Matt Kamen grabs the handlebars for a revolutionary ride.
Ballet dancing, an omnipresent government and transforming motorcycles are an unlikely combination for an anime series – but confounding expectations is exactly what the new mecha series Rideback does best!
Living up to your parents’ expectations can be a real trial – just ask Rin Ogata. While her mother was a highly talented dancer, Rin’s own ambitions were cut short when a broken foot rendered her unable to perform the subtle movements required of a star ballerina. Years later, having shifted her focus to a University career, Rin regains her passion for life when she discovers the Rideback racing club. While a high-speed, futuristic motorbike would normally be cool enough (just look at Akira!), the Ridebacks that lend their name to the series can also transform into bipedal robotic frames, allowing pilots to engage in one-on-one fisticuffs on the racetrack! Rin’s dance training giving her a near-perfect sense of balance, she’s able to ride the machines like a seasoned pro.
The series isn’t merely a heart-warming story of a girl regaining her sense of self, though that’s certainly a key element of Rin’s journey. Instead, we find that by the near future of 2020, the world has fallen under control of the Global Government Plan, a crushingly totalitarian network of rulers who have a hand in every citizen’s daily life. Made more politically aware by some of her compatriots in the Rideback club, and disturbed by the GGP creeping ever more intrusively into her life – unfair curfews, social clampdowns and eventually even directly harming her friends – Rin chooses to make a stand. Taking her Rideback, nicknamed Fuego, into battle, Rin becomes part of a rebellion movement against the cruel world order.
Rideback’s strange mix of concepts raced out of the mind of manga creator Tetsuro Kasahara. First published in the pages of Ikki magazine in 2003, the series ran until 2009, racking up ten collected volumes along the way. As the printed version of the saga drew to a close, Madhouse – the studio behind such hits as Highschool of the Dead and Birdy the Mighty – debuted a 12-episode anime adaptation. Although the series is director Atsushi Takahashi’s first time helming a project, you couldn’t guess that from watching – Takahashi fills the screen with stunning visual poetry, presenting Rin’s life both on the stage and the race track as odes to grace and the simple joy of movement. In short, expect glorious action scenes, backed up with perfectly framed personal moments.
Rideback is a little darker than your typical mecha show, a touch more mature in its themes and tones. Tightly paced and gorgeously brought to the screen, it’s science fiction at its best, asking the audience to consider deeper questions than merely who’s getting punched next. Take this cherry ride for a test drive now!
Jonathan Clements on the British Museum's very own manga
In a bold move designed to attract the attention of the world’s media, unknown terrorists kidnap the Stonehenge monuments from the middle of Salisbury Plain. Their demands are eccentric and controversial: the return of artefacts from the British Museum to their rightful homes, wherever they may be, or they start smashing up the rocks… by dropping them from a stealth airship onto London monuments!
In this gleefully bonkers manga story, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, the UK gets a new hero in the form of a Japanese academic. With crazy artifice to rival the best/worst of Dan Brown, the Professor is plunged into a century-old conspiracy by enemies of the British establishment, and dragged into a hunt around the British Museum’s galleries, across the rooftops, and through the allies and streets of central London.
The British Museum Adventure forms just a fraction of the long-running Professor Munakata series by manga master Yukinobu Hoshino, creator of 2001 Nights. It was inspired by Hoshino’s visit to the BM in 2009, originally just to sketch a few old pots and statues. But Hoshino returned in force to draw an entire story, meticulously based on his time at the museum, taking in dozens of galleries and artefacts, and even writing in a role for his UK colleague Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, who appears in the comic as the spunky academic Chris Caryatid. It must have been a good time for the British Museum and Japan -- director Makoto Shinkai has since revealed that he was also mooching around the BM back then, looking for inspiration for his Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below.
Professor Munakata is a true friend of the BM, who recognises that more people will see these antiquities, for free, in the centre of London than if they are scattered around the world. Nor does he shy away from the ongoing arguments as to whether the Rosetta Stone, nothing but a slab of rock to centuries of desert-dwellers, should be “returned” to Egypt, a nation that did not even exist when it was found. As in Professor Munakata’s adventures closer to his Japanese home, Hoshino embraces such controversies as the best way of bringing history to life, and dragging reluctant readers into the rich world of the past.
