Active since 2007, Kiryu is a visual kei band with a strong influence from traditional Japanese culture in style and theme, and their music conveys that influence in a modern context. Comprised of Mahiro (vocals), Mitsuki (guitar), Takemasa (guitar), Hiyori (bass), and Junji (drums) their band concept “Tsuuzetsu Nostalgic” is taken to new extremes in the PV for their single “Akai Mi Hajiketa“. They describe the song as expressing the madness that lies in the depths of humans, and the imagery of the PV tells a dark tale.
From the opening titles, presented in distressed film, the nostalgic principle is in play from the start; the text refers yo suppressing expression and emotions. We see a man in white kimono, handling prayer beads called juzu, as he walks through the woods, depicted in black and white. The kimono appears to be kyokatabira, a garment often see worn by ghosts, and traditionally used as funeral garments or worn by buddhist priests. The presence of the beads points towards the latter, and he passes similarly attired skeletons as he proceeds towards an altar. The time appears modern, indicated by the feet in his sandals clad in toe socks, an invention of the late 20th century.
The music is suitably slow and somber, matching the mood of the solitary procession, breaking into heavy rock accompanied by shots of the band performing in full, vivid color. They’re surrounded by skeletal remains on the ground, and the surrounding trees bear hung corpses, attired like the man – apparent suicides? The nooses would support this theory, but more bodies also dressed alike appear impaled on the fence posts behind the band. The remains and their condition indicates this bone-yard is certainly no cemetery, any spirits remaining do not rest in peace.
The cuts get quicker, but we can see the man waving a stick bearing an array of ribbons on the end over 5 skulls. While I think it’s safe to assume they represent the band members, lit in ultraviolet as to convey their otherworldly presence, although this could also represent the 5 virtues referred to in the lyrics. This likely refers to the 5 precepts that constitute the Buddhist code of ethics (to abstain from harming the living, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication) furthering the aspect of the holy man appearing.
This would appear to be a summoning ritual, bringing the demonic aspect Kiryu has taken on here. He appears to be disheveled, and a look of mania is on him as he conducts his business. We see quick flashes of each band member in the rapid cuts, as though the barrier between this world and the next has been broken. Also indicated in the lyrics, ‘I shake hands as I say “good-bye” to consciousness / barely pledging, the last of the place is torn / A Xanadu-like dream’. Recalling “Kubla Khan, or A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment”, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the veil between this world and another has been ripped open by the rite.
The man is seen in color as he continues his ritual and descends into madness, having conjured the darkness of Kiryu. He nails up a ‘wara ningyoo’, a straw doll used in this ritual to curse someone to death or pain by nailing it up. The site that taught me the term also refers to ‘ushi mitsu, the old double-hour of the ox beginning at one o’clock’, invoked in the last line of the song, ‘awakened by the time of the Ox’. This supposedly causes death or pain for the intended victim, and here his victim isn’t immediately clear. We also see Mahiro’s hands start to bleed, in response to the sacrificial figure? This anti-stigmata, smeared over Mahiro’s face in a seemingly baptismal gesture, also coincides with cuts of the man bleeding from the eyes.
That the blood appears to ‘originate’ with the man’s final descent, and is applied by Mahiro in such a fashion casts the man as his own sacrificial offering, taken by this demonic overlord. His kimono can be taken to a dual significance – he’s a buddhist priest gone mad in conducting this bizarre invocation of madness, or a simple man dressed for his own demise. However, as he’s not being laid to rest in a funeral ceremony, the mad holy man is the dominant image of these two possibilities. The lyric “(The) meditation is opened by connection” appears to support the priestly aspect of the figure.
The final moments of the video show us an overhead view of nothing but remains — the man appears to have joined those gone down this path of insanity before. The solo images of the band flash once more in black and white, and as if confirming their otherworldy aspect here a pan down to the skulls used in the ritual shows that which remains. The skulls appear as totems to call Kiryu into this world, summoner beware.
Taken in a singular viewing, the images flash by rapidly in time with the music to best convey the insanity and darkness of the track and the mood of the narrative. The shift in color and the cross-cutting hold some linearity as the man is taken by Kiryu’s otherworldly power in the night. As the bones scattered throughout the landscape show this journey is one taken by countless others that will surely repeat as Kiryu continue to release music to capture the minds and imaginations of listeners the world over.