-moi dix mois-
-eve of destiny-
Paris, France - July 4th 2004
Mana's event was held in an amphitheatre seating 800 people. I knew that there was going to be a Q&A session after the screening of the film, so I went into the amphitheatre early in order to get a good seat and ended up right at the front, opposite the centre of the stage. Many people who, judging from their appearance, had also come to see Mana were already seated inside watching live martial arts demonstrations interspersed with Psycho le Cemu PVs. When that was over there was a little break and then the audience was asked to move closer together in order to fit more people into the room. Finally, the amphitheatre was completely full even though there were still people queuing outside.
On the stage 6 chairs and 2 tables were set up and then 3 of the chairs and 1 of the tables were demonstratively cleared away again - was this Mana continuing his "Moi dix Mois, c'est moi" theme? Then the screen above the stage flickered to life to display a warning message about not being allowed to take pictures. A nervous looking Japan Expo staff member appeared with a microphone and spent several minutes explaining to the audience in French and English that they were strictly not allowed to take any pictures, that all mobile phones had to be switched off so they couldn't be used to take pictures either and that, if Mana saw anybody taking pictures, that person would be expelled from the Expo and Mana himself would walk straight out.
Then the lights dimmed and the film started. It was a documentary of Mana's activities spanning Malice Mizer, Moi-même-Moitié (including a brief glimpse of a fashion show) and Moi dix Mois, parts of it featuring Engrish subtitles. The Moi dix Mois part consisted of rather crudely cut together snippets from Scars of Sabbath. The film was screened using a laptop and the picture was a bit blurry and at times flickery but the sound was clear and strong.
When the film was over a Japanese guy with a microphone walked onto the stage and warned the audience again that they were not to take any pictures, this time in Japanese. About 10 Japan Expo staff members positioned themselves in front of the stage and more appeared up and down the middle aisle and to both sides of the audience, presumably to keep over-eager members of the audience from storming the stage. Then Mana was announced and everybody got to their feet and applauded but the Expo Staff gestured for people to sit down again, which I thought was a pity because, although there was some screaming, the audience was very well behaved and it would have been nice for Mana to be welcomed with a standing ovation. In any case, the audience complied and sat down, still applauding.
Mana appeared on stage, wearing his full stage costume and makeup and looking very goth. His nails were painted deep red or black and he had "DIX" written on the back of his left hand. Up close Mana's face looks very Asian and very obviously male but he really is every bit as pretty as his photos suggest. Still, there are differences. He is taller than I expected him to be and although his gestures are very feminine there is nothing soft, cute or camp about him. If anything, he exudes manliness – even in high heels, a floor length skirt, a corset and wearing a ton of expertly applied makeup.
He walked up to the edge of the stage to strike poses for the audience, much like at the beginning of the off shoot on Scars of Sabbath, making eye contact with as many of us as he could. He worked his way from one end of the stage to the other as if he wanted to make sure that everybody could get a good look at him. When he was done posing he stood in the centre of the stage with his arms folded and the Japanese guy with the microphone started asking the audience for their questions, which he related back to Mana in Japanese. Mana then whispered into the ear of another Japanese guy who related the answers back to the audience in French. It seemed a slightly odd arrangement but maybe Mana simply wanted to make sure that the person speaking in his place could be trusted to relate his answers back to the audience truthfully. Since I don't speak French I didn't understand much of the conversation but here is a brief summary of the most important answers collected by people who do:
He is planning a European tour with Moi dix Mois this winter or early next year.
He is considering opening a Moi-même-Moitié shop outside Japan and would like to open shops in Paris, London, Milan etc.
Midi:Nette is looking for new bands to produce and would also be happy to produce European bands.
He will stay in Paris for 2 weeks, doing photo shoots.
The identity of Shadow X is a secret.
He wanted the letter 'M' in the band name to reflect his name. The 'Moi' in Moi dix Mois stands for him, Mana, the number 1 symbolizes the beginning and the number 0 symbolizes infinity.