As junkets go, the British Museum’s decision to invite Hoshino for a few days on site could not possibly have been money better spent. It has amounted to an incredibly successful public-relations exercise, gained the BM massive exposure in a Japanese magazine with tens of thousands of readers, and is sure to see many British manga fans paying to read what is, essentially, a museum catalogue with occasional attacks by assassins.
The translation has been produced by a trio of well-meaning academics who know a lot about antiquities and a lot about Japan, but seemingly very little about comics, with sound effects confined to footnotes and dialogue left stilted. Hoshino’s well-known predilection for info-dumps and monologuing, carefully sanded down in the American editions of 2001 Nights, is left to run wild here, with wordy panels intoning endless facts and figures, names and dates, at the expense of characterisation.
Then again, the sheer data contained in a Hoshino story is at least part of its appeal, particularly in the case of Professor Munakata, whose true vocation is telling readers stuff they don’t know. Hoshino’s tale of museum skulduggery delivers a veritable grand tour of one of the world’s greatest treasure houses, zooming in on many of the British Museum’s most famous highlights.
The story itself is pure hokum, oddly similar to an episode of Sherlock Hound in which the Rosetta Stone similarly came under threat from nefarious foreigners. An introduction by the peerless art historian Tim Clark concentrates, perhaps a little counterproductively, on the history of Japanese art before the post-war manga boom of which Hoshino is more demonstrably a part. But those are mere cavils that do not detract from a superb publishing coup. It will surely, hopefully, reap rich populist rewards for an academic institution that has dared to try something different.
The anime miniseries Freedom bears a very strong visual resemblance to the legendary film Akira. Both even start with teenage boys dueling on futuristic motorbikes, defying the repressive authorities. Akira author Katsuhiro Otomo supplied Freedom’s machinery and character designs, and effectively makes Freedom into an “authorised” homage to himself, much as J.J. Abrams’ live-action summer film Super 8 was a tribute to its producer Steven Spielberg. And yet, the surprising thing about Freedom (directed by Shuhei Morita, who also made the evocative spooky short Kakurenbo),is that its story is a very long way from Akira.
Whereas Otomo’s film was an angry piece of future shock, in which teenagers are turned into monsters by more monstrous grown-ups, Freedom is an old-school SF romance. A red-blooded boy travels thousands of miles through space, seeking a girl in a photo who might be from the officially “dead” planet Earth. Along the way of course, the hero must come of age and change the world (there’s a well-placed time-jump of a few years in the narrative to give the idea that the character matures, though he doesn’t actually change that much – this is a celebration of youth, and how the younger generation must pull humanity from its doldrums).
But while the story is set in the twenty-third century, when man has migrated to the moon, Freedom pays tribute to the twentieth-century history of the space programme, and to the Apollo missions in particular. Japan, like Britain, saw the space race between America and Russia from the outside. Brits and Japanese both fantasise about our own idiosyncratic conquests of space; Doctor Who put a London police box in orbit, and Space Battleship Yamato did the same for a fabled World War II vessel. (It’s also notable that one of the biggest space anime series, Macross, reworked as the opening segment of Robotech, shows Japanese characters going into space in a craft borrowed from aliens.)
Freedom, though, is concerned with celebrating the space programme as a collective achievement of mankind. In this way, it’s more in line with the landmark 1987 anime film The Wings of Honneamise, which culminates with the first astronaut in his capsule gazing down at the world, with all its evils and conflicts. He urges the audience, “Please give some thanks for mankind's arrival here…” before the filmsegues into a sublime, impressionist montage of human history. Sadly the effect was adulterated in the American dub, which inserted some sub-Star Trek guff into the script about a universe without borders.
Other anime have crafted different poems about space travel. There are the magnificently lonely space probes that speak to the souls of lovelorn teens in Makoto Shinkai’s film 5 Centimeters per Second. Satoshi Kon’s fantastical romance Millennium Actress – which, like Freedom, has a character travelling vast distances in a search for a virtual stranger – revolves round the image of the first moon landing, perhaps because it changed our vision of the world forever. Contrast that with the rude treatment the space race got in the latest Hollywood Transformers film (Dark of the Moon), where we were asked to believe that the whole endeavour was sparked, not by human hubris or even military necessity, but by a close encounter with toy robots!
