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Tom Smith on Bleach’s Okinawan girl group

Part two of Bleach series ten is a marker in Okinawan pop history. When these episodes originally hit Japan in 2008, they came with a new opening courtesy of Stereopony, a girl band straight from Japan’s very own tropical island paradise.

Leading up to this moment, Japanese girl groups – the kind that played their own instruments and wrote their own music – had lost prominence in the mainstream. In the indie scene, however, it was a completely different story. While Osaka had a group of uniform-wearing schoolgirls named SCANDAL destined for big things (as well as having their first big hit with series 11 of Bleach), Okinawa had its own group of future instrument-wielding-lady-stars going by the name of Mixbox.

Mixbox would soon be on the cover of countless magazines, even more TV shows, and play a massive part in Japan’s girl group boom, but they’d do all this under the very different name of Stereopony. After winning a series of awards and successful indie festival appearances in their first year as Mixbox in 2007, the girls decided to change their name for a much more serious approach. It paid off. With a little help from Tokyo FM’s ‘School of Lock’ show, who coincidently helped launch a number of bands into the public eye, including Galileo Galilei (Anohana) and UVERworld (also from Bleach), Stereopony managed to gain the attention of Sony Music. Within a matter of weeks they were ready to unleash their debut major label single on the world, ‘Sayonara no Kisetsu’.

Now, before any avid Stereopony fans get vocal in the comments section that ‘Sayonara’ was not the girls’ first single, you’re right. It wasn’t. The group had an opportunity to have a song included in Bleach, and ‘Sayonara no Kisetsu’ didn’t suit the setting. Instead, another song was chosen, written by the band’s vocalist and guitarist AIMI, entitled ‘Hitohira no Hanabira’.

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The single became a huge success and paved the way for a music career heavily linked with anime, with their songs later being used in hit shows such as Eureka Seven, Darker than Black and Mobile Suit Gundam 00.

Where there’s anime, festivals aren’t too far behind, and Stereopony got to travel the world, meeting fans and musicians alike. By 2012 it was announced that the girls four-year reign, which included 12 hit singles, would come to an end and the band would disband. However, out of Stereopony’s ashes a new band would arise; Evanpony, consisting of the former band’s drummer and bassplayer, plus Avril Lavigne’s former guitarist Evan Taubenfeld. Stereopony’s 12th and final single ‘Namida Nante Mishite Yannai‘, which is also available in full from the iTunes UK store, was a split single with Evanpony’s debut ‘Just Rock With Me’.
If you like what you hear in Bleach, you can pick up the Best of Stereopony compilation album on iTunes, as well as More! More!! More!!!, Stereopony’s final album before becoming no more, more, more.

Bleach 10:2, featuring a closing theme by Stereopony, is out 11 March on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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