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Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE

One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.

The nonsensically-named trio formed in 1998. In the space of two years they managed to get themselves a major record deal with Warner Music (same label as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) and drummed up moderate success at the turn of the millennium when their first two singles were tied-in with the Japanese TV dramas Happy 2 and Style. However, it wasn’t until their third single that they really hit the height of their career. Entitled ‘Watashi ga Iru yo’, and epitomising early 2000-era cheesy pop, the song would become their biggest hit to date when it was used as the third ending theme for a fairly new anime series that was causing chaos in the ratings: One Piece.

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And then, nothing. Dead. Kaput. Radio silence ensued from camp CUBE. Perhaps they were happy with that cheque. Perhaps their brief romance with the major music industry was enough to turn them off of music forever. Perhaps the pressure to create that ever daunting follow-up single became too much to cope with so they decided to call it quits while they’re still ahead? Whatever the reasons, vocalist Chisato Nishimura decided to leave the band within a year of the release of ‘Watashi ga iru yo’, leaving the band without a singer. Ironic seeing as the song’s title translates as “I’m here!” in English, and now its vocal isn’t there at all.

In the decade-or-so since leaving, Chisato’s remained strong in making music right up to this day – unlike her ex-band mates who seem to have vanished off the face of the Earth. First she formed a new band by chance, called Mellowclap Project, after bumping into an old high school friend, and more recently she has released her own solo mini-album. And rightly so! While Mellowclap may be a very indie outing (they have a whopping 79 likes on Facebook), Chisato’s also managed to rack up quite a career by writing for other major Jpop artists, including writing music for ex-Morning Musume members Abe Natsumi  and Kusumi Koharu, as well as the highly successful voice actress and singer Nana Mizuki.

One Piece Collection Three, featuring TOMATO CUBE’s ending theme ‘Watashi ga Iru yo’, is out now on UK DVD from Manga UK.

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