Chapter 28:


VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

“This is not what I was expecting…”

Kaori’s face splits in a sly grin, gradually growing from ear to ear.

“And what were you expecting, Tai?”

Cackling as she grabs my wrist and worms our way through the crowd.


Never heard of it, but since yesterday, she’s been teasing my reward.

“So what’s the deal? I don’t recognise any of the names on the list.”

It seems to be an all day mini festival, at a couple of venues, centred around Shibuya BIG GAME.

“We missed CALL TO TOKYO, that would have been better. It is bigger, has more bands and venues involved, but I was too busy with work and… you. This is me making up for that…”

Her smile returns, more sweetly than before.

“…it is also your reward for not going on a date with Fuyumi.”

“Ahh… I get to have a date with you instead!”

I bump into Kaori’s back.

Guess she still freezes up when I’m too direct.

I place my hands on her shoulders. It’s odd how comfortable we’re becoming with physical contact, but I can’t say it’s not pleasant. She slowly thaws in my grasp.

Sometimes, I get visions of her elbowing me in the stomach, stamping on my foot, doing something violent in retaliation for my teasing. Not once has anything happened, but I’m under no illusions, she could kill me in an instant. A look is all she needs. Her aura can change, and I know I’m in trouble.

She tilts her head back, her face toward me, hair spilling away…

This is one of those moments!

She smiles and leans into my shoulder.

…or not?!.

Fake outs are somehow, sometimes, worse.

The queue is a fair length, and we weren’t early by any stretch of the imagination. It takes a while to get in, giving me time to look up some of the acts, get an idea of their style and sound.

Even the biggest ones barely break 50k on their socials, but…

“I thought the scene was dead?”

Kaori frowns at me like a disappointed parent.

“Is that because you only listen to music from before 2010?”

I want to call her rude, but with some quick math in my head, that actually kinda adds up.



Her frown deepens, but breaks into a smile, then laughter.

“Mhmm… then we should consider this part of your education.”


I realise a lot of my knowledge is completely dated, recycling the same content over and over. I’d read that the Visual Kei scene, both fashion and music, had gone under after the recession. There just wasn’t the money anymore to afford the extravagance.

There was even talk of how bands had starting co-opting the look to build a following, then as soon as they got signed, dropping the VK aesthetic. Which killed confidence in the style as a whole, because people didn’t want to get invested in artists that might betray them down the line, having been using them in the first place.

“Do not think so deeply about it all.”

Kaori slips in front of me, her back pressed against my chest, face still tilted toward me.

“I know that face. You are lost in there. Come back to me.”

God, I want to kis-

The deafening polyphony of one of the bigger name bands cracks through the venue, ripping me out of my thoughts and desires.

HEXCORE are one of the few I’d stumbled across on my own. I was looking up DEMONLOOP, the band the clerk at NERD shouted to me after insulting You In Grey, and saw they’re touring together.

The crowd gets whipped up into chanting along with a few bars, but the “No Dancing” Law has kinda crippled venues from having much energy beyond that. You can tell the band would have a whale of a time with a Western audience, though.

I can feel vibrations of excitement running through Kaori. Her desire to have a one man - that was Kaoru - woman mosh pit, burning her up inside.

My first girlfriend and I went to a gig back in high-school. We stood like this for a lot of it, the tension from being so close, the friction through our clothing, the buzz of the whole thing… I was a teenager then and it was all raw and new.

It barely even compares to the dry mouthed, sweaty palmed, exhilaration bordering on delirium being elicited now.

I really have fallen…

Kaori reaches back and takes my hands in hers, placing them on her hips.

I’m instantly stuck with an adrenaline shot. Real fight or flight response overwhelming everything. I just kind of freeze, buffering, my brain incapable of identifying an appropriate response.

The jerky tones of her giggle reaches my ears.

She recognised my embarrassed paralysis and is amused by it, flattered even.

“Glad to know that is all it would take to kill you.”

Kaori leans up again to be heard easier and, with a teasing sigh, removes my stiffened hands from her side.

I want to grip back on. Hold her tighter. Never let her go. But, I’m not quite there yet…

The bands rotate incessantly. Several with similar sounds and styles simply flow into each other. Varying degrees of indie rock through punk. A surprising number of alternative idol groups… Kodometal really started a whole craze!

As much as HEXCORE were a highlight, I realise I’m not enjoying myself so much. A lot of the music is distinctly less Japanese sounding. There are a few with the weirdness of VK past still present in some samples or riffs, but even that feels more like an homage, or just adherence to tradition, than pure creativity.

The vocals are cleaner, safer, having taken on the well practised sound of professional screams and growls. Better technique robbing them of individuality.

Another set change.

My ears welcome the break.



We make the most of the intermission, stretching our legs and wetting our whistles.

“How are you enjoying it?”

Kaori is ecstatically aglow.

I know better than to crap on what someone loves. We don’t have to like all the same things to still have a lot in common, but I don’t want to lie to her either. Mostly I’m just enjoying bring with her.

“I’m good!”



“Nothing! I’m enjoying myself…”

“Tell me.”

“You’re too good at reading me…”

She’s still riding such a positive wave I don’t want to be the break point… but, proud and encouraging smile teases upon her lips.

“I want to know. Don’t worry, you will not hurt my feelings.”

Here goes…

I ramble through my thoughts as Kaori politely and patiently listens.

“…do you not think it was the same back then?”

“I… what?”

“For every Tuck-Bick, an original that has lasted decades, there are several Malicious Misters that passed before their time. For every Antique Café on long term hiatus, there will have been dozens that did not make it past their first night.”

For every band that makes it, hundreds don’t. Their competitors may have sounded similar, but that still isn’t enough to succeed.

“You’re right…”

Kaori smiles, this time with relief and satisfaction.

“What makes something like this…” she gestures all around us, “…is seeing the start of a journey. However long it lasts, however high they rise.”

Her passion surpassing any of the audience responses we’ve seen all day.

“You get to capture a small part of their adventure…” hands dancing towards the stage, “…through showcases like this. You see whether their talent matches your taste.”

Why didn’t I get any of this sooner?!.

“Then you get to accompany them, be a part of their success by supporting their growth.”

Kaori finally starts to come down.

“That is the relationship between fan and artist, is it not?”

“It is…”

She beams with pride at my understanding and agreement.

“…I’ve told you before, I always think you’re right. Guess I needed a reminder.”

Her features freeze.

Still can’t take a compliment.

But her words ring painfully true.

You slip in and out of sync with artists as they put emotions and experiences into song. Whether you currently resonate with them or not is irrelevant, so long as at the right moments in time, you are there for each other. Not everything is for everyone all of the time.

You can’t be all things to all people, but you can mean it all to a select few.

Kaori thaws again and hides her blush in her drink.

We’ve been there to support each other, so much, in such a short time…

The next band takes to the stage, and we head back to our spot. I slip an arm along the small of her back - she tenses for a moment then relaxes into me - my hand coming up to rest on her waist, pulling us close.

Times and trends may change.

…I just hope this stays the same.

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