The Air Moon, Final Chapter: Crescent, Part 3

A belated Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo, and 明けましておめでとうございます!

Had I gone to Japan to see the KHAOS tour, I would’ve gone to the Kobe show on the 22nd. So I thought it fitting to try to get another part done at this time.

So, let’s get back to it. For earlier portions, please see the Table of Contents.

The End of the MOON PROJECT

After a great many troubles, Gackt brought Jōgen no Tsuki ~Final Chapter~ to an end enveloped in the ideal emotional afterglow, and entered the studio to work on turning the scenes captured on July 6th into a video release. This work signaled the true “end” of Jōgen no Tsuki. By the end of the year, many more releases would be sent out into the world, signaling the end to another part of the MOON PROJECT.

Ever since MARS ~Sora Kara no Hōmonsha~, there has a been a video release of each tour after its conclusion. I’ve always written the script for the narration at the beginning of these releases, so in late July, I headed to the studio were the editing was being done for a meeting about the new script. The ending, in which all the actors from MOON CHILD came together, was still with me; I could recall it at any moment. In that emotional state, and looking forward to conversing with Gackt about “that day,” I sat down for the meeting.

“I’m trying to cut less than I did for the Kagen no Tsuki video.”

Having brought up the overall vision, Gackt continued, telling me things he could only say having had to process Jōgen no Tsuki ~Final Chapter~ as a video work.

“This time, we kept things up onstage simple, and tried to make the whole venue feel like the stage. Right? Basically, I insisted on creating the staging through the beauty of the lighting. But on video, the beauty of the lights doesn’t really show up very well.”

Remembering those lights, so intense that commenting on their brightness became cliché, I had flashbacks of the tour. “Doomsday” and “birdcage” especially were flooded in light. It seemed Gackt’s battle with the lighting would cause a large part of his agony throughout the editing process.

“If I set the brightness to what a person would have actually perceived live at a venue, it all turns white and you can’t see a thing. But if I drop the brightness so that you can make things out on a CRT,1 it becomes completely different from what it looked like live. I thought it over a lot, ultimately deciding to drop the brightness where it was overpowering. Otherwise, you end up skipping over so much that it ceases to make sense. There’s a little bit of color left at the start of ‘Doomsday,’ but once the music starts, it’s pure white. *Laughs* The brightness is that intense on other songs too, so it was tough. That type of adjustment was difficult, but other than that, it’s been alright. It’ll turn out great in the end.”

With Jōgen no Tsuki wrapped up to the point only the video release remained, Gackt must have finally felt that the tour was over. I myself felt an indescribably invogorating sensation once I’d completed my script for the narration.

“This is me personally, but… This is the end of the MOON concept I’ve been performing in this whole time, this really long time. It’s tough to keep going with the same theme, but looking back, now that it’s over, it went by fast,” Gackt sighed. He didn’t have that tense aura he had tended to have during the tour.

There were still some MOON PROJECT-related releases in the pipeline, but the completion of Gackt Live Tour 2003 Jōgen no Tsuki ~Final Chapter~ heralded the end of the overarching conceptual framework, and that brought with it particularly powerful emotions. It goes without saying that this piece, released on September 18th, turned out to be one of very high quality.

At the same time, in early September, Gackt set out for Los Angeles to shoot the photos for the calendar. Before heading to the States, he’d said, “I think I’ll make the theme of the shoot something like ‘ANOTHER Gackt’.”

Those of you Readers who picked up the final product, did you feel a new excitement upon seeing his special expressions for the calendar?

You can see all the fun they had on the shoot in Platinum Box ~IV~, which went on sale in December. Ah, yes, some wonderful playing cards came included in this release. The photos on them were fun, but what made me laugh even more was their coffin-shaped design. That shape isn’t terribly practical, is it? (LOL)

After finishing the photo shoot, Gackt spent what little time off he had in L.A., and returned to Japan with a bit of a cold. He appeared before us for TV Asahi’s 45th anniversary event, and to perform in the John Lennon Super Live,2 among other things. Though it was brief, he also flew to Taiwan to participate in a Wan Leehom show. It was an exchange rooted in friendship.

