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Bleach music: Kenichi Asai

Friday 23rd May 2014

Tom Smith on ‘Mad Surfer’ Kenichi Asai

Kenichi Asai

“Try ‘n boogie, guns n’ tattoo” – there’s no greater embodiment of Kenichi Asai’s work than that opening line. As the words are dragged across the bluesy, rock n’ roll riff of Mad Surfer – the Japanese rebel’s song used as the 20th closing of Bleach – it’s difficult not to imagine smoke filled bars, motorcycles or leather jacketed misfits sporting hairdos your mother wouldn’t approve of.

Kenichi Asai is all of the above. He is rock and roll personified, and regarded amongst Japan’s most iconic rock stars and youth culture idols. Asai found his way into rock music like a true juvenile delinquent; by trashing his motorcycle and taking the next few months off of school to fix his broken bones. Immobile and bored out of his skull, he took to art as a way to express his imagination; first with paintings, and later through music after teaching himself guitar.

Skip forwards a few years and Kenichi is working shifts in construction while partying like an animal at the weekend in downtown Nagoya. During his usual rampage through the clubs and bars he notices an equally cool cat going by the name of Toshiyuki Terui, who keeps showing up at the same joints. Soon they would pair up, find a dummer named Tatsuya Nakamura, and form a band that would define the very essence of 90s alternative youth culture in Japan; Blankey Jet City. But first they have to get noticed.

Long before X Factor, Japan had Ikaten, a variety show where a panel of judges would tell hopeful contestants why they shouldn’t quit their day jobs. It might not be very rock, or all that roll, by today’s standards but the trio auditioned anyway, and smashed it – just check out how ecstatic they were with the judges’ verdict:

The appearance had several major labels chasing them for a record deal, though it was Toshiba EMI who won after offering them studio time in London – a mecca for Japanese rock fans, and a place where guitar legend Tomoyasu Hotei would later become a local of (who coincidentally invited Tatsuya Nakamura to come and play drums for him at his high profile show in London last year).

Skip forwards some more and Kenichi Asai’s managed to knock out more than 50 albums between his work with Blankey Jet City and several other bands following Blankey’s break up in 2000, including six under his own name as a solo artist. Bleach’s Mad Surfer can be found on his album fourth album Sphinx Rose.

Bizarrely the only release available from Kenichi in the UK is a maxi single entitled Devil (found here on iTunes). It’s bizarre because it seems to be deleted from his discography according to his record label, and there’s no mention of it on his Japanese Wikipedia entry, despite it being released two years before his supposed ‘first solo single’ Kiken Sugiru. Perhaps it’s a special gift just for England? After all, when Blankey Jet City played in London in the 90s, their poster sneakily had ‘No Japanese allowed’ plastered across it in their mother language – maybe this single’s the same...

Bleach Series 12 Zanpakuto: The Alternate, featuring Kenichi Asai’s ‘Mad Surfer’ as its closing, is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Buy it now


Bleach Series 12 Part 1 - Zanpakutō: The Alternate (episodes 230-241)

was £24.99
A mysterious man has given physical form to the Zanpakuto of all captains and lieutenants of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads. Newly liberated, the Zanpakuto wreak havoc upon the Soul Society and their former masters. Can Ichigo and the Thirteen Court Guard Squads rein them in before it's too late? More importantly, are they ready to uncover the truth, lies, and deceit that await them?



One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Fam, the Silver Wing 2

Andrew Osmond finds Emperor Hirohito in Japanese animation
The Sara storyline in Fam the Silver Wing seems to echo a view – many would say a myth – of Hirohito, encouraged not just by the Japanese but also by the victorious Americans when they rebuilt the country. Namely, it was the story that Hirohito was a helpless figurehead, at the mercy of his warmongering government.
Welcome back, in part three we'll taking a trip to Shonen Jump's awesome J-World and hanging out in the greatest place for anime fans - Akihabara!

The World of Hideaki Anno

Evangelion's director in conversation at TIFF
This year's Tokyo Film Festival also included a festival within a festival, an awesomely thorough programme of screenings and live appearances by the maker of Evangelion. It covered Anno’s career from his early amateur films to his live-action, to his work as an animator and anime director.

Anime Streaming Sites

Legal ways to mainline your Japanese animation
The new Manga Entertainment podcast includes a discussion of legitimate anime streaming sites – in other words, the ones that send money to the Japanese studios which make anime, thereby supporting the industry. (Rather than the other streaming sites, which just steal anime and make it less likely there’ll be anime to steal in the future.)

Cosplay: Pokemon

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.
This week we have the fantastic Beyond The Boundary and The Last Naruto Movie for you all!

Men Creating Women

Andrew Osmond on anime’s gender gap…
Miyazaki said that women “who are striving for their independence” despise such fantasy females. “They feel this ideal is a one-sided attack on the part of men who are trying to fit women into a mold.
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