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Tom Smith on the band behind the third opening

Babystars may want to change their name; Two of the remaining members are now pushing towards 40-years of age, making them more middle-aged than babies. As for being stars, a lot has changed since their debut back in 2002…

The group shot to glory when their first single ‘Hikari E’ (‘To The Light’) became the third opening theme to pirate-adventure anime One Piece. It seemed to suggest a solid future for the then baby-faced quartet. They were just starting out and already shining bright, but very few can continue to glow in the music industry, and for this foursome, this would be their brightest moment before eventually fading away… and returning with something much, much bigger.

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They even had their debut song covered by voice actor Vic Mignogna with full English lyrics entitled ‘Towards The Light’ – it’s also just as catchy as the original.

‘Hikari E’ made the top 50 singles, just. Yet, label Ki/oon continued their support of the band, feeding them more opportunities for tie-ins as well as a second album before dropping them entirely in 2006. In that time The Babystars managed to squeeze out eight singles and have their music appear in several TV dramas and game shows.

Unfortunately, once Ki/oon left, so did the band’s drummer Tomaru and keyboard player Yosuke. That didn’t stop founding members Akihito and Rikiya ploughing on as a duo and churning out one last album under an indie-label the following year.

Then, that was it. The Babystars’ spark had fizzled out. But that didn’t mean the music was over for the remaining two. Realising that perhaps they were no longer young enough to be accepted in the cut-throat pop industry (sure, Gackt and T.M.Revolution are a similar age, but they’re also immortal, so don’t count.) they turned their attention to songwriting and composing for others.

Rikiya took a crack at writing a track on Kamen Rider star Kazuki Kato’s first mini album, while Akihito wrote the actor-turned-singer’s first and second singles. He also went on to pen a number of idol-pop tunes, including NMB48’s track ‘HA!’ (featured on AKB48’s mega hit ‘Eien Pressure’, which  went to number one in the daily, weekly and monthly Oricon charts, and became the fifth biggest single of 2012 – so don’t worry, he’s doing alright for himself since being dropped from Ki/oon) and AKB48 unit No Sleeves for their single ‘Kiss no Ryuusei’.

Akihito’s new found comfort zone isn’t limited to the high-pitched frequencies of idol-pop either. He managed to team up with K-pop supremo J.Y. Park, the founder of JYP Entertainment (the agency behind the likes of 2PM and Wonder Girls) to create Korean boy band 2PM’s debut single in Japan, ‘Take Off’. Thanks to him, 2PM lived up to that track’s namesake and have been hogging the top of the charts ever since.

One Piece (Uncut) Collection 7 is released by Manga Entertainment on UK DVD from 11 August.


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