Hi! Thanks for the question. With all of the news about Plastic Tree’s new single (set to be released September 5th), I’m sure many fans are wondering the same thing.
The relevant part of that article says:
“…The title is ‘Shion.’ Incidentally, in the language of flowers, it’s said to be related to ‘reminiscence, ‘thinking of someone far away,’ and ‘I won’t forget you.’”
Shion is the common name for the flower Aster tataricus, which is symbolic in Japan for the reasons listed in the article. In addition, Plastic Tree seems to be planning on going with a flower theme for their September tour, which was announced to be titled “Flowers of Romance.”
I apologize in advance for any errors in my answer. I’m currently writing from my phone.
You ask if Kenken has changed Plastic Tree’s music more than the past drummers, and I think the answer is probably a matter of opinion. Many people feel that Plastic Tree’s music from the past few years sounds quite different than in it did in, say, 2006, and I know many Bucchi supporters blamed it on Kenken back when he first joined the band in 2009. And it very well might be his influence. So if that’s the case, then it really depends on how different you feel the music is from past albums.
As with all artistic endeavors, personality expresses itself through the music the person creates. Kenken seems to have made a louder impression with the band than past drummers - he’s at the forefront, usually doing comments with Ryuutarou. Not to mention he was the second member to get a Twitter. That might be his personality; he wants to be seen and heard. So that could reflect in what he helps to write and caused the other members to shift the sound to better accommodate Kenken’s louder (not literally) style.
Kenken seems to have a brighter personality than past drummers, at least in videos (who knows what goes on in private), which might be why the music has begun to shift toward a lighter sound. But Plastic Tree has changed and is continuing to evolve now, so the sound difference might just be their experimentation in a new direction (or even influenced by record labels, but I prefer not to think about that). A friend of mine put it that Plastic Tree is finally falling into a unique music style to fit Ryuutarou’s vocals (compared to the past, where the music sounded like typical alternative rock).
But like I said, it’s all a matter of opinion.
Visual Kei seems to be used to categorize any band that wears makeup and flashy clothes. Because it seems that Japanese rock is separated into two groups: those who wear makeup and those who don’t (i.e., BUMP OF CHICKEN, the Pillows, etc.). “Those who wear makeup” is just slapped with a blanket label “Visual Kei” (literally meaning “visual system”) and from that springs many subgenres, like angura, shironuri, kote, oshare… the list goes on and on. So yes, Plastic Tree is Visual Kei, but at the same time, they aren’t. It just depends on whether you consider every band who wears makeup to be Visual Kei. Overall, it’s pretty confusing.
Considering that “kei” is used more to mean “style,” determining which subgenre a band fits under is all about the clothing (NOT the sound) and the opinions a person has about it. Plastic Tree is monochromatic, for the most part, or subdued, and so they would fit into a style like ゆる黒系 or モノクロ系. But neither of those are recognized as “music style” genres. If that makes sense. So in that case, no, Plastic Tree isn’t a recognized form of Visual Kei.