Two Tokyo boys, schoolboys in the manga and anime, college-age in the film, are seemingly killed after rescuing a stranger from subway tracks. Resurrected in a nighttime apartment, they are given instructions by an ominous black ball, named Gantz, which tells them that they are already dead. Once there, they appear to be in Gantz’s control, issued with strange suits and weapons, being gruesomely teleported from room to mission site and back, and tasked with killing aliens living amongst humans within set time limits. Those who survive these hunts and make it back to the room are critiqued and scored on their performances by Gantz. They are then returned to their everyday lives, but are recalled each night for further hunts.
Fans of the Gantz manga and anime can rest assured that the live-action movie makes few compromises over the more controversial aspects of the franchise, with the noticeable but understandable exception of the sexually outré content. It is not only a spectacular and reasonably faithful adaptation, it is arguably the single most successful live-action translation of a manga/anime to the screen in the last ten years, more so than even Death Note and 20th Century Boys. The action and gore are plentiful and well-handled, characters and aliens are all recognisable as their drawn counterparts, visuals are stylish and effects well done, and the score is solid.
This first feature lifts story elements from the first eight manga volumes, retaining many of the best ideas. The way the public in the subway station react to someone ending up on the tracks, the leads’ initial reactions to each other, the first mission’s juvenile but still dangerous alien and the twist to that mission, the members of the room on the later missions, the climactic fight with the statues, are all faithfully rendered on-screen. It is possible to read Gantz as a commentary on the nature of First-Person Shooter videogames, with the emotional responses of the different characters being recognisable if those types (bully, student, salaryman, grandparent) were suddenly spawned into the mission structure and violence of a typical FPS game.
Initially negative, the apparent empowerment of a weak, less-than-masculine character, such as the lead, by the violence of the missions can be seen as that empowerment that players, particularly adolescent males, take away from their gaming sessions. However, the terror of the hunts is perfectly in keeping with previous sci-fi/horror films examining gaming and violence (of which Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon is the most notable), and the copious action and special effects make this an ideal gateway film for friends of those anime and manga fans already clued in to the pleasures of the franchise, particularly those who are fans of what was once known as “Asia Extreme” cinema.
The Gantz movie is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.
Setting a series in mid-1940s Japan can only mean one thing – war! Yet with magic, mecha, schoolgirls and aliens afoot, Strike Witches is unlike any other soldier’s story.
Wartime often leads to an acceleration in the development of new technology – necessity breeds innovation, after all. That innovation takes a somewhat bizarre turn in the world of Strike Witches, with the world’s nations augmenting magic-wielding young girls with advanced machinery, enabling them to combat the invading forces of the alien Neuroi. With these newly developed Striker Units attached to their legs, the girls gain strength and enhanced magical abilities, plus the ability to fly. Of course, using magic and flying around in short skirts means that panty shots are an unavoidable casualty of war....
The first series follows new recruit Yoshika Miyafuji as she joins the 501st Joint Fighter Wing. Talented in healing magic, Yoshika and her new friends Mio and Lynette defend Brittania from a wave of Neuroi assaults. The series-long arc is very loosely based on the Battle of Britain, with the Neuroi taking the place of the German Luftwaffe, and slice of life tales of the team’s young women peppered in between the action. However, while Yoshika fills the role of earnest heroine in Strike Witches, Japan’s part in the real conflict was not a noble one.
Outlandish fictional reimaginings of the WW2 period are par for the course in anime. But the jet propelled schoolgirls of Strike Witches are far from the first to tackle the idea – the likes of Kishin Heidan also paint the time period in a rosier light. Set in 1941, the retro-mecha series saw aliens partnering with the Germans, while a Japanese resistance effort – the Kishin Corps – fought back, using the alien’s stolen technology against them.
Virgin Fleet, a little-known video series from 1998, took a similar route to Strike Witches, focusing on a group of girls at a naval academy in the late 1930s. Using their questionably named ‘virgin energy’, they defended Japan from attacks by the Russians, staving off utter destruction for the small island nation.