I recall something Gackt said when I met him in Tawain while he was filming MOON CHILD. He hoped that all the actors in the movie could continue being friends beyond the scope of their individual business. For him, it was only natural that they should stand and sing on each others’ stages. Being from different record labels, let alone different countries, was irrelevant. The emotional promises made after filming was complete were properly kept through the execution of Jōgen no Tsuki ~Final Chapter~ and this visit to Taiwan. Once again, Gackt added to the pile of evidence showing he was a man of his word.

On September 27th, I went to Yoyogi National Stadium’s First Gymnasium for the TV Asahi event. For his special appearance, Gackt was set to do but two songs, but I remember being in for quite the surprise.

Those of us covering the event had been informed before it started that Gackt would be performing “Lu:na” and “Fragrance,” but I never imagined that he would come out with ten dancers, just as he had done during Jōgen no Tsuki! In the same costumes, to boot. The choreography was a bit different. I deeply admired them for bothering to come up with a new arrangement specifically for this performance. Even though the MOON PROJECT was still going, so of course it was natural that the performances during this period would stick to the MOON concept, I was overwhelmed by Gackt’s thoroughness, and felt a great deal of his fighting spirit. With the advance into Asia always on their mind, Gackt Job didn’t overlook a single detail.

After that, Gackt set about recording the Mandarin version of “Jūni-gatsu no Love Song,” “Shí’èr yuè de qínggē,” as well as the album Crescent, which would include his new single “Last Song.” The release of “Shí’èr yuè de qínggē” felt like one more real step in the advance into Asia, and I couldn’t help but daydream about the near future. He has already been on the Beijing stage, but once his Mandarin is heard across the continent on a more daily basis, what will the Chinese entertainment world make of it? Remembering how Gackt had continued studying Chinese during Kagen no Tsuki made me grow increasingly anxious and excited.

The MOON PROJECT-related releases that would close out the year weren’t limited to musical works. The book MOON CHILD Requiem, written by Gackt himself, also went on sale. In MOON CHILD, Sho and Son chose to walk different paths in the wake of Toshi’s death. They meet again as the immigrant Sho and the mafia member Son, but the movie doesn’t show the events in between. The book shows this part of the story through the eyes of a reporter named Lin Keiyō.

Even I couldn’t believe how excited I got upon first reading the book. It wasn’t just that I was sucked in by the interesting story, it was also that, as a man of letters myself, Gackt’s writing—so full of skill, resounding with his unique voice and indubitable expressive power—seemed to slap me on the back, pushing me forwards. After reading it, my mind was made up: I would write this documentary book with the same fire that drove Lin Keiyō.

This is going to sound like something for an afterword, but MOON CHILD Requiem also taught me something about my stance toward writing. It’s a certain intuition that will continue into any future writings on Gackt that I do. Of course, I could do without Lin Keiyō’s constantly-facing-death aspect. (LOL)

The sound-based part of the MOON PROJECT came to an end with the November 12th release of “Last Song,” and the December 3rd release of the album Crescent.

“Last Song”……it really is a title that seems to signify the end of the MOON PROJECT.

“Originally, we were gonna make ‘Kimi ga Matteiru Kara’ into a single, but I thought this song summed up the album.”

Of course, “Last Song” was included in the album as well, but it was specially chosen by Gackt to be a single.

If you read the lyrics closely, you’ll see that they fall neatly into the MOON concept of “thoughts on regrets and atonement.” However, to me it felt like the first half consisted of a man’s pleas, while the second half consisted of those of a woman. Altered versions of stills from MOON CHILD are printed on the liner note lyrics, so in part it makes you think of Sho and Yi-Che’s relationship, but if you watch the music video, you get a different impression entirely.

I’d written in the magazine uv, “Two sides of the same coin, this is probably a song about beginnings.” The aftertaste from the music video really made me feel that way. It’s probably pushing things too far to try to shoehorn MOON CHILD into this video.

The video seems to be showing the moment a man and woman break up, but we’re left completely in the dark as to the reason for that. Reading the lyrics doesn’t yield any insight into their relationship or why it fell apart, either. In other words, “Last Song” is a song that leaves many blanks for the imagination to fill in. The simple acoustic guitar melody, with its skillful use of rests, is perhaps also meant to amplify that “fill in the blank” feeling.

Gackt has always put out songs that bring an image to mind, wanting listeners to make full use of their imaginations, but that tendency is expressed particularly strongly in this song. That being the case, I suspect there’s a deep meaning to the fact that we’re not shown what led up to this stage. In short, “Last Song” itself is a clue to help us imagine the next part of the MOON story.

