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Tom Smith on the band behind Be As One

From braving the elements in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park as nobodies, to collaborating with K-pop meister G-DRAGON and selling out shows across Asia; Japanese trio W-inds have come a long way since forming as a vocal group at the turn of the millennium.

Unlike a number of the bands featured on the Manga UK blog, W-inds haven’t had much of a history with anime tie-ins despite their massive success. In fact, in 14 years they’ve only ever done two anime themes; their first in Akira Amano’s Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, and more recently with Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail, where their 29th single Be as One became its sixth ending.

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Even without the assistance of anime, W-inds have managed to establish a strong following outside of Japan, particularly Hong Kong, Korea, China, Thailand and Taiwan. In the latter they even managed to have four of their albums consecutively breeze to the top of the country’s charts, a first for a Japanese artist.

As previously mentioned, they have worked with G-DRAGON, the leader of BIGBANG. The track was called Rain is Fallin’, and it sent shock waves through the respective countries’ dance scenes. Some even go as far as suggesting that this song was crucial at establishing BIGBANG in Japan.

They’ve even managed to lend a hand in smoothing relations between Japan and China, playing at an event in Beijing for Japan-China Diplomatic Relations, as well as direct to the Chinese President at a private event whilst his honour was in Japan on business.

W-inds’ achievements are numerous and even more applaudable when you consider that the group began life like so many bands in Tokyo; performing free of charge on the street and in local parks. Surprisingly, all three members were not originally from Tokyo. Keita Tachibana originally came from Fukuoka, closer to Seoul than to Tokyo, while Ryohei Chiba and Ryuichi Ogata were from Hokkaido, the northern tip of Japan.

Keita met the other two members after he became a finalist in the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa Starlight Auditions. At the time Ryohei and Ryuichi were dancers and unable to match Keita in terms of vocals. Instead, they were versed in the way of rap, so W-inds’ new style was born; an all vocal, all male dance group. Or as their homepage refers to it; ‘A male vocal & dancing group that has been generating a fresh wind in this new age, 21st century’. Whatever floats your boat. From there, the threesome were soon noticed, signed and have been one of the biggest boy bands in Japan that doesn’t belong to the seemingly omnipotent clutches of Johnny’s organisation.

Meanwhile Europe and the UK remains untouched by the group, though the majority of W-inds discography is now available worldwide through your local iTunes store, but as of yet, no performances planned here for fans, or for Boris.
W-inds’ song Be as One is the ending theme to Fairy Tail Part 6, out 24 February 2013 on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

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