SEGA’s Sakura Wars is perhaps the anime world’s best-known alternative take on history, pitting an assortment of young women (and a token male) against steam-powered mechanical enemies. Starting as an odd hybrid video game that blended role playing, strategy and dating sim, the popular franchise has since spawned dozens of books, anime series, movies and audio dramas, all set roughly during and between the two World Wars.
Thankfully, Strike Witches itself is light on jingoism, instead serving as an excuse for cute girls fighting deadly enemies in astounding aerial action. Find out how this very different battle for Britain pans out in the complete first season!
It’s an offer that the country can’t refuse – a chance to have all its debts wiped out by a kindly, super-wealthy benefactor. Just think of all those government cuts that would never have to bite. All those libraries still open, and hospitals still working. Free student grants for all, and no unpleasant sub-prime mortgage crises. Everything will be magically sorted by the world’s super-rich. There’s just one teensy catch: the money comes from vampires, and the price they demand is the right to live among us… Just a little island would do. They’ll stay out of our way… or so they say…
Dance in the Vampire Bund is anime’s answer to True Blood, a satirical drama that imagines vampires in place of many mundane malaises. Under the stewardship of the beautiful Mina Tepes, the hidden vampire underclass comes out of the shadows, and settles in a purpose-built “bund”, just offshore from the Japanese mainland. Fear and loathing troubles both sides of the human-vampire alliance, while the deceptively young-looking vampire leader Mina attempts to steer her undead people into the future.
Nozomu Tamaki’s original manga, which ran in the magazine Comic Flapper, introduced many interesting ideas. Tamaki’s vampires are an evolved form of humanity who experience heightened senses and emotions – turning many of them into gluttons, addicts and melodramatic hysterics. Vampirism can be stopped in its tracks by a vaccine, just as long as it is administered within 48 hours of a bite, adding a note of tension against-the-clock to any infection. Morevoer, Tamaki’s vampires may be predators on humanity, but they are also a dying breed, down to their very last “full” female. Although the integration of vampires into modern society is presented as a voluntary decision, behind the scenes, it appears that they don’t have any choice. Meanwhile, Mina is pressured to marry herself off to one of three remaining “true blood” nobles.
Deep down, Dance in the Vampire Bund has many resonances for Japanese culture. Heroine Mina Tepes is surrounded by love-struck noble vampires because she is the last full-blooded female, although since she can only bear a single child, one would think that the vampire race is already doomed. And since she fancies a human boy, there are sure to be tears at bedtime. But the story is loaded with gripping, decadent menace, as the “highly evolved”, cultured, super-smart vampire race faces extinction, and assimilation with the despised humans. You don’t have to dig too deep to see the tasty subtext – with an aging population and a declining birthrate, questions of immigration and assimilation, snobbery and miscegenation are close to home for the Japanese.
It’s rare that a genre as hackneyed and over-wrought as the vampire story gets a contribution with any lasting originality. But Dance in the Vampire Bund, with its undead ghetto and its real-world politics, its dynastic intrigues and its connections to real-world headlines, is a true contender. And it prompts fantastic opportunities for fan speculation. What if the vampires wanted to come to Britain? Could we give them the Isle of Wight…?
Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the new Bleach theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.
Frontman Masafumi Gotou’s favourite bands include Scottish indie-guitar group Teenage Fanclub and Manchester’s best known sibling squabblers Oasis – for whom Masafumi later got to open when they toured Japan. His choice in six-string also rings with a British-tone, mirroring those same models twanged by Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks and Jeff Lynne, leader of the Electric Light Orchestra.
The Brit-rock appreciation continues with lead guitarist Kensuke Kita. The Manic Street Preachers, Supergrass and Radiohead all feature highly in his music collection, as does a penchant for the classic Les Paul guitar – one of his even shares the same wine-red and sunburst colour scheme as the doomed guitars Pete Townshend would windmill in The Who’s younger days.
Bass player Takahiro Yamada has a slightly wider music taste. His top bands span several decades and incorporate The Beatles, Oasis, and even a bit of new wave with The Pet Shop Boys.
