You can take the boy out of Japan, but you can’t take Japan out of the boy. Unfortunately for Joe Inoue’s parents, it took them over 20 years to realise that. Long before their son was recording songs for anime, or rapping alongside rock royalty, the pair had migrated to Los Angeles for work. There, little-Joe would later be born and raised. Ironically, a couple of decades later and it’s their son’s career that’s brought the Inoues full circle, back to Japan.
His parents were always big followers of music. So much, in fact, that on the day little Joe popped into the world, his father baptized the new born in the way of British pop-rock via the wails of Sting. The former Police frontman had recently released his debut solo album at the time, and it was riding high in the American charts. Mr Inoue wanted it to be the first sound that his son heard. Fortunately, it didn’t result in any Sting-based trauma in Joe’s later life. Instead, the bombardment of British pop-rock, combined with America’s own diverse music scene and influences from his parents’ Japanese CDs – and his own anime collection – meant that Joe grew up in an environment which enabled him to appreciate all kinds of music.
It wasn’t until middle school that Joe started to take his music appreciation to the next level by learning an instrument. And then another. And another. By the time he graduated from the American education system, he had become a lean, mean, one-man music producing machine.
After some experimentation, Joe recorded a demo from the comfort of his room on a multi-track mixing desk. All instruments were performed by him, and the sound was a combination of his eclectic upbringing. He sent the self-produced demo to a few sources before the idea hit him to target Japan. Thankfully for him, an upbringing of anime, manga and having native parents to practice with meant that his Japanese language skills weren’t too rusty. So, with not having much luck in America, he changed the lyrics to Japanese and tried to get some attention in Japan. And Sony’s Ki/oon label took the bait!
His first single ‘HELLO!’ barely scraped the top 200 of the Oricon chart, despite its use in a Pocky advert. His second single was much more successful. Called ‘Closer’, the song peaked just outside of the top 20 after appearing as the fourth opening theme to Naruto Shippuden, and it made people start to sit up and listen.
One of those people whose attention it caught was none other than L’Arc en Ciel’s leader tetsuya (with a little t… don’t get me started – Ed.), who was fascinated by Joe’s perfect English pronunciation. So impressed he was, he asked the youngster to appear on his 2011 solo album Come On!, alongside J-pop legend Takanori Nishikawa (T.M.Revolution), J-urban songstress May J, and even Nana author Ai Yazawa!
Joe’s contribution to Come On! can be found on the tracks ‘Eden’ and ‘Mahou no Kotoba’. Sadly the album, as well as Joe’s own releases, are currently unavailable in the UK. So if you want to hear the song that started his career, legally, you’ll need to track down the latest boxset of Naruto Shippuden that’s scheduled for the UK.
Naruto Shippuden Box Set 8, featuring Joe Inoue’s ‘Closer’, is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment from 27 February.
In the village Hidden in the Leaves, ninja reign supreme, and school is literally a battlefield. Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are teenage classmates and ninja in training, working together -sort of! - under the instruction of their teacher, Kakashi. Sasuke is training to win revenge...Sakura is training to win Sasuke...And Naruto, the class clown, insists that he ll become the greatest ninja in the land!
Matt Kamen weighs the difference between the original series and the newer Shippuden episodes of Naruto.
With hundreds of episodes under Naruto’s belt, it can be easy to forget just how far the world’s favourite orange ninja cadet and friends have come since their first days at school. The release of the complete first season of Naruto Shippuden seems the perfect time to look back at some of the key players in the saga, and see where the new series finds them – and haven’t they grown…?
Tom Smith dives in to the band behind Naruto Shippuden Box 15
Who’s NICO, and what’s their obsession with walls? It’s a question you may ask yourself upon discovering the artist name behind Naruto Shippuden’s eighth opening theme. They call themselves NICO Touches the Walls and, despite the ridiculous name, they are a pretty big deal in Japan right now.
Paul Browne rewinds from Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower into the past
In the latest Naruto film The Lost Tower, the title character and his comrades embark on a mission to capture Mukade – a missing ninja who has the ability to travel through time. Mukade’s plan is to travel into the past and take control of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. During the battle with Mukade, Naruto and Yamato find themselves hurled back twenty years in time. Will Naruto and his friends be able to return to his own time? And will their actions in the past save the future?
Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.
As Naruto ups the ante and swears to take on Sasuke alone in box set 18 of Naruto Shippuden, the team responsible for the encompassing episodes’ ending theme have also took it upon themselves to up the pace.
LM.C are amongst a very elite type of Japanese musician. The clan they belong to is so exclusive that its numbers barely reach into the double digits. And its members are also a diverse bunch, including a guitar legend named Tomoyasu Hotei, a boiler-suited new-wave trio called POLYSICS, to a dark, heavy noise making machine dubbed Dir en grey. There’s even pop goddess Hikaru Utada in there too to balance things out.
By the time you’ve read this, the eight 15-minute episodes of Robot Atom will have been aired by the Nigerian broadcast network Channels TV. Based on one of anime’s most iconic creations, Tezuka Productions’ Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), this Nigerian-Japanese co-production brings a new slant to glocalization
The start of an action anime series is often a bewildering experience, dropping the viewer into a whirlwind of unfamiliar folk having very big fights. K’s like that, but luckily the main character starts the show as baffled as us. Yashiro Isana is a bit different from the standard schoolboy hero
Some sci-fi plots are staples of anime. The boy who pilots a fighting robot; humans who evolve into cyborgs; cute space girls who fall for the biggest doofus in Japan. Compared to these, time-travel has never been a big anime genre, though it’s been used on many occasions.
The director’s path from Sci-Fi London to Hollywood
“We pulled all our favourite moments from Akira and had this library of reference, so whenever we got stuck, or we ever felt like a sequence wasn’t inspired enough, or we didn’t know exactly how to give it that edge to made it feel as epic as we could, we would always thumb through the Akira imagery and suddenly get a wave of excitement or a new direction.”
BFI announce a festival of Miyazaki, Takahata, et al...
The BFI South Bank cinema in London will be screening a Studio Ghibli season throughout April and May. Curator Justin Johnson will be giving an introduction to Ghibli on the 2nd April, followed by screenings of all the major Ghibli works and a number of relative obscurities