It appears that the team behind Strike Witches, a franchise which features ladies flying about in their panties, have a soft spot for much more than just knickers. They also like Yoko Ishida, the singer from the first series’ opening song. They like her so much that despite the hoo-ha of switching animation studios, moving from Gonzo to AIC for the second series, they decided bring her back to record the new opening; ‘STRIKE WITCHES 2 ~Egao no Mahou~’ (‘Magic Smile’).
Yoko Ishida spirited her way into anime at the age of 19. She entered 1992’s Anime Song Singer Contest and won, landing herself a record deal with Columbia records. Her debut song ‘Otome no Policy’ was released a year later and used as the theme to Sailor Moon R. It soon became a karaoke classic for magical-girl fans across Japan, with the single selling over 300,000 copies.
The song, her only tie-in with anime at up until this point, left an impression with entertainment giant Geneon. Seven years after the track’s release, Yoko’s contract with Columbia had expired and Geneon was there waiting to snap her up. They had a plan, a plan to establish her as one of the hottest names in anime – and they succeeded.
Straight off the bat Geneon had Yoko Ishida singing the opening them to the cutesy Little Snow Fairy Sugar, followed by Ai Yori Aoshi, Petite Princess Yucie, Gunparade March and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World – the latter two anime receiving a UK release.
She didn’t stop there! Having built a steady amount of followers with a penchant for animation, Geneon’s next move was to release an anime cover album featuring the vocalist – and not just any cover album, a para para style one! Featuring distinctive takes on classic Gundam, Chobits and many other anime theme tunes, the album proved so popular that it spawned a further two volumes, bumping up Yoko’s cover catalogue to includes the likes of Cowboy Bebop, Gurren Lagann and Evangelion.
Yoko’s popularity began to spill overseas too, and once a chunk of her prior releases were made available in America, it wasn’t long until she was jetting off from Japan and touring the States, as well as Europe, South America and east Asia.
What awaited upon her return to Japan? Why, a whole new season of anime to record the themes for! Ah! My Goddess, Shakugan no Shana and of course, Strike Witches series one and two (If you really want to impress your friends with Strike Witch knowledge, series’ director Kazuhiro Takamura also wrote all the lyrics to the show’s opening themes). More recently (as in, the last few months!), Yoko finished recorded the new opening for the Strike Witches movie, which she’s currently promoting in Japan through a number of themed live performances in its honour. UK based anime fans can only sit and ponder how long it will be until she ventures to these parts with such promotions.
After discovering that the Neuroi are capable of communication with humans and making peace with the nest above Gallia, the Witches squads are on a mission to reestablish communication, when a sudden attack causes the Neuroi to vanish. The Witches discover a new and massive nest that just appeared, covering almost all Europe. Ruthlessly and without mercy it annihilates allied forces along with Witches. Word of the attack reaches Fuso and a support battalion is deployed to rescue the survivors. Among the rescue team is the former Striker captain Mio Sakamoto and the now civilian Yoshika Miyafuji, who want to save their dear friends.
A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?
Ocean Waves is the only feature anime by the world-famous Studio Ghibli which might be called obscure. It wasn’t made for cinemas but television, broadcast on Japan’s NTV network in 1993. And now it's playing as part of the BFI's Ghibli season...
Paul Jacques finds a princess and a... erm... scholar
Cosplaying away at Birmingham's Comic Con, Meg Atwill dresses up as Estellise Sidos Heurrasein (or Estelle for short), accompanied by Aimee Tacchi as the whip-wielding scholar Rita Mordio, both from Tales of Vesperia.
This is the perfect summer blockbuster movie, as well as a textbook example of how to do a spin-off feature just right. Modern-day Hollywood could learn a lot from Phoenix Priestess, even as it sticks to lessons from an older version of the American Dream Factory.
Stephen Turnbull risks nine deaths in the eye of the ninja storm... or does he?
There is more to the ninja myth than meets the eye. By 1638 all wars had ceased under the police state of the Tokugawa family, yet within twenty years armchair generals were busily writing manuals of military theory, including speculations about sneak attacks, night-fighting and backstabbing.
Paul Jacques has gotta catch'em all at the London Super Comic Con
Lisa Moffatt and Natasha Fountain spread their wings as Moltres and Articuno from the unstoppable Pokemon franchise, snapped by our roving photographer Paul Jacques at the London Super Comic Con back in the spring.
Jonathan Clements on the movie that turns anime on its head
Boy-meets-girl has never been so strange as in this feature, in which the leads must literally cling to each other or fall away to an uncertain fate. Patema Inverted winningly plays with matters of spatial awareness, perspective and weight, regularly flipping its angles until the viewer literally can no longer remember which way is truly up.
Babymetal, anime apartheid and MazandaRanting in our 25th podcast.
Jeremy “Care in the Community” Graves is joined by Manga UK’s Jerome “Twitter Hijacker” Mazandarani and Product Manager Andrew “Mr Manga” Hewson, and special guest Stuart Ashen, star of Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild, out now. Not sure any of those names will stick.
Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo
I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the Tokyo hotspots worth hitting for music fans.