All three members originally met at their university’s music club in 1996 where they discovered that they shared a love for similar artists. Soon after forming, Kiyoshi Ijichi joined on drums and, while he doesn’t share the same level of passion for bands from the UK, he does have a soft spot for American rock, punk and even heavy metal, which might explain the band’s heavier moments.
Being the big rock stars that they are, able to sell out entire nationwide tours and having all six of their albums debut in the top five of the charts or higher – and not to mention all of their singles since 2004 have ranked in the top ten – ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION now have the heart of Japan’s rock scene in their hands, ready to shape it how they see fit. And where do they start? With their own festival, of course.
Named the NANO-MUGEN FES, the event was originally hosted in the humble 500 capacity Shinjuku Loft back in 2003, soon after they were signed. The line-up was a handful of indie-rock outfits selected by the band members. Skip forwards to the present day and NANO-MUGEN is now held in the massive 17,000 capacity Yokohama Arena over two days and has a cherry-picked selection of the group’s favourite artists from America, Japan, and of course, Great Britain. This summer’s festival even included a performance from Kensuke’s idols the Manic Street Preachers.
With such a love for Britain’s music scene, it’s only a matter of time until the boys hit a venue near you. Until then, they rock out at the end of this season of Bleach.
Bleach 7.2 is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Hugh David on the irresistible rise of girls with guns
The final anime adaptation of Yu Aida’s first-class “girls with guns” manga Gunslinger Girlis issued straight-to-video but is, to all intents and purposes, the final two episodes of the TV second season, known as Il Teatrino, adapting storylines and ideas from the later volumes of the manga. Production is from the exact same team at Artland, including original creator Yu Aida once more. As such, it is no starting place for newcomers to the seriesbut best savoured by fans.
Gunslinger Girl is set in a near-future Italy where political crime has returned to the levels of violence last seen in 1970s. The government charity the Social Welfare Agency is actually a front for a wetwork division partnering experienced professionals from the military, police and intelligence with crippled, often orphaned girls rebuilt as anti-terrorist cyborgs.
The emotional consequences of the girls and their handlers being referred to as “fratelli” or siblings, trained in the common cover of being brother and sister, remains the heart of the show, particularly in these two episodes, where one of the coldest of the handlers has his backstory brought to light. Anti-terror training, drugs and brainwashing also serve to ramp up the girls’ trauma – as many struggle to recover from the effects of their augmentation, recruitment or memories of their missions.
It’s striking to reflect on the whole “girls with guns” subgenre and how far it has explored concepts arising from previous decades’ high points such as Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, Kenichi Sonoda’s Gunsmith Cats and right back to 60s spy-fi. While anime never seems to run out of characters who could be categorised as such, actual explorations of the subgenre have all but dried up, with only the superb Black Lagoon laying claim to such explorations.
However, recent Western cinema has seen Sucker Punch, Hanna and Colombiana, the latter effectively Besson’s latest iteration of his Nikita/Leon series. The former are laden with anime references in terms of design and execution, while a new iteration of Nikita on the WB channel in the US has led to the makers of Spartacus developing a version of Noir for US TV. Controversies surrounding these often seem redundant in the face of anime and manga’s explorations of the subgenre, but even western anime fans have expressed unease or dislike at Sucker Punch or Hanna, something they would not do if either film had been animated and dubbed by the Japanese, who would not have needed to change a thing about either script. One wonders if the pleasures and depths of Gunslinger Girl would be similarly lost if rendered in live-action, but for now, we have the manga, anime and now this video to savour.
A Japanese tourist witnesses a contract killing in America and flees for his life. But when he is caught, his ruthless pursuers realise that he has demonstrated an uncanny knack for evading professionals. Instead of ending his life, they offer him a job…
The Phantom is the ultimate assassin, an unstoppable killer working for the shadowy Inferno organisation. But the Phantom is now a team – a sexy lady assassin codenamed “Ein”, and her literal number two, former Japanese schoolboy “Zwei”. Their targets include arms dealers, drug kingpins and other assassins in a lengthy power-play that collapses into an internal conflict as the Inferno turns on itself. Ein and Zwei must deal with the resurgence of their lost identities, their tense feelings of affection for one another, and the prospect of fighting on opposite sides in a gangland massacre.
