Flowers of Evil to Aku no Hana: Baudelaire’s Transculturation Across Space and Time

Shweta Basu

Independent Researcher

 Volume III, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF


This paper deals with the event of transculturation as it reflects and adapts the decadent lifestyle and poetry of fin-de-siècle, exemplified by Charles Baudelaire’s momentous and avant-garde work, Flowers of Evil, into the J-Rock music scene of Visual-kei, in the album of the band Buck-Tick, named Aku no Hana (Japanese for Flowers of Evil), its lyrics, music and sensibilities of the late 90’s. The decadent aesthetics of Baudelaire is distortedly mirrored not only in the lyrics and musical arrangement of the songs, but also in the stylization of the band members, their make-up, hairdo, costumes and stage props and lighting. These artists are then, dichotomically enough, both consumers and producers of capitalism, men and makers of the “arcade” culture that Walter Benjamin and his notion of Baudelairean flanerie eulogizes and fetishizes as evidence of contemporary modernity, as well as legatees of Eurocentric modernism in the wake of the 19th century. Gender-fluidity and androgyny being an integral component of the Visual-Kei scene, stemming from the pre-existing bishounen culture in Japan, as well as the Greco-Roman antiquarian or contemporary white “twink” subculture in male homosexuality; derives its derive their theoretical affirmation as an aesthetic expression from Baudelaire’s own critical works.. In the course of this study, multifaceted views and implications of transculturation, involving reception theory, translation studies and adaptation theory, will be discussed. Baudelaire’s 1857 book is twice mirrored in the music album Aku no Hana, where the rock band is both an audience interpreting the earlier artifact, as well as an artist, warping and moulding that influence into a different and original art-form, that of Visual-Kei J-Rock.

 Keywords: Baudelaire, Buck-Tick, Visual-Kei, Decadent Poetry, Performative Arts