Perennial idol looks back on triumphs and tragedies


Originally published on on April 2014

Cutting a wide swath across Japan’s entertainment world, Gackt is one of the country’s more widely known artists. After leaving visual-kei juggernaut Malice Mizer in 1999, he embarked on a highly prolific solo career, releasing 15 albums and scores of chart-topping scores of singles. He has also launched a second career as an actor, appearing in a slew of TV dramas and portrayed a samurai alongside Woody Harrelson in the action mash-up flick Bunraku.

Despite his prodigious output, Gackt labors over each and every project. The 40-year-old Okinawa native says he spent half a year preparing his 44th single, “P.S. I Love U.” “This song is meant to be like a letter from someone who died and left that letter for their loved one to read,” Gackt told Metropolis in an English interview at his office in Shibuya. He explains that although the song is written from a woman’s perspective, it expresses his own thoughts, experiences and philosophy.

“I did quite a bit of research,” he says of the soaring piano ballad. “I collected a number of touching stories, and watched love movies from different countries such as the American romantic comedy If Only, the Japanese drama Ima Ai Ni Yukimasu (Be With You), and the film Watashi No Atama No Naka No Keshigomu (A Movement to Remember). But even though I used other people’s materials for inspiration, I would say that 95 percent of this song is based on my own feelings and experiences.”

Indeed, the songwriter drew from tragedy in his own history. Just before he started his solo career, Malice Mizer lost its drummer Kami to a brain hemorrhage. Today, Gackt says he keeps Kami in his heart and the loss informs the background of the new song.

Although his calm demeanor today belies the fact, he has faced opposition over some of his career choices. “While working on the NHK historical drama Furin Kazan,” he recalls. “I played the role of Kenshin Uesugi, the Sengoku period daimyo. My vision for this character was different from what everybody expected. The real Kenshin Uesugi was always portrayed as a very tough and brutal-looking man.”

Instead, Gackt presented him clean-shaven, with beautiful long hair. “I received a lot of harsh criticism, but award-wining actor Ken Ogata came to me and expressed his approval. He gave me the assurance I needed to continue. After that he became like a father to me.”

The massive sunglasses make it difficult to read Gackt’s emotions, but his great admiration for his mentor is evident. Ogata died in 2008, one day after he and his protégé made plans to meet the following week. “He was a great person—a true actor—not only in his lifetime, but also at the time of his death,” Gackt says, listing him as another influence on the new song.

“My single is meant to be like a letter left to a loved one by someone who’s gone from this world,” he continues. “I imagined what the person who is reading such a letter would feel. But the purpose of my song is not to evoke sadness, but happiness. In my opinion, death is not important—what’s important is what kind of life we leave behind. People reading such letters should not focus on the event of death itself, but on all the good memories and positive emotions that they were able to share together.”

“Death is scary only to the unprepared,” he concludes. “Once you prepare yourself for the fact that it will happen at some point, and focus on the moments you are alive, the words ‘to die’ lose their power to intimidate.”

Gackt appears in the play Moon Saga Yoshitsune Hiden Dainisho, August 8-1.