Loaded with symbolism, flashbacks and flashforwards, Requiem for the Phantom tells the story of the Ein/Zwei pairing with all the chaotic terror of a firefight, offering glimpses of Zwei’s unwitting recruitment alongside the stories of his attempted escape and his first mission for the Inferno organisation. Writer Yosuke Kuroda paces his scenes with a mixture of brooding longeurs and sudden eruptions of violence and action, deftly encapsulating the long waits and sudden gunplay of an assassin’s missions.
The story began life as a game at the turn of the century, before enjoying a brief resurrection in 2004 as the anime video series Phantom of Inferno. Relatively obscure – and largely available as a bundle with the game – this early incarnation was directed by Keitaro Motonaga and produced by the KSS studio. However, the TV series, now out in the UK, was produced by Bee Train and directed by Koichi Mashimo in 2009, adding another notch to the barrel of the director’s penchant for girls with guns.
Requiem for the Phantom is an explosive anime vision of American pulp fiction – like the notorious Mad Bull 34 and the much-loved Gunsmith Cats, it presents an uncompromising view of a violent, crime-ridden America that is little removed from the Wild West. Like Gunslinger Girl, it seeps an ongoing passion for Italian mobsters. If it has any immediate inspiration, it probably lies with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, hype for which would have been breaking in Japan at the time the series went into production.
Lauded by Anime News Network for its “solid plot and a well-hidden romantic heart”, Requiem for the Phantom is a slickly made addition to the ever popular girls-with-guns subgenre. A sure-fire hit with any hitman…
Tom Smith puckers up for SID, the band behind Black Butler.
It was a moment fans had been nervously anticipating, ‘Monochrome Kiss’ – or more accurately ‘Monokuro no Kiss’ – the first major label release from the visual rock quartet SID. It was that critical debut all long-term fans dread, the moment their home-grown indie heroes take a step out of from playing sweaty dives with fuzzy sound systems, to strutting it on TV screens across the nation after a big record deal. It’s a tense time that all too often drives the hardcore fans crazy in fear that a bigwig producer will alter the group’s unique qualities in favour of a commercially more acceptable sound, amongst other things.
‘Monokuro no Kiss’, used as the opening to Black Butler, laid all such fears to rest. But there was never anything to worry about. SID had fought their way to the top of Japan’s seemingly impervious indie scene in the space of five years – the media were even branding them ‘the monster band of the indie scene’, and rightly so! On their own, they had accomplished chart success on numerous occasions, both with albums and a string of singles. They even did a show at the mighty Budokan, the massive indoor arena where The Beatles made their Japanese debut some 40 years prior. Who needs record labels?
One of the albums from this early period in SID’s career is available digitally in the UK. Entitled Hoshi no Miyako, it’s the group’s second independent album and features their first chart ranking single Sweet? – but you’d best grab it soon, it’s officially ‘out of license’ in the UK but it appears neither Sony or the European licensor, Gan Shin, has noticed yet.
SID’s success didn’t go unnoticed and soon the boys were signed to Ki/oon, a subsidiary of Sony that contains some of the country’s biggest alternative rock acts, including ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION and L’Arc~en~Ciel. With a major label backing them (and the ever powerful world of anime), their first single got in the top five and saw the musicians return to Budokan, this time selling it out in an impressive 180 seconds.
Soon began a long affair with SID and Japan’s animation industry. Their third single ‘Uso’ (above) saw the foursome provide the first ending theme to the hit series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, giving them top two chart success in the process. Craving further chart dominance, they returned to the show for its final ending with the single ‘Rain’, and this time it worked. The track got them their first number one, though in the daily chart – and narrowly missed out on topping the weekly chart.
Bleach got a piece of the SID action too with ‘Ranbu no Melody’, released at the end of last year. Though, hardened Ichigo-followers will have to wait for series 14 to hit the shelves before they hear it.
2010 concluded with SID also picking up the Top Pop Artist award from the Billboard Japan Music Awards for that year. Now, at the very moment these words are being typed, SID return with their single ‘Itsuka’ riding high in the charts and confidently showing that SID are much more than just another mark on the collar of Japan’s rock scene – they’re here to stay.