Kami was the ultimate drummer and it would have been impossible to replace him in Malice Mizer. Moi dix Mois is a different band though and there will be a song on Nocturnal Opera that is dedicated to Kami.
He first read about Schwarz Stein in a magazine and then went to see them live.
Malice Mizer is in hiatus and maybe one day there could be a reunion.
He does not speak because his music is his voice and if we want to hear him speak we should listen to his music.
There is only one Mana. There is no difference between the stage persona and the person in everyday life.
Mana is a pure boy (!) but sometimes he is attracted to infernal and evil things.
Judging by the audience's reaction, some of the questions seemed to be a bit too personal or even rude and once or twice Mana looked pissed off but overall he seemed to be pleased with the way things were going and several of the questions made him try hard not to smile (like "what hairspray do you use?").
At the beginning of the Q&A Mana and the two Japanese guys were standing in the centre of the stage but eventually they sat down on the three chairs that had been set up earlier, with Mana sitting in the middle. He acted very professional and business-like but he must have been nervous because his fingers kept twitching and he kept picking at his nails, clothes and the armrest of his chair. The entire time Nocturnal Opera was playing in the background. There was a photographer taking pictures on stage, some more photographers were seated in the front row of the audience and something that looked like a video camera was set up on a tripod in the back of the amphitheatre. I wonder if and when we will ever get to see this video!
When the Q&A was over Mana got up and did some more posing for the delighted audience and then suddenly he grabbed the microphone from the hands of the (surprised looking) interpreter and he SPOKE! He only said a couple of words - I think "bonjour" or "merci" and "je vous aime" – but everybody started cheering and applauding wildly. Some girls were screaming and flashing devil signs. Mana struck some more poses and encouraged the audience to cheer louder and everybody got to their feet. This time the Expo staff didn't try to stop them, so in the end he really did get his standing ovation.
After Mana had left we were told to remain seated because there was going to be a little surprise for us. The lights dimmed and the screen flickered to life again, showing the spinning Moi dix Mois logo. Then suddenly the word "pause" appeared and the screen turned blue and that was it. I don't know if it was a technical hitch or if they had simply run out of time (I think Mana's event overran by quite a bit and the amphitheatre was used immediately afterwards for another event) but I wasn't too impressed and everybody around me seemed as confused as I was. Eventually we were ushered out of the amphitheatre.
Then it was time for the autograph and hand shake event. As it turned out, you really needed that infamous special ticket from Mabell in order to meet Mana one-on-one but, luckily, somebody was kind enough to give me their unused ticket and I was able to join the 200 lucky ones. Security was very tight and we were divided into small groups that had to queue separately. A Japan Expo staff member was posted outside the VIP room in which Mana was and told us in French and English that he would only sign our tickets, no singles or anything else, and that we weren't to make any special requests. We had to enter the room one by one and weren’t allowed to take our bags inside.
Once inside the room, I had to walk from Japan Expo staff member to Japan Expo staff member who each stopped me and then gestured when it was time to move on to the next one. Mana was sitting behind a desk to the left and if he found it stressful to sign 200 autographs in less than two hours he didn’t let it show - he seemed attentive and friendly. When I was finally allowed to walk over to him I handed him my ticket and he signed it with "Moi dix Mois" and the swirl that is his signature. Then he handed it back to me and shook my hand with a firm, dry grip. I tried to think of something encouraging and non-fangirlish to say and the only thing that I could come up with was to thank him for coming to Europe but that must have hit the right note because he smiled at me and nodded with a "you are welcome" expression on his face.
I briefly considered never to wash my right hand again but by the time I got to the airport my hands (which I hadn't been able to wash all day because almost every minute was spent queuing for one event or another) felt so grubby that the urge to wash them became overwhelming and so the precious Mana DNA was flushed down the drain in a dimly lit toilet at Charles de Gaulle airport.
In summary, what had started out looking like a bit of an extravaganza ended up being worth every penny. I got to hear Mana speak, have him shake my hand and smile at me, plus I got an autograph and a sneak preview of Nocturnal Opera – all in one day!