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Paul Browne on the music of May’n

Things don’t seem to be going well for Kinji Toyama, a student at Tokyo Butei High School. Already training at the school to be part of the Butei (special armed forces designed to combat criminals), he misses the bus to school, only to be targeted by an Uzi-wielding Segway. His dilemma is solved by the sudden appearance of the mysterious Aria Holmes Kanzaki – a pint-sized combat prodigy (who also happens to be descended from Sherlock Holmes).

Aria The Scarlet Ammo comes from anime studio J.C. Staff and its original 12-episode run was broadcast in Japan in 2011 (with a video commissioned for December the same year). Like a lot of anime titles, a series can command attention by its music and Aria The Scarlet Ammo scores highly by utilising the talents of May Nakabayashi – aka May’n. ‘Scarlet Ballet’, the song used as the opening theme, is a fine example of May’n’s vocal talents with a lively cello-driven tune that calls to mind the ‘baroque pop’ of Kanon Wakeshima. ‘Scarlet Ballet’ was also a collaboration with fellow musician Daisuke Asakura, who had previously worked with May’n on the energetic ‘Chase the World’ song used in the anime Accel World.

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Hailing from Nagoya, May Nakabayashi made a name for herself by participating in a talent contest at age 13 – and managed to make the final round out of over 30,000 contestants. Keeping her focus on music, she signed with the Universal Music Japan label and released her first single ‘Crazy Crazy Crazy’ in 2005. The following year she made her first foray into the anime world by singing the end theme for Love Get Chu ~Miracle Voice Actress Hakusho~.

Changing her performing name to the short but catchy May’n in 2008 (and signing to the Victor Entertainment label), she then became the voice of the ‘Galactic Fairy’ Sheryl Nome for the classic Macross Frontier which brought her into contact with legendary musician and composer Yoko Kanno.  It was working with Kanno that helped May’n develop her distinctive rock style.

The popularity of the anime was reflected in May’n’s chart success when the rousing ballad ‘Diamond Crevasse’ reached No. 2 in the Oricon charts. This was followed by the stirring melody of ‘Lion’, which saw May’n duet with Megumi Nakajima (Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier).

The release of her first mini-album ‘May’n ☆ Street’ in 2009 managed to reach second place in the Oricon Weekly Chart and in 2010 she performed a sold-out concert at the prestigious Nippon Budokan venue. The same year, she made her Western debut when she performed at the Anime Expo in Los Angeles.

May’n continued contributing to soundtrack work, including the captivating ‘Mr. Super Future Star’, used as the theme song for Capcom’s game E.X. Troopers and the guitar-fuelled stomper ‘Brain Driver’ for the anime Phi Brain. She also collaborated with vocalist Yoshiharu Shiina (Surface) on the song ‘Giant Step’ – used as the ending theme to the live action Kamen Rider Fourze series.

Keen to capitalise on her popularity in the West, 2012 saw May’n’s new album ‘HEAT’ (along with her previous album ‘If you…’) made available via iTunes in America. Both albums collated much of May’n’s anime and single releases, including ‘Scarlet Ballet’ which appears on ‘HEAT’. These releases also coincided with May’n performing two concerts in the US in June 2012.

More recently, May’n has released two new singles in 2013; the rock meets rave ‘Run Real Run’ which featured in the live action series Real Onigokko THE ORIGIN and the more pop-orientated ‘ViViD’, used in vampire anime Blood Lad. May’n is also taking part in the forthcoming Macross 30th Anniversary live concert held in Chiba – a semi-regular event where she’ll be performing alongside Mari Iijima (Minmay in the first Macross), Yoshiki Fukuyama (Basara in Macross 7), Chie Kajiura (Mylene in Macross 7) and Megumi Nakajima (Ranka in Macross Frontier).

Meanwhile, much of her catalogue is now available via iTunes here in the UK – a perfect opportunity to sample May’n’s particular pop rock delights.

Aria The Scarlet Ammo is out on DVD on 8th July from Manga Entertainment.

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