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Tom Smith goes ‘street’, Kansai style

Japan, the place where the streets are lined with cute. At least that’s the impression the country all too often gives out to western eyes, and it’s very little wonder why. Take RSP, the unit behind the ending theme to episodes 155-167 of Bleach: Series 8, for example. They were originally formed as a result of a talent competition thrown together by Sony Music Entertainment. The music giants were seeking a new dance group that could capture the energy and vibrancy of the Kansai area of Japan’s street culture. Out of the 5,000 hopefuls that entered, only six were ‘street’ enough to make the final cut. Now, six years on from inception, RSP has dropped four of its members and kept their lead vocalists Ai and Saki (the latter’s not even from Kansai!). Check out their picture below – apparently this is what street culture looks like in Japan, like a page of a glossy fashion magazine. Chavs of Great Britain, you’re doing it wrong.

Sony already had a no nonsense name arranged for the unit at the start of the competition; RSP, standing for Real Street Performance. They also had a whole host of promotional activity planned to kick start the street dance unit, and make the scene became the new hot thing in Japan. This was a whole year before the likes of X Factor was destroying dreams on our telly-sets, yet the process behind RSP’s creation is very much the cookie-cutter formula now the norm in talent shows. Upon the release of their predictably named debut single, ‘A Street Story’, Japanese TV become flooded with documentaries charting the original six members’ fight through the auditioning process – they were even appearing in new TV dramas based around dance. Mission accomplished Sony, street dance became big business in Japan during 2006, just in time for America’s Step Up to hit cinemas. Coincidence?

By the time of their third single, ‘Kansha’ (‘Gratitude’), it was time for unit to be part of another pop-culture phenomenon: Bleach! The song was used as the 14th ending of the long-running, soul smashing series, and it struck a chord with anime fans. Two years later the girls returned to the franchise with a second song, ‘Tabidatsu Kimi e’ (‘Leaving You’), this time making the 22nd ending.

It was from Bleach that the majority of American anime fans first got a dose of Japan’ss ‘real street performance’. And by the summer of 2010, they were inviting the girls over as guests of honour at California’s Anime Expo. The Los Angeles’ based convention also lead to RSP’s first live show outside of Japan, taking place at L.A. Live. Footage from their trip can be found on a bonus DVD bundled with their second album ‘ii’, however, at present none of their material is available within the UK – and before any keen iTunes users get excited, the RSP on there is a very different electronic-based outfit.

Bleach: Series 8 is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment from 29 October.


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