Gothic & Lolita Bible

gothic-lolita-bible

Title: Gothic & Lolita Bible
Editors: Jenna Winterburg and Michelle Nguyen
Publisher: Tokyopop
Publication Schedule: Quarterly
Pages: 128

This month has seen the publication of the fifth issue of the English edition of the famed Japanese “mook” (magazine-book) Gothic & Lolita Bible (ゴシック&ロリータバイブル). Since the theme of the Spring 2009 issue is “A Dreamy Gothic & Lolita Wedding,” and since I find the obsession with weddings somewhat troubling (blame my inner feminist), I will base this review on the Winter 2009 (fourth) issue of the Bible. The focus of this issue seems to be “badassery and cupcakes,” which provides more comfortable thematic material for me to work with.

So, what is the Gothic & Lolita Bible all about, anyway? Well, obviously, it’s about Gothic and Lolita fashion, but there is also information about visual kei singers and bands, as well as copious amounts of information concerning the Gothic Lolita lifestyle so vividly portrayed in contemporary Japanese fiction like Novala Takemoto’s novel Kamikaze Girls (下妻物語, published in translation by Viz Media). The English version of the Bible provided both translated material from the original Japanese mooks and incorporates new material of interest to Western (especially American) readers.

Because the English edition of the Bible just came into existence (the first issue was released in early 2008), the content tends to change from issue to issue, as features and formats still seem to be in a developmental stage. Each issue, however, will contain numerous fantasy-inspired photo shoots of both Japanese models and Western readers, a Fruits magazine-esque montage of Harajuku street fashion photos, and, of course, a detailed section featuring the season’s offerings from major Japanese Gothic Lolita fashion brands like Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, Angelic Pretty, Innocent World, h.NAOTO, Black Peace Now, and Atelier Boz. Also, like the Japanese version, each issue contains patterns and instructions for do-it-yourself pieces (mainly accessories). Other articles may feature interviews with American Gothic Lolita designers, information on American and Japanese artists specializing in Gothic Lolita art, and reviews of fancy cupcakes that would presumably complement a Gothic Lolita tea party.

Personally, my favorite features are the “Letters from Our Readers” section, which includes, for example, poetry and reader-submitted art of surprisingly high quality, and the occasional fiction and essays that make it into the magazine, such as Arika Takarano’s manifesto titled “Oh Maiden, Advance with a Sword and a Rose,” which encourages young ladies to follow their hearts and their dreams regardless of the social pressures they might face. Along these lines, the reader letters published by the mook tend to deal with issues of participating in the Gothic Lolita culture even though you’re too old, too fat (by Japanese sizing standards), or live in the middle of nowhere. If nothing else, the Gothic & Lolita Bible gives its readers a sense of community, regardless of whether they own a stitch of the clothing or not.

Does this sound corny? You bet it’s corny. The whole mook is corny, actually. If you’ve already made up your mind that Gothic and Lolita culture is the most silly, superficial thing you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter, the Gothic & Lolita Bible will not convince you otherwise. If you’re even the slightest bit curious about Gothic Lolita, however, I would recommend picking up a copy of this mook. It’s a gorgeous publication and well worth the $20 price tag.

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