there, your paradise is here!
Now, going deeper, there is much more to research. For example, how did the Visual kei scene become like this, how it is perceived, how much influence has and receive from the not-underground culture and so on.
In order to research on such topics, one must find some sort of orienting point throughout Visual Kei that really deserve some attention: that is the evolution of the “Mask”.
Seeing how it started just as a simple style (maybe a hair style) and evolved into characters, then images and kept going on for almost 30 years, how the punk image has been partially tamed in some years, how it has been strongly pushed forward in other times: all these are topics which are strictly inherent to Visual Kei may offer extreme depth if researched focusing on the development of some individual artists throughout various “eras” of Visual Kei. For example, the mask of Gackt is extremely interesting: just imagine how difficult may be to translate your character from the vampire born in the 15 th century to the one of an idol-like artist which dances with other dancers in a band called “Yellow fried chickenz”. Also, when some critic will finally acknowledge the literary value of Visual lyrics, it will be extremely interesting to study the evolution of the lyrics of Nightmare and their oscillations in the years, showing the literary growth of their themes (especially the ones brought up by Ruka).
And finally, a personal opinion, what I consider the core potential of Visual Kei and, potentially the main concept with whom I tend to judge Visual bands: how masks can be adapted to themes without losing coherence. For example, a band I consider as one of the best in do such a thing is R指定, everytime I’m stunned by the quantity of new masks they can produce without getting out of their own boundaries of music and aesthetic. To put it in a simpler way, I love bands that never stop on the same theme or sound and stretch the personality of their masks towards genres and words that were never experimented before.