I want to look back on an interview that’s fresh in my mind.

“I’ve always thought that it would be good if there were, within Crescent, a part that acts as a summary of the first chapter, and a part that’s a preview of the second chapter. I’ve divided the recording up like so.”3

There it is. The role of “Last Song” is to serve as a preview.

The first chapter is the tale with MOON CHILD at its axis. While the second chapter is from the same tale as MOON, it will contain an as-yet untold story. If “Last Song” is the preview to that, then it makes sense that the songs corresponding to the first chapter (“rain” for example) would seem to share “thoughts on regrets and atonement” and “a feeling of incessant loss.”

“I won’t say which is the summary, and which is the preview. I would be glad if people just felt it.”

So, that’s the gist of it. There are many songs on the album that hold hidden clues as to the next chapter of the grand tale of MOON, but the clues are not solely in the lyrics. Many elements of the sound itself also make you feel what’s to come. There are also songs that prominently and concretely let you understand that this is a new experiment, such as “Dybbuk” with its inclusion of rap elements. However, this isn’t indicative of Gackt’s future direction compositionally.

“I went about doing this recording on the premise that the process would be based on how I would do the audio engineering, composition, and concerts for the recording of the third album counting from Crescent. That’s something I believed I could do, so I did it based on that approach of thinking how I want to do things in the future.”

The key here was the part about “the recording of the third album counting from Crescent.”

It wasn’t certain if that album would even be finished by year’s end, but Gackt already had the idea that he would complete not only Crescent, but also three more albums after that, seeing them from the early development of their soundscape all the way through to the stage.4 There was this nuance that all the things between now and then were necessary steps to reach that goal.

He’ll probably put out a new sound or two between now and then. With the end of the MOON PROJECT, Crescent was an album that seemed like the beginning of an experimental search for the future. It’s not just the rapping in “Dybbuk.”5 There are surprising experiments all over the place, such as the pairing of a passionate rock sound with shakuhachi (a bamboo flute) on “mind forest.”

“We’re artists from Japan, but rock originally came from another country, right? So I’ve been thinking, why not incorporate instruments that people from other countries see as Japanese? ‘What kind of Japanese instruments can we play,’ ‘we probably need to use them more.’ I started thinking things like that, so I tried it out.”

The influence of Gackt’s many trips abroad—for both work and personal reasons—on his thought process is reflected even here. However, it’s not that Gackt incorporated the shakuhachi to offer non-Japanese listeners the kind of Orientalism they would easily understand. The shakuhachi was used only on the condition that adding its voice to the mix was a necessity for embodying the essence of the song.

“I wanted people to feel something on a deep, spiritual level. What you would call ‘soulful’ in English. Kind of like a samurai spirit.”6

For those who get Crescent, one of the pleasures of listening to it will surely be to ask themselves and imagine, what is this new sound trying to express?

Also, in an interview, Gackt had talked about how the songs were related to each other.

“It’s from a certain person’s point of view, but ‘white eyes’ ties into ‘Last Song.’ ‘Lust for blood’ and ‘white eyes’ are also tied together.”

Oh? Who could that “certain person” be? Once again, Gackt leaves room for the imagination by leaving us with another riddle. The key character in the second chapter of MOON must already be clear to him. His endless vision continues to spread, but with Crescent, the MOON PROJECT which has continued for so long closes out its first chapter, and will sleep until a new page is turned.

Crescent summarizes the MOON PROJECT thus far while announcing its second chapter. Let’s ride the rolling waves of its fresh melodies as we turn our thoughts to the future. Doing so is the greatest pleasure given to those who support Gackt.

While still unable to say concretely when the second chapter of MOON would start, we welcomed in 2004 with the release of the single collection THE SIXTH DAY. Precisely because it’s a collection of rearranged versions of previous tracks, you can have a better understanding of where Gackt Job is going with their experiments constructing sound.

“Looking back, having finished MOON, I think, everyone’s done well to keep up with me, selfish as I am. I’m extremely grateful that so many fans have stayed with me. I feel this great love. I feel loved. So that’s why I want 2004 to be a year of giving back to the fans.”

