Music prodigy to goth royalty

The World’s Most Influential Gothic Lolita

Photo by Moi-Même-Moitié Archives | Mana-sama showing an example of the Moi-même-Moitié clothing line.

Mana (also known as Mana-Sama by his fans) is a multi-talented icon of both the goth and Harajuku subcultures. A true artist, Mana was born on March 19 (year unknown) in Hiroshima and spent his early life dedicated to music. As the son of two music teachers, he grew up in an environment that encouraged the appreciation and finesse of classical music. Mana picked up piano and began his journey of composing his own pieces. 

It was during his teens that Mana was first introduced to metal, and his love was solidified after experiencing his first-ever concert: Mötley Crüe. Right after, he bought his first album: Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind. He found musical inspiration in Mötley Crüe’s drummer, Tommy Lee, and his passion was ignited from there. 

After finishing high school, Mana joined his first band after enrolling in a music school in Osaka. This band – Girl’e – helped Mana begin his transition through different subcultures. Starting with punk, Mana had a blatant dislike for “girly” and feminine aesthetics and openly considered himself “hyper-masculine,” rejecting the typical punk ethos that embraced androgyny. Shortly after the bands’ separation, Mana decided to drop out of college and move to Tokyo after realizing his dislike of music theory and the rigidity that comes from following its rules. He went on to pursue music as an independent artist. 

Mana found work in a local karaoke bar, where he met Közi, a fellow musician who appreciated punk and metal. After joining and leaving the band Matenrou, they decided to start their own band. This was Malice Mizer, undoubtedly the most influential visual kei band ever created. With Mana’s love of classical music, they created a unique mix of elegant instrumentals with the heavier, darker sounds found in gothic rock. 

In 1999, shortly after Malice Mizer’s creation, Mana created his own clothing line: Moi-même-Moitié. A gothic lolita line that is still alive and well today. It is considered the most popular Gothic Lolita brand and has been featured in the lolita magazine, “Gothic & Lolita Bible.” Mana was featured multiple times modeling his own designs and was recognized internationally, allowing him to sell his designs in Paris and The Netherlands. 

Malice Mizer made a name for themselves through their heavy feminine makeup, colorful hair and aristocratic-like clothing that resembled that of Victorian goth, occasionally mixing in leather, feathers and heavy metal jewelry. After the tragic death of their drummer and the separation from their lead singer Gackt, Malice Mizer attempted to continue their legacy. It was short-lived though, for by 2001, the remaining band members decided to place themselves on hiatus. Though never formally broken up, they have no current plans of playing together. 

It was a year later – though – that Mana decided to start their own band. A solo project, entitled Moi dix Mois. This is where Mana showed the range of his talents. He single-handedly produced, wrote the lyrics, played several different instruments, sang and designed the outfits for the other members. The members were made up of a group of rotating musicians that were considered support for live events, as Mana performed all of the duties needed to keep his solo project going. 

Photo by Index Communications | Moi-même-Moitié as seen in the Gothic Lolita Bible.

Moi dix Mois’s popularity sky-rocketed after 2004, and Mana made a decision that very few Japanese musicians had made up to that point: he began touring overseas. This expanded the world’s knowledge of visual kei and redefined western and European standards of what gothic rock can be. Victorian goth became more popular than ever, as Mana chose to only present himself in feminine clothing. Gothic lolita became his signature look: A hyper-femme version of Victorian goth that includes heavily curled hair, bows, knee-length dresses with petticoats, frills, lace, bloomers and Mary Jane-heeled shoes. 

Mana-Sama became the face of the goth subculture in Japan, and gothic lolita worldwide. With his mysterious and alluring image, he helped an entire subculture grow and inspired many men, women and androgynous folk to embrace their dark hime (princess) fantasies. Mana is not known to speak in public and only communicates through whispers and through mediators who speak for him. This caused many people to believe that he was indeed a woman, which Mana embraced wholeheartedly. He welcomed the idea that his outward appearance caused people to question his true gender. Though Mana has admitted that he still considers himself a cis male, he rejected gender roles inside fashion and made it his mission to teach men that they too can be beautiful and feminine. 

Mana-Sama has always been one of my biggest goth idols. I believe him to be one of my first introductions to goth. I found it absolutely amazing how he could polish the already beautiful Victorian goth into what I can only describe as my childhood dream: A princess with a haunted, porcelain doll-like appearance. I wanted to be him, and even though I no longer yearn to be a gothic lolita, I would love to please my inner child someday and buy a few dresses from the Moi-même-Moitié store.