The collection of hit singles THE SIXTH DAY was clearly a thank-you gift to fans. The summer concerts would probably also develop into a gift for those fans who have continued to love him. But there’s something he’s always said: “There’s an element of selfishness in seeing the things I want to do through to the end. I’m thankful for the fans and staff who follow me nonetheless.” That being the case, once he’s expressed his gratitude to the fans, he will doubtless go back to that “selfish” place and manifest his own desires. I expect that when that happens, the pages of MOON will open once more.

Thus this manuscript, which has also traced the steps of the grand MOON PROJECT, has also come to its end.

These are my overall thoughts having lived the tale of MOON up to this point.

Looking back, I feel like the MOON PROJECT expressed the various joys and sorrows that are the fate, the destiny of those who must go on living. The concerts allowed people to vicariously live out that human desire to go back in time and right wrongs in order to move forward.

The greatest thing they showed onstage was the wonderful, powerful bond between Gackt, the band members, and the dancers. Of course, they hadn’t bonded simply out of habitual interaction. The sense of unity that came about through their brutally, earnestly butting heads has continued to push them forward. It bears witness to the life they’ve shared.

Gackt often uses the word “family.” Perhaps it’s because of this age of shallow interpersonal relationships, but that word resonates with a special heaviness to me.

Gackt turns to the task of creative expression even if it means taking on a load beyond his limits.  I think the MOON PROJECT, executed by such a man, was the “soul crying out” to bring back the countless precious things we’ve lost in this era.

And so, let me close this book with one more wish for the pages of a yet unseen MOON to be opened someday.

[Book concludes in the Afterword]

1. CRT as in “cathode-ray tube,” meaning the old, bulky televisions that were common before flat screens took over. (I think most people reading this know that, but my high school students don’t know what YouTube is named after, so I figured I’d make a note of it.)

2. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but since I’d never heard of it, I figured I’d add this note. According to Japanese Wikipedia, Dream Power: John Lennon Super Live is a series of charity concerts produced by Yoko Ono to benefit children in Asia and Africa, focusing on raising funds to build schools.

3. Here Gackt used the loanword レコーディング (rekoodingu) meaning “recording”…but it’s not clear to me whether he intends this as a noun or verb. Is he saying he divided the recording process, doing first all of the “summary” songs, then all of the “preview” songs? Or is he saying he divided the record up this way?

4. What I’ve translated as “soundscape” was 音作り (otozukuri), a term I’d come across in this book before. Unable to find it in the dictionary, from context I’ve been interpreting it literally as “sound make,” translating that to just “sound” or “creating sound” as in “an artist’s sound.” For the most part, that seems to be the way Hirose is using it. But according to various online articles, such as this one on an instrument seller’s website, otozukuri is the art of choosing, connecting, and adjusting all the equipment involved in sound production, from the instruments themselves to mics, amps, effect pedals, cables, etc. From these sources, it would seem that “sound engineering” is the best translation for otozukuri. In this sentence, however, that doesn’t quite make sense, unless Gackt was thinking of radically changing his equipment, which I suppose is also possible. For the moment, my gut’s telling me that Hirose was using this term a bit more poetically than what I’ve found online.

5. Hirose wrote “Dybbuk” as “Dybbuck.” I wonder if that’s just a typo, or if Gackt was originally writing it that way. The former seems to be the usual way the name of this spirit from Jewish mythology is written.

6. The game franchise Samurai Shodown is known as Samurai Spirits in Japan, but Hirose quoted Gackt as saying 「侍(サムライ)スピリッツぽい感じ」without putting the words “samurai spirits” in brackets to mark it as a title. So I’m wondering if Hirose didn’t get the reference, or if SNK wouldn’t have approved of their game’s title being used here, or if Gackt was using just the words without meaning to allude to the game. The blending of an alternative/hard rock/prog rock sound with traditional Japanese influences is really clear on tracks from the game such as the Galford stage music “Waterfall of Purification” from 1995’s Samurai Shodown III (especially in the arranged version), but I think you can hear the attempt to blend these influences even on 1993’s Samurai Shodown despite the inferior sound capabilities of the arcade and console machines from back then. Here’s Galford’s music from the first game for comparison.

2 thoughts on “The Air Moon, Final Chapter: Crescent, Part 3

  1. Pingback: The Air Moon, Final Chapter: Crescent, Part 2 | Warped Frost

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